Panthers welcome Thomas More for home opener Saturday

Dakota Manion

HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover College football team will host its home opener against Thomas More (Ky.) this Saturday, Sept. 8. The Panthers and Saints are scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.

SERIES HISTORY: Hanover and Thomas More have lined up across from one another 16 times in the past, with the first meeting coming in 1992 and the most recent coming in 2015. The Saints hold an 11-5 advantage in the all-time series and have won the last six matchups. Hanover's last win over Thomas More came in 2005, as a 12-7 triumph gave then head coach Wayne Perry his 165th career victory, tying him, at the time, with Butler University's Tony Hinkle for most in career wins in Indiana college football history. The 2005 contest was also played off campus, in Madison, Ind., at Cubs Field.

PANTHERS UNDER THEOBALD: Head coach Matt Theobald is now in his third season at the helm of his alma mater. Hanover has produced an 8-13 record over the past two-plus seasons, logging a 4-6 mark in 2016 and 2017. The Panthers will be searching for their first non-conference win under Theobald Saturday, as they are currently 0-5. The Blue and Red have also won four games at home under Theobald, averaging 44.0 points per game when coming out on top at Alumni Stadium.

WEZENSKY AIRS IT OUT: Sophomore Noah Wezensky (Fort Wayne, Ind.) posted a solid Hanover debut last week at Centre (Ky.), completing 22-of-39 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Wezensky's 22 completions ranked second in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and 32nd nationally for Week One performances.

JUNIOR WIDEOUTS HAULING IN PASSES: A pair of junior pass catchers in Jackson Daugherty (Greenwood, Ind.) and Taylor Bleistein (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) have been the most consistent receivers in the program the past few seasons. The duo combined for eight receptions, 113 yards and two touchdowns in the 2018 season opener. Daugherty's team-high 60 receiving yards at Centre moved him past the 1,000-yard plateau for his career.

RUN COANE RUN: Sophomore Shawn Coane (Evansville, Ind.) picked up in 2018 where he left off in 2017, as his 113 total yards of offense against Centre gave him his fifth outing in the last six games with over 100 combined rushing and receiving yards. Included in the stretch is a trio of 200-yard performances and the sophomore has also scored at least one touchdown in nine consecutive contests entering Saturday's matchup with Thomas More.

MANION MANS THE MIDDLE: Lining up at middle linebacker, junior Dakota Manion (West Lafayette, Ind.) recorded a team-high 12 tackles in the season opener, falling one shy of his career high, 13 stops. Manion set his career-best tackling mark in the last game of 2017 versus Franklin, giving him 25 total stops in his past two outings. Of those 25 tackles, 15 have been solos for the junior.

DEFENSE, TAKE IT AWAY: The Panthers forced a pair of Colonel turnovers last Saturday, one interception and one fumble. Hanover actually recorded turnovers on back-to-back possessions, as freshman BJ Williams (Rom, Ga.) forced and recovered a third quarter fumble and junior Adam Grabert (Mount Vernon, Ind.) followed with an interception next time out. The duo of Williams and Grabert also combined for five tackles.

BLOCKING KICKS: Hanover recorded its first blocked punt of the season at Centre, as sophomore running back Walt Ballinger (Beech Grove, Ind.) came off the edge to send back a Colonel punt early in the second quarter. The Blue and Red were one of just 20 teams in NCAA Division III that recorded a blocked punt in Week One. Centre though, returned the favor by blocking Hanover's first two point-after tries.

SCOUTING THE SAINTS: Thomas More, like Hanover, enters Saturday's contest looking for its first win of 2018 after suffering an opening weekend loss. The Saints rallied from a 21-0 deficit to tie their road contest at N.C. Wesleyan, 28-28, but the Battling Bishops tossed a 46-yard touchdown pass with less than one minute remaining to escape with the win.

Justin Post completed 18-of-34 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns, while Hjavier Pitts added 121 rushing yards and one score on 19 carries. Leading the defense were a trio of players, Cody Coffey, Devon O'Bryon and Thomas Williams, with seven tackles apiece.

UP NEXT: The Blue and Red are off next weekend and will return to action Saturday, Sept. 22 at HCAC institution, Bluffton. The Panthers and Beavers are set for a 1:30 p.m. start.

Contact: Tyler Jester