Football heads to Bluffton for conference opener Saturday

Shawn Coane

HANOVER, Ind. – Coming off its annual bye week, the Hanover football team returns to action this Saturday, Sept. 22, with its Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference opener at Bluffton (Ohio). The Panthers and Beavers are slated for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.

SERIES HISTORY: Hanover will enter Saturday's matchup against Bluffton with a 33-8 edge in the all-time series, as the Panthers snapped a three-game losing skid in the series last season. In 2017, HC received a touchdown toss in the closing minutes from then senior quarterback Chase Lightfoot, and current sophomore Kyle Treber (Mishawaka, Ind.) denied any BU hopes with a sack and tackle for loss over the final 30 seconds of play. The Blue and Red though, will enter Bluffton's Alumni Field Saturday looking for their first road victory in the series since a 40-13 win in 2012.

PANTHERS UNDER THEOBALD: Head coach Matt Theobald is now in his third year at the helm of his alma mater, as Hanover has produced an 8-14 record over the past two-plus seasons, logging a 4-6 mark in 2016 and 2017 prior to this fall's 0-2 start. The Panthers will be searching for their first win in a conference opener under Theobald, and in fact their first HCAC opening victory since 2012. Under Theobald, HC is 8-8 in all conference games, including a 4-4 mark on the road.

20-TACKLE PEFORMANCES: Senior Brody Dell (Tipton, Ind.) recorded 20 total stops last time out against Thomas More (Ky.), giving the Panthers three such performances in the Theobald era. For his efforts, Dell was named the HCAC's Week Two Defensive Player of the Week. The additional two 20-tackle games happened last fall, both coming from Treber, including the home win over Bluffton.

RARE TACKLING FEAT: Hanover has had a balanced tackling effort this season, as three players are ranked nationally in total tackles per game, led by Dell's 11.5. Treber, a top 25 tackler in Division III last year, is adding 10.5 stops per game and junior Dakota Manion (West Lafayette, Ind.) is at 11.0. Heading into the fourth week of the season for NCAA Division III games, the Panthers and St. John Fisher (N.Y.) are the only two teams with at least three players recording double-digit tackles per contest. All three of the HC players rank in the top six of the HCAC and top 50 in the country.

WEZENSKY AIRING IT OUT: Sophomore quarterback Noah Wezensky (Fort Wayne, Ind.) has been key in the Panthers' offensive attack this season, as he is currently ranked among the top three in the HCAC in completion percentage (.571), completions per game (20.0), passing yards per game (236.0) and points responsible for per game (15.0). Wezensky, a Miami (Ohio) transfer, is coming off an 18-for-31 performance against Thomas More, as he notched a career high 243 yards and three touchdowns as well.

RUN COANE RUN: Picking up where he left off last season, sophomore Shawn Coane (Evansville, Ind.) is one of the conference's best in terms of all-purpose yards. Through two games, Coane is averaging 116.5 total yards of offense. The sophomore tailback is also leading the team in rushing yards per game, 71.5, and receptions per outing, 5.0. Dating back to 2017, he has scored at least one touchdown in nine of the last 10 games.

FINDING THE END ZONE: Junior wideout Jackson Daugherty (Greenwood, Ind.) has had a knack for finding the end zone recently, as he has hauled in a touchdown in four of his last five outings. In HC's most recent game, Daugherty and Wezensky connected on a 71-yard touchdown on the team's second offensive play from scrimmage. For the season, Daugherty has nine catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns. His 17.44 yards per reception also has him fourth in the HCAC and among the leaders nationally.

SCOUTING THE BEAVERS: Bluffton hoists a 1-2 overall mark prior to Saturday's contest and is coming off a 34-0 triumph at Earlham in its conference opener last weekend. Prior to the HCAC opener, the Beavers dropped non-conference contests to Wooster (Ohio), 44-34, and nationally-ranked Trine (Ind.), 34-13. Bluffton was picked to finish sixth in the conference preseason poll, two spots below Hanover.

Through three games, BU is averaging 27.0 points per game, while allowing 26.0 points per contest. Offensively, the Beavers are recording 325 yards per game, with 226.3 coming through the air. Adam Duncan has been the highlight of the offense, as he has 10 receptions for 244 yards and two touchdowns.

On the other side of the ball, BU is allowing 415.0 yards per game, 230 through the air and 185 on the ground. Tyler Showalter leads the team at 10.7 tackles per game, while preseason all-American Isaac Zickafoose has 16 total tackles, including six for a loss.

UP NEXT: The Blue and Red will close out the month of Sept. with their third road game in four appearances, traveling to face Anderson. The Panthers and Ravens are scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. start next Saturday, Sept. 29.

Contact: Tyler Jester