Panthers trek to Manchester looking to stay atop HCAC standings

Jacob Doll

HANOVER, Ind. – Sitting in a first place tie atop the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings, the Hanover football team will look to remain unbeaten in league play with a 1:30 p.m. contest at Manchester Saturday, Oct. 20.

SERIES HISTORY: The Panthers (4-2, 4-0 HCAC) and Spartans will be meeting for the 77th time when they kick off at Carl W. Burt Memorial Stadium this weekend, with HC currently holding a 60-16 edge in the all-time series. Despite the advantage in the all-time series, meetings between the two sides in recent years have been close. In the past six outings, HC and MU each have three wins, with five of the six games being decided by three points or less. Luckily for the Blue and Red, they have won three straight on the road, including a 49-27 triumph in 2016. The Spartans took last season's contest in Hanover, 35-34.

COANE RECEIVES WEEKLY CONFERENCE AWARD: Sophomore running back Shawn Coane (Evansville, Ind.) was announced as the HCAC Offensive Player of the Week Monday afternoon for his performance in a 48-7 win over Defiance last Saturday. In the win, Coane averaged over nine yards per carry, totaling 143 yards on 16 rushes. The sophomore also added 44 receiving yards on five receptions, giving him a season-high 192 all-purpose yards.

On the season, Coane is averaging 144.0 all-purpose yards per game and 107.7 rushing yards per contest, with both marks among the top three in the HCAC and top 35 nationally. Averaging a little over six yards per carry, the sophomore ranks second in the conference and 40th in Division III. With a pair of touchdowns against Defiance (75-yard rush, 15-yard reception), Coane has eight total scores through six games. He posted 13 touchdowns in eight appearances last fall, giving him 21 for his collegiate career (14 rushing, seven receiving).

PANTHERS IN OCTOBER: After dropping the opening two games in October of 2016, the Panthers have won seven straight during the month, giving them a 7-2 mark under current head coach Matt Theobald. This fall, in two appearances, HC has outscored its opponents by a combined total of 131-24, good enough for an average victory margin of plus-53.5.

SCORING FIRST: Coane's 15-yard receiving touchdown came on Hanover's second offensive play from scrimmage last Saturday, giving the team the first score in five of its six games. The Panthers have gotten off to fast starts all season long, especially in HCAC play, where they have a 64-3 edge in first quarter scoring. In all four conference outings, Hanover has held at least a 14-point advantage after 15 minutes of play.

DOMINATING DEFENSE: The defensive unit for the Blue and Red has been the best, statistically, in the HCAC this fall, allowing less than 16 points and 300 yards per game. Part of HC's success has been its performance on third downs and in the red zone. On third downs, the Panther defense is conceding a .255 conversion clip, which is first in the HCAC and 14th nationally. Once opponents reach the red zone, Hanover has clamped down defensively, allowing a score on 47.4 percent of trips, good enough to lead the conference and be among the top 10 in Division III. The defense is coming off a performance last Saturday where they allowed just 30 rushing yards on 37 carries.

EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE: Just like the team defensive numbers, Hanover's offensive unit is among the league and national leaders, averaging program highs under Theobald at 41.0 points and 455.2 yards per game. Thanks to a 67 percent completion rate, which is a top-20 mark in the country, the passing offense is at 275.5 yards per contest, good enough for 39th nationally. Hanover is also averaging 180 rushing yards per outing, giving them top three conference marks for all three yardage categories.

"BREIT" SPOT OFFENSIVELY: Junior quarterback AJ Breit (Louisville, Ky.) has made his first two career starts for the Blue and Red the last two weeks and has posted season totals of 41-for-51 completions, 503 yards and seven touchdowns. With his season statistical numbers, including an 80-percent completion clip, Breit has a passer efficiency rating of 204.6. Last time out, the junior completed 27-of-35 passes for 256 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.

COPE IN THE BACKFIELD: Interior defensive lineman, Chase Cope (Mooresville, Ind.) has been living in opponents' backfields throughout the season and the junior is coming off his best statistical performance of the year against Defiance. Cope tallied eight tackles, five for loss, and three sacks in the win over the Yellow Jackets. For the season, the junior now has seven tackles for loss and four sacks, with both marks ranking fourth among the conference players with six games played. Cope's efforts have helped lead HC to the conference's top sack mark, 3.67 per game, which is also the 23rd-best average in Division III.

LINEBACKING TANDEM TOPS IN TACKLING: A pair of linebackers, sophomore Kyle Treber (Mishawaka, Ind.) and junior Dakota Manion (West Lafayette, Ind.), are leading the team in tackles per game at 7.7 and 7.3, respectively. Treber is coming off an eight-stop performance versus DC and has four tackles for loss and an interception this season. For the third time in six games, Manion tallied a double-digit mark in total tackles, picking up a team-high 11 stops against Defiance. The junior also has four TFL's, two sacks, one forced fumble and one interception this fall.

GIVING AND RECEIVING: Hanover's wide receiver corps has been balanced and explosive all season long, as the team has had five multi-score performances by three different players, including sophomore Jared Frank's (Louisville, Ky.) second such feat last Saturday. The Panthers' top four wide receivers all have at least 15 receptions, 200 yards and four touchdowns this fall. Leading the group has been junior Jackson Daugherty (Greenwood, Ind.), who is averaging 81.8 yards and 5.0 receptions per game. Daugherty is also tied for the team-lead in touchdowns, five, with Frank and junior Conner Gibson (Lexington, Ky.).

SCOUTING THE SPARTANS: Manchester is coming off a 21-17 win at Bluffton last Saturday, which moved the Spartans to 3-4 overall and 3-2 in the HCAC. The Spartans are 2-0 at home this season, both of which came in conference play.

Statistically, MU is averaging 32.3 points and 339.4 yards per game and is allowing 29.3 points and 340.0 yards per contest. Leading the offense is Donovan Henderson Jr., who is averaging 127.9 rushing yards per game. In seven outings, Henderson has 875 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Defensively, Justin Thomas is leading the team in tackles, 6.7 per game. Dillon Nelson is tallying 5.4 stops per contest and is sixth in the country in interceptions with five.

UP NEXT: Hanover will return home next weekend for the first of two straight at Alumni Stadium. The Panthers are slated to host Mt. St. Joseph at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27.

Contact: Tyler Jester