Football's season concludes during opening round of NCAA Playoffs

Brody Dell

NAPERVILLE, Ill. – The Hanover football team had its season come to an end in the opening round of the NCAA Division III National Playoffs Saturday afternoon, as the Panthers fell on the road to No. 9 North Central (Ill.), 52-0.

Hanover, who was making its first NCAA Division III National Playoff appearance since 2003, concludes it 2018 season with a 7-4 overall mark, including a 7-1 record in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play. North Central advances to the second round against No. 11 Bethel (Minn.) next Saturday.

Early miscues caused the Panthers to be in a 17-0 hole with 6:31 showing on the first quarter clock. The Blue and Red had not trailed by 17 points in any of their 10 regular season games this season.

The Cardinals continued to build on their lead, as they led 38-0 at the intermission. Two quarters in, NCC held a 334-135 edge in total offense.

Hanover was able to get inside Cardinal territory multiple times in the second half, but each drive would stall out. North Central tacked on two more scores for the 52-0 final.

Overall, NCC enjoyed a 482-166 edge in total offense. Hanover's was led through the air by juniors AJ Breit (Louisville, Ky.) and Alex Fabert (Mooresville, Ind.), who combined for 12 completions and 111 passing yards.

Sophomore running back Walt Ballinger (Beech Grove, Ind.) added 56 yards on the ground over 18 carries. Ballinger also hauled in four passes for 14 yards. The receiving corps was led by sophomore Jared Frank (Louisville, Ky.), who had two catches for 44 yards, including a 39-yard reception late in the first half.

Defensively, sophomore Kyle Treber (Mishawaka, Ind.) posted a season-high 18 tackles, including six solo stops. Senior Brody Dell (Tipton, Ind.) added nine tackles, while also providing on special teams with a 58-yard kickoff return.

Hanover forced two turnovers in the contest, both of which were fumbles. Junior Carson Plessinger (Alexandria, Ky.) forced and recovered one fumble, while classmate Kornell Dash (Evansville, Ind.) jump on top of the other.

The Panthers' 12 seniors have now concluded their collegiate careers and helped guide HC to its first conference title in 15 seasons this fall. The graduating class went from a 2-8 overall record their first season to the 7-4 mark this year, highlighted by the national playoff appearance and the program's first win over Franklin in the Victory Bell Classic since 2004.

Hanover was rewarded for its stellar season with 16 all-conference selections, including eight first teamers. Matt Theobald was also tabbed HCAC Coach of the Year.

Contact: Tyler Jester