HANOVER, Ind. - Despite a strong offensive day, the Hanover College football team suffered a season opening set back at the hands of nationally ranked Centre (Ky.) 45-31 on Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers (0-1 overall) tallied 512 total yards of offense, including a game-high 323 yards through the air. Junior Noah Wezensky (Fort Wayne, Ind.) posted a strong opening day performance as the gunslinger went 23-of-41 with a rushing touchdown.
Junior Shawn Coane (Evansville, Ind.) did some damage in the back field for the Blue and Red as he rushed for a game-high 159 yards on 25 carries. Walt Ballinger (Beech Grove, Ind.) also made his season debut at running back as he carried the ball for 42 yards and a score.
Defensively, Kyle Treber (Mishawaka, Ind.) tallied 11 tackles, including eight solo stops. Sophomore Kiefer Askew (Warner Robins, Ga.) picked up eight tackles, while junior Terrell Anderson Jr. (Indianapolis, Ind.) and senior Kornell Dash (Evansville, Ind.) both registered seven stops.
The Colonels struck first in the contest after forcing a Panther three and out on the opening drive. Centre took the ball 71 yards on three plays for the early 7-0 advantage.
Hanover responded on the next possession as Wezensky came out firing finding senior Conner Gibson (Lexington, Ky.) for the four yard completion to the Panther 23 yard line. The big play of the drive would come on third and six as the gunslinger connected with wide receiver senior Taylor Bleistein (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) for a 42 yard hook up that landed the Blue and Red in Centre territory. The Panthers continued to move the ball down the field as a completion to Gibson for 28 yards followed by a six yard rush from Coane placed HC in the red zone. Wezensky finished the drive with his feet as he rushed ahead for the one yard touchdown, 7-7.
However, Centre responded with back-to-back scores to extend its lead to 21-7. With under a minute remaining in the first quarter, the Panthers looked to get something going as Wezensky found Gibson for a 17 yard gain placing the Panthers at the Centre 36 yard line before the Colonels forced another Hanover three and out. The Blue and Red would crack into the scores column one last time in the first half as kicker junior Austin Steurer (Warsaw, Ky.) connected for a 27 yard field goal cutting the deficit to 21-10.
The second half opened with a three and out for the Panther defense that shifted some momentum to the Hanover sideline. Coane wasted little time establishing the running game in the second half as he took the ball 30 yards down field on the Panthers opening drive, placing them in Centre territory. Wezensky would handle the rest as he found Bleistein in the end zone for his first touchdown of the afternoon, 35-17.
Late in the third quarter the Panthers tried to rally as Wezensky found Bleistein over the middle who took the ball 75 yards, dodging a pair of Colonel defenders for the Blue and Red touchdown, 42-24. Hanover tallied the games final score on a 42 yard scamper by junior Walt Ballinger (Beech Grove, Ind.) that pulled the Panthers within 45-31 of nationally ranked Centre.
With the loss, the Panthers have suffered nine consecutive season-opening setbacks.
The Panthers return to action next Saturday ,Sept. 14, when they host Adrian (Mich.) for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff.