HANOVER, Ind. – The Panthers posted a season-best 518 yards of offense as the Blue and Red soared past Bluffton in their Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference opener on Saturday afternoon, 28-10.
Hanover (3-1 overall, 1-0 HCAC) finished the contest with 308 yards passing, while grinding out 210 yards on the gridiron. Leading the charge for the Panthers was junior Shawn Coane (Evansville, Ind.) with his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, tallying 114 yards. Under center, junior Noah Wezensky (Fort Wayne, Ind.) threw for his second 300-yard game of the season, registering 308 yards through the air.
Bluffton won the toss and elected to take the ball for the game's opening drive that didn't last long as the Beaver quarterback threw an interception on second and 11 that was picked off by sophomore Kiefer Askew (Warner Robins, Ga.).
The Panthers looked to strike first as they traveled 39-yards on five plays to get inside Bluffton territory. Facing a fourth and seven the Panthers sent the field goal unit onto the field but were unsuccessful surrendering the ball to Bluffton.
The Beavers would finally break the scoreless tie late in the first quarter as a Panther miscue with 10:38 remaining placed Bluffton in Hanover territory. The BU kicker would connect for a 35-yard field goal to give the Beavers the early 3-0 lead.
The Blue and Red responded with 2:52 to play in the first quarter as Wezensky opened the drive with a completion to senior Trey Kuerzi (Corydon, Ind.) for a four-yard reception. Coane then went to work on the ground getting the call on three straight downs to put Hanover inside Bluffton territory at the five-yard line. The game's first touchdown would come on the following play as senior Carson Plessinger (Alexandria, Ky.) got the call in the backfield, rushing for five yards and the score, 7-3.
In the second quarter, Hanover forced a Beaver three-an-out that set the stage for the Blue and Red's second score of the day. With 13:05 remaining before break, junior Walt Ballinger (Beech Grove, Ind.) got the call traveling downhill three yards before a completion to senior Taylor Bleistein (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) on fourth and two put the Panthers inside the Bluffton 40-yard line. The excitement didn't stop there as Coane again burst open for a huge gain that put HC inside the red zone before getting the call on second and goal for the score, 14-3.
After forcing a Panther three and out to open the second half, Bluffton would finally find the end zone following an Askew pass interference call that placed the Beavers inside the Hanover 10-yard line. They scored on the next play airing the ball out for the nine-yard touchdown, 14-10.
The Panthers didn't get discouraged as they traveled 65-yards on eight plays to push the lead to 21-10. The drive started with a completion to sophomore Sam Jackson (Indianapolis, Ind.) before a rush from Coane placed the Panthers back in familiar territory. The score came on the following play as Wezensky and senior Conner Gibson (Lexington, Ky.) hooked up for a 31-yard catch and score.
The final stamp of the contest came in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter as Wezensky found Bleistein over the middle for a 46-yard connection that placed HC at the Bluffton one-yard line. Coane made quick work as he took the ball one yard for the game's final score, 28-10.
Hanover returns to conference action on Saturday, October 5 as they welcome Anderson for Homecoming. Kickoff is set for 1:30 PM with the Ravens.