HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover College football team defeated Franklin as part of the 89th Victory Bell game to wrap up the regular season perfect in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference action for the first time since the 2003 season. An exciting fourth quarter touchdown propelled the Blue and Red past the Grizzlies, 27-21.
The Panthers (9-1 overall, 7-0 HCAC) saw a record breaking performance from junior, running back, Shawn Coane (Evansville, Ind.) who finished the game with two touchdowns and 104-yards. Coane set school records in career rushing yards with 3,031 total yards breaking the previous record of 3,022 set back in 1973-77 and season rushing touchdowns with 19 breaking the previous record of 17 set in 1948.
The senior day celebration got off to a slow start for the Panthers as they found themselves trailing 7-0 with 3:44 remaining in the first period. The Grizzlies capitalized on a Blue and Red interception that set the stage for a six-yard touchdown.
However, the excitement didn't last long for Franklin as the Panthers tallied a touchdown on their next possession going 70-yards on seven plays. The drive opened with a six-yard hookup with junior Jared Frank (Louisville, Ky.) before a seven-yard rush from Coane placed HC at midfield. The Blue and Red cracked into Franklin territory following a junior Noah Wezensky (Fort Wyne, Ind.) quarterback keeper before Coane took the football 40-yards for the game-tying score, 7-7.
After a defensive stop by the stifling Panther defense, Wezensky would lead another scoring drive taking the team 65-yards on five plays to open the second quarter. Junior Walt Ballinger (Beech Grove, Ind.) deemed clutch on the drive recording a 44-yard rush that landed the Blue and Red inside the Franklin red zone. Frank got the nod on second and goal for the go-ahead touchdown, 14-7.
Hanover added another score to open the second half as they took the opening kick 57-yards on nine plays. Senior Taylor Bleistein (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) tallied a 22-yard reception that set the stage for another Coane score, 21-7.
The Grizzlies stole the momentum late in the half as they were able to find the end zone pulling within 21-14 before finding the equalizer on an 86-yard five paly drive.
With 5:25 remaining in the contest, Wezensky kept what seemed like a failing drive alive as he rushing for eight-yards and the first down. Coane got the ball on back-to-back nods rushing for seven and two-yards before picking up another HC first down. The big play of the drive came on a third and 15 as Wezensky threw a bomb to Bleistein for the game winning touchdown, 27-21.
The Panthers return to action on Saturday, Nov. 23 as part of the NCAA DIII Playoffs. The selection show is set for Sunday, Nov. 17 at 5:30 PM when it will be announced who the Blue and Red play in the opening round.