ALLIANCE, Ohio – The Hanover Panthers saw their season come to an end on Saturday afternoon in Alliance, Ohio as they fell to No. 1 ranked Mount Union, 65-14.
Hanover who made their second consecutive NCAA DIII Playoff appearance, concludes the 2019 season 9-1 overall with a perfect 7-0 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference mark for the first time since the 2003 season. Mount Union advances to the second round of the NCAA Playoffs next Saturday.
Coach Theobold after the game, "I am so proud of our guys, we have a fantastic senior class who came through from a 4-6 overall mark to playing the no. one team in the country."
The Purple Raiders won the opening coin toss electing to receive the football taking their opening drive 74-yards on three plays for the touchdown, 7-0. After a series of unfortunate miscues on third down the Panthers surrender back-to-back scores with 3:07 remaining in the opening period, 21-0. The last time the Panthers found themselves on the wrong end of a first quarter deficit dated back to September 28 when the Blue and Red trailed the Bluffton Beavers 3-0.
Panthers would find some life late in the opening quarter when sophomore Brayden Oberhausen (Louisville, Ky.) launched a booming punt that was fumbled by the Purple Raiders inside their own 20-yard line and recovered by the Blue and Red. Hanover scored on the next play as senior AJ Breit (Louisville, Ky.) found senior Taylor Bleistein (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) for the touchdown, 21-7. The touchdown is only the second score the Raiders have allowed in the first quarter this season.
However, the excitement didn't last long as the Purple Raiders tacked on three more scores in the second period to take the 41-7 halftime advantage.
The Blue and Red special teams' unit dealt clutch again in the second half as Oberhausen delivered a 51-yard punt that was again dropped by the Mount Union returner allowing for a junior Ross Eckert (Huntingburg, Ind.) recovery with just over five minutes to play in the third quarter.
The Hanover defense showed why they ranked among the best in the HCAC as senior Carson Plessinger (Alexandria, Ky.) forced a fumble that was scooped up by senior Dakota Manion (West Lafayette, Ind.) for the Panthers final score of the game, 48-14.
Mount Union finished the contest with 568 total yards of offense and four second half scores for the victory.
The senior class left a lasting impression on the Panther football program finishing the 2019 campaign with Conference records in passing yards per game and points per game allowed while posting an unblemished 7-0 mark in league action, the first time since the 2003 season. The core went from a 4-6 overall record in 2016 to a 9-1 record with their second consecutive Victory Bell win and National Playoff appearance.
"Feels great to be apart of something so special, coach Theobald and the coaching staff kept us working. The seniors this season stepped into some major leadership roles and as a unit we got a lot closer," added senior Conner Gibson (Lexington, Ky.).
"It's has been ride and a journey for myself and the rest of the seniors. I hope that I was able to teach and leave a lot for the Panther football team to take with them," stated senior Dakota Manion.
For the stellar season, Hanover saw 18 student-athletes earn All-Conference honors with three claiming top recognition including HCAC Coach of the Year Matt Theobald.