The first-ever Great Midwest Athletic Conference football matchup between Hillsdale College and Alderson Broaddus University featured big plays and wild momentum swings but in the end, the Chargers came away with a win on the road.
Hillsdale rallied from a 14-point deficit to post a 37-31 win over the Battlers in its first-ever trip to Philippi, West Virginia. The Chargers are now 5-4 overall and 3-2 in the G-MAC, while Alderon Broaddus fell to 2-7 on the season.
In the first quarter, the Battlers rang up 21 points, with those three scoring plays covering 235 total yards to turn around a 7-0 deficit into a 21-7 lead with less than two minutes to go in the first quarter. Then early in the second quarter, the Battlers again marched down the field and appeared ready to take a three-score lead.
But Merrick Canada wasn't having it.
After a blocked punt, the Battlers drove down to the Hillsdale one-yard line and chose to go for it on fourth-and-goal. AB running back Amaan Bridgett fumbled at the 3 and Canada scooped up the ball and sprinted 97 yards the other way for a touchdown. That sudden 14-point swing was not only critical in this game, but Canada is now in both the Hillsdale and G-MAC record books, setting a new mark for the longest fumble return for touchdown in school and conference history.
After a Battler field goal, junior QB Chance Stewart threw the first of his three touchdown passes in the game with a 3-yarder to junior Trey Brock with 30 seconds to go in the first half. Hillsdale went into the locker room trailing 24-21 when it could easily have been facing a 28-7 deficit.
The Chargers didn't waste that opportunity, scoring 13 unanswered points in the third quarter to grab back control. Stewart made some big plays of his own, throwing touchdown passes of 46 yards (to Brock) and 50 yards (to senior Timmy Mills) to put the Charges on top 34-24.
But that comeback wouldn't have been possible were it not for more big plays from the Hillsdale defense. Senior Will Jones picked off a pass on the Battlers' second play after Canada's touchdown in the second quarter. Junior Wyatt Batdorff also intercepted a pass in the end zone, stopping an AB red zone threat in the third quarter.
The big plays by Canada and Batdorff can't be overstated because the Battlers were in prime scoring position in a game that ended up being decided by six points.
Brock caught 9 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and on his first catch of the day, set a new G-MAC single-season record for receptions. For the season, Brock now has 66 receptions for 1,048 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Stewart finished his day completing 20 of 36 passes for 253 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. He got great protection from his offensive line, a unit led by Danny Drummond, Jake Bull, Mark Konkle, Zach VanOrman and Drew Callahan. The offensive line didn't allow a sack and helped Hillsdale to 192 total net rushing yards, with just eight yards lost on 42 attempts in the game.
Tailback David Graham carried the ball 21 times for 106 yards and one touchdown, three yards short of his career-high. Christian Shepler made a nice contribution with 37 yards on five carries, averaging a nifty 7.2 yards per attempt. Mills caught 3 passes for 71 yards and a score.
Defensively, Jordon Harlamert was all over the Battler offensive players, racking up a career-high 10 total tackles and 2 ½ sacks. Zach VanValkenburg had 1 ½ sacks while Casey Schukow and Nate Canterbury each teamed up on sacks for the defense. Batdorff had 9 total tackles while Spencer Nehls and Jason McDonough each had 7.