From the very first play of the game, you could tell this one was different.
Junior tailback Bennett Lewis burst through the line for a 44-yard gain on the opening play of the Chargers' Saturday night game against Lake Erie College. That set the tone for Hillsdale's 52-29 win over the Storm at Frank "Muddy" Waters Stadium. Hillsdale is now 1-1 overall and in the GLIAC, and plays at Northern Michigan University next week.
Lewis' run was part of an astounding 350 rushing yards piled up by the Chargers, the most in a game since Keith Otterbein took over as head coach in 2002. Hillsdale averaged 7.4 yards per rush as a team in this game, and four different players scored touchdowns on the ground for the Chargers.
The game plan for Hillsdale was to attack Lake Erie with its deep stable of running backs, and the game plan worked perfectly thanks to those backs, but particularly, the blocking of the offensive line. Starters Justice Karmie, Matt VanOpstall, Danny Drummond, Jake Bull and Aaron Price routinely blocked Lake Erie defenders several yards past the line of scrimmage, opening up holes for Lewis and Wade Wood, who took full advantage of those opportunities.
Wood and Lewis became the first Charger teammates to each run for more than 100 yards in the same game since Phil Martin and Dan Wilson did it back on Sept. 18, 2004, an overtime win over Gannon. Wood broke off two long runs as part of his 8-carry, 108-yard performance.
The Chargers scored two touchdowns in each of the game's first three quarters, shredding the Storm repeatedly up the middle of the field. Lewis rushed for the second-most yards in a game in his career, finishing with 163 among 21 carries and 2 touchdown runs.
Senior quarterback CJ Mifsud didn't have to carry the offense with the chunks being gained by the running attack, but he did a good job of spreading the ball around. He completed 11-of-20 passes for 121 yards and touchdown throws to John Haley and Newman. Eight different players caught passes from Mifsud in the win.
The Hillsdale defense came into this game having to pass the test of Lake Erie's up-tempo offense. Although the Storm accumulated 561 total yards, the Chargers did a good job of holding the Storm to field goals early in the game, and not giving up big plays that led directly to scores. Fifteen of Lake Erie's 29 points came in the game's final quarter.
Redshirt-freshman Alex Zimmerman provided the biggest play of the game by the defense, picking up his first career interception and returning it 45 yards, setting up Wood's two-yard touchdown in the second quarter, increasing Hillsdale's lead to 24-6.
Sophomore linebacker Scotty Penola led the defense with 13 total tackles, seven solo. The defense responded to Lake Erie's passing game to the tune of seven pass break-ups, eight tackles for loss, two sacks and four quarterback hurries. Sophomore linebacker Jay Rose had 8 total tackles, and four more players had 6 each. Defensive end David Galginaitis was particularly disruptive, with 4.5 tackles for loss. Curtis Smith recovered a fumble as well.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE: Hillsdale was 7-for-7 in red zone touchdowns…Wood's 108 rushing yards were a career-high…The Chargers outscored the Storm 14-0 off turnovers…Although Lake Erie rushed for 312 yards as a team, the Storm had negative runs totaling 27 yards…The Chargers didn't commit a penalty in the game, compared to eight for 52 yards for Lake Erie…Tight end Austin Adams made his first career catch in the game…Sophomore John Terry made his debut as a kick returner, and averaged 24.1 yards per kick return…In four all-time meetings, Hillsdale is 4-0 vs. Lake Erie and has averaged 44.3 points in those four games.