The Charger football team put on an historic performance for fans, friends and alumni on homecoming Saturday afternoon.
Breaking a total yardage record it had set just one week ago, Hillsdale College shut out Kentucky Wesleyan College 56-0 on a gorgeous and sunny Saturday afternoon at Frank "Muddy" Waters Stadium. It was Hillsdale's first-ever football game in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, and improves the team to 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the league.
Saturday's game will go in the record books for a number of reasons. The Chargers generated 659 yards of total offense, breaking the single-game school record it set one week ago in a loss at the University of Indianapolis.
That was the offense. Now, for the defense.
Playing with discipline and passion, the defense pitched its first shutout since September 2009. The Chargers allowed just 141 yards of total offense, and even when it was put in adverse situations, the unit and individual players stepped forward with big-time plays.
The tone was set from the very first play, when placekicker Joe Philipp successfully executed an onsides kick on the opening kickoff, immediately putting a charge into the team and the big home crowd. Six plays later, sophomore tailback slid through the Panther defense for a 4-yard touchdown run to open the scoring.
Hillsdale's second score also came on the ground, but this time courtesy of quarterback Chance Stewart, who had an incredible performance. He galloped in from 11 yards out to put Hillsdale up 14-0 with two minutes to go in the first quarter.
One week after his school-record shattering 485-yard passing game – which came in a loss – Stewart came back with a game that was both efficient and wildly effective. He would complete 16 of 21 passes for 281 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes. He also ran the ball three times for 70 yards and two scores, helping him account for six total touchdowns in the game.
A play he's likely to tell his children about however, didn't even result in a score. He ripped off a career-long 50-yard run in the second quarter that led to the Chargers' fourth score of the day, a pass from Stewart to tight end John Brennan, that made it a 28-0 ballgame.
Brennan provided a big highlight on the team's next possession with a 66-yard touchdown reception, where he cut upfield and outran the Panther defense for the longest catch of his career. Brennan finished the game with two catches for 69 yards and two scores.
Hillsdale went into halftime with a 42-0 lead, its largest halftime lead since Nov. 7, 2009. Thanks to a 43-yard kick return by Timmy Mills, the Chargers needed just four plays, covering 49 yards, to take a seven-touchdown lead in the opening moments of the third quarter.
Trey Brock was on the receiving end of an 8-yard touchdown pass from Stewart and finished with 6 catches for 70 yards. Mills hauled in three passes for 57 yards, and junior Austin Sandusky had two catches for 43 yards and the final touchdown of the afternoon.
Defensively, the Chargers got terrific performances from players all over the field. After a blocked field goal set KWC up at the Hillsdale 15-yard line, the defense stiffened, and linebacker Dan Shanley intercepted a pass at the goal line and returned it 70 yards to help preserve the shutout.
The Chargers recorded a season-high five sacks, coming from five different players. Elliot Laisure had 1.5 sacks, while Schuyler Snell, Wain Clarke, Charlie Yost and Zach VanValkenburg each picked up sacks in the victory. Uday Singh tacked on a tackle-for-loss for Hillsdale as well.
Hillsdale's defense held Kentucky Wesleyan to 1-for-14 on third-down conversions, and the Chargers enjoyed a 15-minute edge in time of possession.