By Hillsdale Daily News Correspondent James Gensterblum
Despite helping their team to a 2-1 record to open the season, the Hillsdale College Chargers defense had something to prove on Saturday night against the Indianapolis Greyhounds.
After back to back weeks of giving up 30+ points, including 38 in a one-point loss to Northwood last weekend, many questioned whether the defense was good enough to keep Hillsdale in playoff contention.
However, Hillsdale’s defense more than answered those questions Saturday night, holding the prolific Greyhounds offense to just 38 first-half yards in a 23-0 shutout win.
“It’s a huge win for us as far as giving us confidence going forward,” said senior defensive lineman Drew Berube. “We needed to come out and make a statement and get our swagger back, and we did it.”
Going up against the GLIAC’s number-two-rated passer in sophomore Rob Doyle, the defense set the tone early when freshman strong safety Nick Galvan just missed on an interception on the second play of the game. Galvan would later get his interception in the second half to help seal the game, the first of his career.
“Getting that first interception was an exciting moment for me personally, and to do it in a situation where it made a big difference in the outcome is even better,” Galvan said.
Hillsdale held Indianapolis to just 114 yards of total offense and forced two interceptions along with five sacks of Doyle and his backup Paul Corsaro, who replaced Doyle after he was injured in the second quarter, in a dominant performance.
“We knew how talented they were going into the game and we knew that in order to counter them we couldn’t sit back, we had to be aggressive both up front and in the secondary,” said sophomore linebacker David Bakker, who had an interception in the game as well. “Our pass rush up front was amazing and set the tone for the rest of the defense.”
Berube had two and a half sacks to lead the defensive effort for Hillsdale.
On the offensive side of the ball, Hillsdale faced their stiffest challenge yet against a determined Indianapolis secondary.
Quarterback Troy Weatherhead was just 19-30 for 136 yards and an interception while Hillsdale was shut out through the air for just the second time this season. Weatherhead also added a 1-yard touchdown on the ground, however.
With the passing game encountering fierce resistance, Hillsdale running back Vinnie Panizzi took over.
Panizzi racked up a career-high 188 yards on just 27 carries for a 7.0 ypc average, and scored a fourth quarter touchdown, making the Greyhounds pay for focusing on the pass.
“Coming into the game, we knew they were going to place an emphasis on stopping our passing game,” Panizzi said. “But we’re an extremely balanced offense, and you can’t just sell out to stop the pass or we’ll burn you on the ground. My offensive line just opened up great running lanes all night and I just went out and did my job.”
A.J. Kegg caught six passes for 46 yards, and Andre Holmes caught five for 50 to lead Hillsdale in receiving.
Kicker Mark Petro continued his All-America caliber year, hitting three field goals from 29, 32, and 36 yards as well as going 2-2 on extra points.
The win moves Hillsdale to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the GLIAC and keeps their playoff hopes alive. It also sets up a crucial game on the road next week against the 18th ranked Ashland Eagles.
With both teams sitting at 3-1 and with a game against national number one Grand Valley State remaining for both, the game sets up as a virtual playoff elimination game for the two teams.