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Chargers playoff push continues with impressive rout of struggling Bulldogs

By Zeke Jennings / Big Rapids Pioneer
The Hillsdale College football team is likely just one win away from its first playoff appearance in over 20 years after systematically taking apart Ferris State on Saturday.
Vinnie Panizzi and Joe Glendening scored two first-half touchdowns apiece, as the 22nd-ranked Chargers led 31-0 at halftime and then coasted to a 59-7 win over Ferris State at Top Taggart Field in Big Rapids.
The loss is the ninth straight for the Bulldogs (1-9, 0-9 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference), while Hillsdale improves to 8-2 heading into its regular-season finale against winless Tiffin next week.
“Give Hillsdale credit for coming in here for playing a good football game, and they have a good team,” Ferris State coach Jeff Pierce said. “We just didn’t match up horsepower-wise as far as being able to control the line of scrimmage.
“There is not a whole lot you can do when you don’t do that.”
The Chargers had just five incomplete passes, averaged close to 4 yards per carry on the ground, were 9-of-13 on third-down conversions and didn’t turn the ball over.
Hillsdale coach Keith Otterbein said his team’s efficient performance was symbolic of the season the Chargers are having.
“We’ve been doing that all year. Our kids are just showing up,” Otterbein said. “We start practice Monday night and they lock in. They learn from their mistakes from the previous Saturday, they work hard and stay with their focus throughout the the work week.
“You don’t do that to a team in this league unless you’re ready to play.”
The Chargers scored on the game’s opening possession, as Panizzi capped off a 10-play, 77-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge with just under 10 minutes to play in opening quarter.
Hillsdale went ahead 14-0 just minutes later when Glendening picked up a blocked Ferris State punt and went 25 yards to the end zone.
After a three-and-out by Ferris State, Panizzi scored again on the ensuing drive to put the Chargers ahead 21-0 just 3 seconds into the second quarter.
A Mark Petro 40-yard field goal into a swirling wind and a short run by Glendening gave Hillsdale a 31-0 halftime lead.
Hillsdale held a 181-43 advantage in yards from scrimmage after the first half.
The Chargers scored again on the opening play from scrimmage in the third quarter, as Ferris State quarterback Kyle Parrish’s lateral went astray and the ball was picked up by Joe Stempien and returned 8 yards for the touchdown.
Both teams began emptying their benches late in the third quarter.
Ferris State backup quarterback Rob Banaszak connected with Mike Ryan on a 16-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. Tyler Thomas added a 27-yard touchdown run late, as the Bulldogs scored two touchdowns for the first time since a 44-23 loss to Ashland in the second game of the season.
The Chargers blitzed often, sacking Ferris State passers five times and pressuring them countless others. The Bulldogs changed their offensive scheme from the spread to the I-pro three weeks ago.
“I think the last couple weeks they’ve been struggling to protect their quarterback,” Otterbein said. “I think our defensive front is pretty good. All of a sudden when you’re bringing more guys than they have to block … we were able to capitalize on that a little bit.”
Hillsdale sophomore defensive back Nick Hixson, who played at nearby Chippewa Hills High School in Remus, made an interception and returned two punts for 25 yards.
“It was awesome,” said Hixson, who had a large gathering of friends and family at the game. “I’ve been looking forward to this game for about three years, so I was real excited.”
Freshman Skyler Stoker led the Bulldogs with 62 yards on 24 carries. Stoker, who injured a shoulder earlier in the season, became the team’s primary ballcarrier last week.
“He’s just getting so much better each week,” Pierce said. “We’re trying to get better in what we’re trying to do (offensive switch), so I like how he’s coming along. He’s reading the zone plays well and he’s making a lot of progress.”
Panizzi led a balanced offensive attack for the Chargers with 84 yards on 19 carries. Glendening’s two scores were the first of his career.
Hillsdale High School graduate Drew Berube led the Chargers defense with six tackles, including three for lost yardage.

About rjwalters

I am what you think I am — a journalist. Actually when I was hired at my current job, which by the way is Sports Editor of the Hillsdale Daily News in Hillsdale, Mich., I applied for a position titled "Wordsmith", so at my best I'll call myself a writer attempting to be a wordsmith extraordinaire.


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