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The Detroit News: Hillsdale enjoying its historical season


DAVID GORICKI / The Detroit News

Coming home has never been so fruitful.

Especially when the homecoming meant turning your football program into a national contender.

That’s exactly what’s happened for Keith Otterbein at Hillsdale.

A little more than a month after a stunning upset over No. 1 Grand Valley State, Hillsdale looks to make one more against GVSU, this time in the Division II playoffs Saturday.

“When the Hillsdale job opened up a light bulb went off in my head with the idea of, ‘This is where I belong,’ ” said Otterbein, who played at Hillsdale more than 30 years ago. “I think I have the best job in college football. I love the players and the coaching staff here. We have the support of the administration, and it’s a great environment.”

Especially after the 27-24 victory over Grand Valley State, which ended the Lakers’ 48-game regular-season winning streak.

The victory also ended Grand Valley State’s 45-game Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference winning streak.

“(Grand Valley State) does a great job of recruiting and they have an indoor facility that D1 programs don’t have,” said Otterbein, who took over at Hillsdale in 2002 after several years as an assistant at Ball State. “They’ve been the elite D2 program in the country this decade.”

Still, don’t think Hillsdale is overwhelmed by the presence of Grand Valley State on the field.

Hillsdale is No. 15 in Division II and earned its first playoff berth in school history. It defeated Minnesota State-Mankato on the road last week.

Hillsdale also has shown it has talented athletes. Consider:

  • Troy Weatherhead has completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,964 yards and 16 TDs;
  • Vinnie Panizzi has rushed for 1,391 yards and 22 TDs;
  • A.J. Kegg (75 receptions) and Andre Holmes (68) are Weatherhead’s top targets; and
  • Left tackle Jared Veldheer, at 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds with 4.8 speed, is a potential NFL player.
  • “We run a multiple one-back style with basic plays out of it; we try to keep it simple,” Otterbein said. “Our success is predicated by controlling the line of scrimmage. … You don’t need to re-invent the wheel at this stage.”

    But Otterbein knows Hillsdale must keep Grand Valley State quarterback Brad Iciek and Co., out of the end zone.

    And, that could be hard to do.

    “I don’t want to say it’s David vs. Goliath, but we’re a smaller school, 1,300 kids compared to Grand Valley’s 25,000,” Otterbein said. “I admire what they’ve done at Grand Valley.”

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    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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