Nov. 14, 2009

Courtesy Hillsdale Athletics

November 14, 2009 - The first overtime game in more than five years for the Hillsdale College football team was one its players, coaches and fans will never forget.

First-Team All-GLIAC kicker Mark Petro nailed a 34-yard field goal on Hillsdale's first possession of overtime to take Hillsdale ato a 27-24 win over host Minnesota State-Mankato Saturday afternoon.

The Chargers (10-2) will now advance to the Super Region 3 semifinal game on Saturday, Nov. 21 against Grand Valley State University at 1 p.m. Mankato's season ends with a 10-2 record.

The Mavericks scored a touchdown with 38 seconds left to tie the game at 24-24. The Chargers immediately drove down inside the red zone, but fumbled the ball with eight seconds left, forcing the extra session.

Hillsdale immediately made plays on defense as overtime started. Linebacker David Bakker had a tackle-for-loss on the first play of overtime. On that play, the Mavericks were whistled for an illegal block penalty, setting them back to the Hillsdale 47-yard-line.

On the second play of overtime, senior captain Lance Smith forced a fumble, that was recovered by senior linebacker Joe Stempien, ending Mankato's first scoring attempt.

Hillsdale College senior RB Vinnie Panizzi had runs of six and three yards on Hillsdale's first drive, putting Petro in ideal field goal range. His kick split the uprights, extending Hillsdale's magical 2009 season at least one more week.

The Mavericks controlled the first part of the game, rushing for 80 yards on their first possession of the game to take a 7-0 lead. But Hillsdale's offense had an answer, driving 80 yards in nine plays, culminating with a one-yard TD plunge by senior Bill Kanitz, tying the game 7-7.

Mankato scored on a 21-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter to go ahead 14-7. Despite facing another deficit, the Charger offense bounced back once again, tying the game on their next possession.

The Chargers put together a grind-it-out, 12-play, 73-yard drive capped by another one-yard score by Kanitz to make it a 14-14 game. Kanitz has 17 rushing touchdowns in his career, all coming from one yard out.

The Mavericks booted a field goal in the second quarter, and went into halftime with a 17-14 lead.

But the third quarter is when Hillsdale grabbed control of the contest. The team ate six minutes off the clock, mixing up the run and pass effectively and keeping the Mavericks just off-balance enough to punch the ball into the end zone.

Panizzi, already the school record-holder for career touchdowns, found paydirt in the playoffs for the first time from six yards out, giving the Chargers their first lead of the game, 21-17.

Petro booted a 20-yard field goal less than three minutes into the fourth quarter to give Hillsdale a seven-point lead.

All season, Hillsdale has been very well-balanced on offense, and this game was no exception. Panizzi rushed 22 times for 85 yards and one score.

Junior QB Troy Weatherhead played another controlled, effective game, going 24-for-31 for 258 yards. He spread the ball around to the tune of three different players getting six catches apiece.

Junior WR Andre Holmes had six catches for 89 yards. Panizzi had a season-high six receptions, good for 46 yards, and senior A.J. Kegg added six receptions for 42 yards.

The Charger defense made several big plays throughout the game, to slow down the tough running attack of the Mavericks. Senior Jordan Knudsen and freshman Nick Galvan each had interceptions, and seven different players had tackles-for-loss.

Bakker, Joe Vear and Marcellus Wade each had 10 total tackles in the game.