Box Score: Hillsdale 40, Ashland 34 3OT
September 17, 2011 – Just when it looked like a victory over Grand Valley State would become the 2011 season highlight, the Hillsdale College football team had to go and top itself.
The Chargers defeated South Division rival Ashland University 40-34 in three overtimes Saturday night at Frank “Muddy” Waters Stadium. Hillsdale is now 2-0 in the GLIAC and 2-1 overall, and will travel to Lake Erie College next Saturday afternoon.
Where does one begin with a game like this? Naturally, with the ending. Junior QB Anthony Mifsud rolled to his right, appearing to perhaps run for the end zone, but tossed a soft pass to redshirt-freshman wide receiver Brett Miller (pictured), who was running in a parallel direction, for the game-winning score to end the third overtime.
Ashland played its second straight triple-overtime game, last week defeating the University of Indianapolis 39-36. But this game, which kept the coveted Traveling Trophy in Hillsdale’s possession for another year, was anything but predictable.
Both teams came back from 10-point deficits in regulation time, and each scored touchdowns in overtime to put pressure on its opponent.
The Chargers were down 10-0 in the second quarter, then scored 20 unanswered points, including two impressive marches down the field in the third quarter, to pull ahead 20-10. The teams traded scores, with the Eagles packaging together a 20-yard field goal by Gregg Birkshire and a touchdown pass from Taylor Housewright to Anthony Capasso to knot the game 27-27 with 1:06 left in the game.
Mifsud then led Hillsdale on a dramatic seven-play, 49-yard drive that set up a potential game-winning field goal. Many in the crowd thought Colin McGreevy’s 34-yard attempt was good, but the officials on the field ruled it wide, sending Hillsdale into its first home overtime game in seven years.
Both teams missed field goals on their first overtime possessions. Hillsdale then applied the pressure to the Eagles, when junior RB Joe Glendening powered his way into the end zone from seven yards out, to put the Chargers ahead 34-27.
Housewright, one of the most talented quarterbacks in the GLIAC, then sent the highlight reels spinning with his end-over-end flip into the end zone on a three-yard leap, tying the game again 34-34.
Birkshire pushed a 26-yard field goal attempt wide left, giving Hillsdale a chance to close the game out in the third extra session.
Mifsud completed back-to-back passes to Andrew Mott and Cam White to get the Chargers down to the Ashland six-yard line. After two rushing plays, Hillsdale faced a third-and-goal, and one more stop from the Eagles would have forced one more field goal attempt. But Mifsud, who was brilliant all night, kept the play alive long enough for Miller to find open real estate in the south end zone, and Miller’s bread-basket catch sealed one of the most dramatic wins by the Chargers in the last several years.
Glendening played every bit like the First-Team All-Conference back he is in this game, running the ball 33 times for 101 yards and four touchdowns. Amazingly, facing a stacked Ashland defense designed to stop him, Glendening had negative yardage on just two plays in the game. He also caught a team-high seven passes for 43 yards.
Mifsud directed Hillsdale’s short passing attack with precision, going 31-for-41 for a career-high 317 yards and two scores. He also ran for 54 key yards, including a 20-yard scamper in the second half.
Four Chargers caught at least five passes. Mott hauled in five for 53 yards, while senior tight end Bren Bergquist caught five passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt-freshman Evan Sassack caught a trick-play pass from QB Sam Landry, and finished with three receptions for 68 yards.
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Steven Embry set a new career-high with 16 tackles to lead Hillsdale. Joe Vear and Brett Pasche each had 11.