The happiest of Homecomings: Charger football team beats top-ranked Grand Valley State, 27-24
First Hillsdale win over the Lakers since Oct. 15, 1994
October 10, 2009 – Of all the streaks earned by the Grand Valley State football team over the past five years, one streak from Saturday’s game should not be overlooked.
This was the sixth straight Homecoming Game win for the Hillsdale College football team.
Of those six, this one was by far the most significant and satisfying, as Hillsdale defeated previously undefeated and No. 1-ranked Grand Valley State 27-24 before more than 3,000 screaming fans at Frank “Muddy” Waters Stadium. The Chargers are now 5-2 overall and 4-2 in GLIAC play. Grand Valley State suffered its first conference loss in five years, and falls to 6-1 overall and 5-1 in the GLIAC.
The Lakers have been the most dominant team in all of Division II this decade, breaking all kinds of records and establishing a level of dominance rarely seen at this level. The team had won four national championships this decade.
None of that mattered to this determined and spirited Hillsdale College football team, who bounced back from a difficult loss last week to put together a win of historic proportions.
Neither team was able to build a big lead at any point in the game. That left it up to the Hillsdale offense, who started its final drive with 5:19 left on the clock, facing a 24-20 deficit.
Junior QB Troy Weatherhead worked the team down the field, 11 plays for 67 yards that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by senior Bill Kanitz, who plowed through the line for the game-winning score.
The Lakers, always a quick-striking offensive team, got the ball with just 29 seconds left, but moved into position for a potential game-tying field goal. The 49-yuard attempt flew wide right, setting off a celebration that saw the field fill up with delighted Charger fans just moments after the ball dropped to the track.
Grand Valley built a 9-0 first quarter lead, on a touchdown reception by Mike Koster and a 21-yard field goal by Justin Trumble. The Lakers missed the extra-point attempt on their first field goal.
Hillsdale came right back to score 17 unanswered points in the second quarter to control momentum and the flow of the game. Weatherhead passed for 68 yards on the team’s first scoring drive, which concluded with him taking the ball five yards in for a touchdown. On the play, Weatherhead rolled out to his left, saw everyone covered, but also saw a big gap in the Grand Valley defense, which he took advantage of, diving in for the score.
That led to a key sequence in the game, when the Chargers seized that all-important momentum. The Lakers drove down to the Hillsdale 49-yard-line, and went for it on 4th-and-1. The Hillsdale defense forced Laker QB Brad Iciek out of the pocket, and he threw a pass that was knocked down by Charger freshman Nick Galvan, stopped the Lakers’ drive.
The Chargers took the next possession and turned it into three points on a 45-yard field goal by senior Mark Petro, putting Hillsdale in front 10-9.
Hillsdale’s Aric Geerlings recovered a fumble on the subsequent kickoff, and the Chargers took full advantage of the big play. Senior RB Vinnie Panizzi capped a 29-yard drive with a tough 10-yard touchdown run that suddenly had the Chargers in front, 17-9.
The Lakers used a 38-yard kickoff return to set up a touchdown run by James Berezik to make it a 17-15 score. GVSU went for two on a fake extra-point attempt, but the Hillsdale defense foiled the play, ending the first half with the Chargers ahead by two.
Another Petro field goal made the score 20-15, but the Lakers would respond with nine straight points, but not without another key conversion miss. After Blake Smolen’s 28-yard touchdown reception, the Lakers again went for two, but Charger senior LB Mat Szula sacked Iciek on the conversion try, leaving Grand Valley ahead, 21-20.
A Trumble field goal with 4:16 left extended the lead to four, forcing the Chargers to drive the length of the field for a touchdown. And did they ever, putting together a drive and a win these players will never forget.
Weatherhead was terrific all game, going 21-for-31 for 265 yards. The wide receiver combo of A.J. Kegg and Andre Holmes made clutch catches all game. Kegg caught seven passes for 100 yards, while Holmes hauled in six passes for 96 yards. Tight end Matt Patillo grabbed four passes for 39 yards.
Nick Hixson and Joe Vear stepped up in the Charger secondary for big tackles all game, each recording six solo stops in the win. The Lakers offensive line had allowed two sacks all season, but sacks by Drew Berube and Joe Stempien helped double that total in this game.
The Chargers as a team had six tackles-for-loss, and Hixson racked up 135 kick return yards.
Hillsdale plays at 6-1 Northern Michigan University next weekend in Marquette.
Please click on the link below for the statistics from Saturday’s game.
Chargers 27, Grand Valley State 24