November 2, 2011
Hanover hanging around
|With a big receiving target
gone, Hanover is running instead, to the tune of 161 yards per
game. Darren Bailey averages 6.6 yards per carry.
Hanover athletics photo
When the Hanover Panthers lost preseason All-American wide receiver
Daniel Passafiume before the start of the season, many wondered how
Hanover would overcome the lost of a person who was a crucial part
of their offense.
When Hanover lost three of its first four games, including a
31-20 defeat to Rose-Hulman, many started to wonder if the Panthers
could have a winning season, much less finish third as predicted by
Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference coaches before the
After reeling off four straight wins and putting itself in a
position to win at least a share of the HCAC title, few are
wondering about Hanover anymore. The Panthers, in coach Joe
Austin’s fourth season, is one win away of earning Hanover
back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2004.
More importantly, the Panthers trail No. 22-ranked Franklin by
one game with two contests left. That means the annual Victory Bell
Game, this year being played at Hanover, could be for all the
marbles and a playoff spot on Nov. 12.
“Our defense is playing well and we hope to be able to
hang our hat on that,” said Austin. “Our average margin
of victory in our conference games is something like 43-12, so our
players know they can play well. Our defense has really been the
catalyst. We’ve allowed one defensive touchdown in our last
three games. Tom Ross, my associate head coach and defensive
coordinator, has done a terrific job of putting the players in
great positions to be successful.”
The Panthers defense is led by junior linebacker Andy Dalton,
who is leading the HCAC averaging 11.1 tackles a game. He has been
named HCAC defensive player of the week twice, including this past
week after returning an interception 85 yards for a
Hanover seems to be over its adjustment period after losing
Passafiume on offense, but Austin said he believes his team in on
the right track and the winning streak is evidence of that.
“Losing a preseason first team All-American is a big
letdown,” Austin said. “I went through spring and
summer intending to focus our passing game around getting him the
ball, so when we lost him I had to do a lot of shuffling of bodies
and schemes to try and figure out where our production would come
“The silver lining was that we knew we wouldn’t
have him a month before the season started, so there was a little
bit of time to work up a contingency plan.”
What has emerged for Hanover is an impressive mix of newcomers
no one saw coming. Sophomore quarterback Dexter Britt took over the
helm the second game of the season and is completing 60.1 percent
of his passes (119-198). The most impressive thing is that
he’s thrown two interceptions against 15 touchdowns, while
averaging 193.6 yards per contest.
“He has played fantastic since the Rose-Hulman
loss,” Austin said. “The 7½-to-1
touchdown-to-interception ratio is a pretty good. He’s also
rushed for five touchdowns and went over 100 yards rushing last
week against Bluffton.”
Britt’s two main targets are senior tight end Matt
Robinette, who leads the team in catches with 39 for 583 yards and
three touchdowns, and homerun hitting wide receiver Dwayne Eubanks.
Eubanks, a former Panther basketball player, has 36 catches for 632
yards and 10 touchdowns, including one this season for 96 yards.
Both are near the top of the HCAC in yards receiving and
“Matt’s third in the conference in receiving yards
and fifth in receptions,” Austin said. “This is
Dwayne’s third year at Hanover, but his first playing
football. Right now Dwayne is second in the league in receiving
yards and seventh in receptions. His 10 TDs leads the league for
touchdowns by a wide receiver. It took him a while to get
comfortable with football, since he hasn’t played since high
school. Now that he knows our offense well he has become a big play
target for us.”
Hanover knows, because of the Rose-Hulman loss, it’s
been looking at the back of Franklin’s jersey all season, but
will have a chance to finally catch up with its rival in two games.
Before that contest, Hanover still has a tough contest at Mount St.
Joseph in Cincinnati on Saturday.
“I have to guard against overconfidence with my
team,” Austin said. “I think we were overconfident
after our conference opening win at Defiance and it led to a
hangover the next week at Rose-Hulman. I hope they believe in their
ability to play well, but I also hope they stay hungry to prove it
every week. If we play to our potential, I think we have a chance
to do well in the games left on our schedule.”
Of course, there was a time when Hanover owned the HCAC. The
Panthers won four conference titles between 1999
. Austin said he
hopes his team is moving in that direction with the past two
“I think the foundation of our program is strong and I
have no reason to believe that next year’s team won’t
be better than this year’s team,” Austin said.
“Each year our recruiting has been better and our players
have worked harder to develop themselves. That’s a good
combination for program development.
“The quality of the education at Hanover is attractive
to a lot of students, as is the success we have had on the field
the last two years. Hopefully, that will bode well for our future.
I know that I am excited about it and I think that shows when I
talk to people about our program.”
Hanover faithful may even get more excited with victories in
the Panthers next two games.
Game of the Week
No. 6 North Central (7-1, 5-0 CCIW) at No. 13 Wheaton
(7-1, 4-1): There’s little else that can be said
about this one and its implications. As terrific as a season
Wheaton has had, it needs to win the Little Brass Bell at home to
make the playoffs, seeing how unkind the selection committee has
been to two-loss teams lately. Ditto for North Central, which loss
the opener to Redlands, but has been ranked in the Top 10 most of
the season. The Cardinals have been in this situation before, when
it shared the title and had one of Division III’s most
prolific offenses and didn’t make the playoffs. So forget
about the rankings, this is essentially a playoff game. Of course,
Illinois Wesleyan (7-1, 4-1), which has a victory over Wheaton and
a loss to North Central, waits in the wings. The Titans must first
take care of business against Carthage, but a Wheaton win could
give IWU a share of the CCIW title and still a shot at the
automatic bid. North Central all but wraps up the bid with a win.
Needless to say, there’s a lot on the line.