Hanover stepping up

More news about: Hanover
Getting Daniel Passafiume back this season certainly helped Hanover bounce back, but so did a seamless head coaching transition.
Hanover athletics photo 

When Hanover head coach Joe Austin left the Panthers in February to start a football program at Southwestern in Georgetown, Texas, Steve Baudendistel went into action much like a defense trying to stop an offense from scoring in the red zone.

Hanover was in the middle of recruiting and preparing for spring football. The Panthers were trying to bounce back from a 5-5 season after posting a 7-3 record in 2010. Baudendistel, a 2001 graduate of Hanover and former football player, had been an assistant football coach there for nine years. He said he went to athletic director Lynn Hall to sell himself to the administration.

The decision to elevate Baudendistel to head coach looks like a stroke of genius today. The Panthers are 6-2, undefeated in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and after playing Manchester on Saturday, will battle rival No. 21 Franklin for the league title, the Victory Bell and an automatic bid to the playoffs.

“I had interviewed at other places and none of those jobs worked out,” Baudendistel said. “When our coach left in February, with the timing of it all, I went to our athletic director and pled my case. I said it would be quicker to promote me instead of going through a search and I could bring in a good staff quickly.

“I’m very fortunate.”

Hanover’s transformation through the football season can be pointed to a 33-27 overtime win over Rose-Hulman earlier in the season. The Panthers opened the season with two losses at the hands of Illinois College (7-1) and No. 10 Wabash (7-1). The Panthers opened conference play with two teams they lost to last year, in Mount St. Joseph and the Engineers.

After squeaking by Mount St. Joseph 28-24, Baudendistel said he had to sit Britt down for a quarter in the Rose-Hulman game after several turnovers. Britt, though, responded by bringing the Panthers back for the overtime win.

“We had five turnovers in the first half,” Baudendistel said. “I brought Dexter back in the fourth quarter and he responded. In that game, I think our defense realized how dominate it can be. They were put in a lot of difficult spots in that game and played very well. Defensive coordinator Denny Dorrell is keeping those guys excited about playing football. They stayed on the course instead of pointing fingers at each other when things go wrong. They learned how well they can play when you play with emotion and flying to the football.”

Since the Rose-Hulman victory, the Panthers are averaging 49 points per game while giving up 12.8 points per contest.

Hanover was blessed with a former All-American wide receiver on offense. Daniel Passafiume returned for his senior season after missing all of 2011. While Passafiume draws a lot of attention that has opened things up for the other Panther wideouts. Passafiume has eight touchdown catches, but Colton Zech and Dwayne Eubanks have combined for another 11. Zech, Eubanks and Shawn Gibson all average more than 10 yards per catch.

“Daniel knows he’s going to get double teams and some teams are triple teaming him,” Baudendistel said. “He attracts a lot of attention but we know if they do that they won’t be able to cover our other guys. We have very good receivers and those guys have benefitted from Daniel attracting so much attention. Our offensive coordinator Benjamin Cullen has done a great job.”

Quarterback Dexter Britt is averaging nearly 250 yards a game passing and has thrown 25 touchdowns, averaging more than three touchdowns per game. Baudendistel said sophomore running back Spencer Corrao, though, has played a crucial role in the offense, averaging 84.4 yards per game. He has had four games of more than 100 yards.

“We had a hard time running the ball to start the season,” Baudendistel said. “We can’t be a one-dimensional team and he has done a good job at that spot.”

Hanover is led by senior linebacker Andy Dalton who has 96 tackles this season, but defensive linemen Ajani Jones, a junior, and freshman Jake Stillwell have combined 14.5 sacks this year.

“We’re bringing a lot more pressure than what we have in the past,” Baudendistel said. “Jake has been a surprise playing as well as he has as a freshman. We had all of our linebackers returning from last year so we knew those guys were players. We’ve been rotating four corners throughout the game and trying to eliminate the big play.”

As the 2012 season winds down, Hanover will be looking to make big plays of its own with a coach that knows how to give a pretty good sales job.

Little Brass Bell is big – for Elmhurst

When No. 24 Wheaton (6-2, 4-1 CCIW) travels to Naperville to battle No. 7 North Central (7-1, 5-0) for the Little Brass Bell, the Elmhurst Blue Jays will be watching the game closely. Elmhurst (7-1, 4-1), carrying a win over Wheaton in its pocket, would love nothing more than a Thunder victory to give it a shot at a CCIW co-championship, provided that Elmhurst handles its business against Carthage this week and formerly ranked Illinois Wesleyan next week. In an effort to get into the playoffs, by either a title or a Pool B bid, a share of the CCIW could help the Blue Jays talking points.

Concordia-Chicago undefeated – and unranked

Concordia-Chicago is two games away from its first Northern Athletics Conference title and a shot at the playoffs. The Cougars are undefeated at 8-0, and 5-0 in conference play, but have not been able to impress poll voters, receiving 10 votes in the latest Top 25. Unfortunately for the Cougars, they won’t impress voters with wins overs Lakeland (2-6, 2-3 in league play) and Maranatha Baptist (0-5, 0-8) either over the next two weeks. Concordia has won eight games for its fourth consecutive year after years of futility on the football field. A win against Lakeland will clinch Concordia’s spot in the playoffs because of its victories over second place teams Wisconsin Lutheran and Concordia (Wis.).