By: Joseph Watkins, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University football team kept the 'Hammer' right here at home after a dominating 34-7 win over rival Defiance on Saturday, Nov. 10. The Beavers improved to 3-7 overall and 3-5 in the Heartland Conference, while Defiance fell to 1-9 and 1-7 in the HCAC. Bluffton has now won eight of its last nine against the Yellow Jackets for a 47-45-2 lead in the all-time series after the Senior Day victory.
Defiance churned out 45 yards on nine plays to open the game, but the visitors came up empty after a possession that took nearly five minutes off the clock. The Beavers took over with 10:31 on the clock in the first quarter and they needed just eight plays to go 84 yards, capped off with a Drake Campbell (Trenton/Edgewood) 1-yard touchdown run that put the Beavers up 6-0 with 6:21 left in the first stanza. With 1:32 left in the quarter, freshman signal-caller Zachary Nobis (Bryan) hit Adam Duncan (Northwood/Lake) for a 35-yard toe-tapping touchdown that made the score 13-0.
Early in the second quarter, Defiance capped a 12-play, 58 yard drive when Corey Bennett ran it in for the Jackets from 11 yards out, pulling the visitors within a score at 13-7. The Beavers did not let off the gas as tight end Caleb Heilman (Tipp City/Tippecanoe) was on the receiving end of a 11-yard TD pass from wide receiver Adam Duncan on some trickeration that pushed the Bluffton lead to 20-7 with 7:45 left in the first half.
Nobis connected with senior Lucas Espitia (Lincoln Park, Mich.) for a 22-yard touchdown pass that made it 27-7 with 11:58 left in the third. The final points for the Beavers came late in the quarter when Duncan completed his triple play with a 3-yard touchdown rush on a sweep that would all but seal it at 34-7!
Nobis was outstanding against the Jackets, completing 18-of-28 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Duncan led all Beaver rushers with 40 yards total and one rushing touchdown on just three carries, including a 33-yarder. He also caught seven passes for 92 yards and a score. Espitia finished with four catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Junior Trenton Besgrove (Millbury/Cardinal Stritch) had a 22-yard scamper and senior Mark Willis Jr. (Louisville, KY/Ballard) chipped in with 17 yards on six carries.
Duncan had an all-time historic day for the Beavers. He finished with three touchdowns (receiving, passing and rushing). The junior also added three extra points and punted two times with a 45.5 average per kick that included a 50-yarder which backed the Jackets up to their own 16 late in the third quarter.
The Beavers were dominant on the defensive side of the ball, led by Isaac Zickafoose (Middlebury, Ind./Northridge) who had eight solo tackles, including two sacks, four TFL's and forced fumble to go along with his 15 yards rushing on five carries. Junior Dylan Shaffer(Shelby) added seven tackles, six of the solo variety, and an interception for the Beavers. Sophomore Antonio Crossty (Wooster) tallied six solo stops, while senior Ollie Moorer (Warrensville/Warrensville Heights) chipped in with five tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Bluffton put up 429 yards of total offense, including 158 on the ground, while limiting Defiance to just 196 total yards. The home team moved the chains 10 more times (22-12) thanks to converting 7-of-12 chances on third down. The Jackets managed just 1-of-12 conversions on third down. Bluffton also made good on three of its five trips into the red zone.
The Beavers won two of their final three games and took HCAC-heavyweight Franklin to the limit as Bluffton will go into the offseason on a high note thanks to the demolition of Defiance on Senior Day. The All-Heartland Conference awards are slated to be released on Wednesday, Nov. 14.