HANOVER, Ind. – A stellar weekend by the Hanover College football team continued to reap the rewards for the Panthers, as they received all three Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference player of the week awards, while the team is also receiving votes in the newest edition of the national top 25 poll conducted by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA).
Entering Monday with five weekly conference awards this season, the Panthers swept the final edition, as junior quarterback AJ Breit (Louisville, Ky.), senior linebacker Zach Donan (New Albany, Ind.) and sophomore kicker Austin Steurer (Warsaw, Ky.) were named offensive, defensive and special teams player of the week, respectively.
The Panthers are coming off a 23-20 victory in the 88th edition of the Victory Bell Classic, marking the program's first win over rival-Franklin since 2004. Hanover's win also earned them a share of the HCAC championship with the Grizzlies and Mt. St. Joseph, as well as give them a spot in the NCAA Division III National Playoffs.
Breit accounted for all three touchdowns for the Panther offense in the win and was a main cog in HC's second half comeback, where he completed 15-of-21 passes for 172 yards. Overall, the junior gunslinger finished with 26 completions on 41 attempts for 274 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Breit also scored on a fourth and goal rush in the third quarter. Highlighting the junior's day was his fourth-and-two, 48-yard touchdown pass with less than four minutes remaining, which put HC in front for good.
Donan was one of the leaders on a Panther defense that held the Grizzlies, who entered the game averaging over 45 points per game, to a season-low point total. The senior recorded seven tackles to go along with one forced fumble, one recovered fumble and one interception. His pick came in the red zone after Franklin was driving early looking to go up two scores. On what would be FC's final offensive play, Donan forced and recovered a fumble near midfield, allowing the offense to run out the final 2:42 showing on the clock.
Steurer was called on to kick a field goal for just the second time this season, but the sophomore nailed his 27-yard attempt in the fourth quarter to give the Blue and Red their first lead of the contest at 17-14. The sophomore also converted on two of his three point-after tries to account for five points in the win.
The AFCA poll, which comes out every Monday afternoon during the season, features the Panthers as one of the teams on the cusp of reaching the top 25, placing them in the receiving votes category. The entire top 25 poll is available at the link above.
Hanover's first trip to the national playoffs in 15 years will see the team head to the Chicago-area to face North Central (Ill.), who is No. 9 in the AFCA and D3football.com national polls. The Panthers and Cardinals are slated for a noon kickoff, central time, Saturday, Nov. 17.
Contact: Tyler Jester