Franklin, Ind. - The Franklin College football team completed an undefeated Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) season with a 49-33 win over rival Hanover College in the Victory Bell Classic on Saturday at Faught Stadium.
The Grizzlies outscored the Panthers 28-9 in the second half to claim the Victory Bell for the 10th consecutive time.
Senior quarterback Grant Welp (Ferdinand, Ind./Forest Park) threw for a career-high 398 yards in leading the offensive attack. He completed 32 of 43 passes and had three touchdowns.
Franklin (8-2) scored on the game's opening possession on a three-yard rush by senior Joey Pasquale (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville). The visiting Panthers answered with a 51-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Windell.
Hanover (2-8) took a 10-7 lead with 4:29 left in the first quarter on a 31-yard field goal by Ben Wheeler.
The Grizzlies quickly answered with a 26-yard touchdown strike from Welp to junior wing back Kendal Butler (Oakland, Ill./Cumberland) at the 3:11 mark of the opening quarter. The score capped a four-play, 78-yard drive.
Hanover regained the lead, 17-14, after Ricky Windell recovered a fumble in the end zone after a long gain through the air. The lead changed hands once again when Franklin junior split end Mason Deal (Indianapolis, Ind./Perry Meridian) caught a 17-yard pass from Welp with 3:59 remaining in the first half.
The Panthers took a 24-21 halftime advantage after a 22-yard touchdown pass from Chase Lightfoot to Layne Taylor in the final minute of the second quarter.
The team took a 27-21 lead behind a 14-play, 64-yard drive on the first possession of the second half. Wheeler connected on a 35-yard field goal for the score.
However, the lead didn't last long as sophomore Kole Stogner (Greenwood, Ind./Greenwood) returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards for a score. The Grizzlies led 28-27 midway through the third quarter.
Welp capped a nine-play, 69-yard drive with a three-yard rushing touchdown to give Franklin a 35-27 lead with 3:23 remaining in the third quarter.
The lead grew to 49-27 with five minutes left in the contest after a 15-yard touchdown pass to senior split end Jonny Hession (Speedway, Ind./Speedway) and a nine-yard rushing touchdown by Pasquale.
Franklin gained 505 yards of offense, highlighted by 398 yards through the air. Hession led the receivers with nine catches. Pasquale added eight receptions for 62 yards. He had a game-high 69 yards on the ground. Deal caught five passes for 99 yards and a score.
Defensively, junior linebacker Jeremiah Windell (Corydon, Ind./Corydon Central) led the effort with 13 tackles. Senior safety Jameson Brock (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) added 10 tackles and an interception. Sophomore defensive back Taylor Christensen (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) had a fourth-quarter interception.
Franklin won its fifth consecutive HCAC title and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs. The Grizzlies will find out their postseason opponent and location during the NCAA selection show on Sunday, November 16 at 6 p.m.