Posted: Nov 14, 2019
The Opening Kick
It's the regular season finale for the Grizzlies and the 89th Victory Bell game with Franklin looking to re-claim the bell when they meet Hanover College on Saturday afternoon at Hanover's Alumni Field.
Last Time Out
The Grizzly defense was the story last week against Bluffton, holding the Beavers to just 212 yards of offense and forcing four turnovers in a 10-0 win, giving Franklin back-to-back shutouts. Franklin forced all four takeaways on consecutive second half possessions, helping complete a season sweep of the Beavers. The complete recap and box score can be found on page 14 of the game notes.
About the Panthers
Fourth-year head coach Matt Theobald and the Panthers locked up their second straight HCAC championship a week ago with a dominant 42-13 road win over Rose-Hulman and enter this weekend a perfect 6-0 in conference play.
Hanover's defense has been the top in the league all year and enters Saturday having allowed just 33 points in conference play. Opponents as a whole are averaging 12.6 points and 271.6 yards per contest against the Panthers with Hanover averaging two takeaways per game.
Junior linebacker Kyle Treber leads the Panthers with 74 tackles while freshman Devonte Hardiman's 6.5 sacks are tops on the team. Kiefer Askew tops all defenders with four interceptions and is tied for the league lead in that category.
Junior quarterback Noah Wezensky is completing 66.2% of his passes on the year and has 19 touchdowns against just three interceptions this year. Fellow junior Shawn Coane has 17 touchdowns and 1,203 yards on the ground while Conner Gibson's 39 catches leads the HC receiving corps.
Last Time They Met
The two long-time rivals met for not only the Victory Bell, but the HCAC crown a year ago in Franklin. Turnovers proved to be the difference, as five Franklin giveaways stalled the offense, allowing the Panthers to upset the Grizzlies 23-20 and claim the Victory Bell for the first time in 13 years.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The all-time series between the two rivals is as close as it gets, with Hanover holding a slim 43-42-3 edge. Saturday's game will be the 63rd meeting for the Bell itself, with the trophy first awarded to the winner of the annual meeting back in 1938. Recent history is on Franklin's side, with the Grizzlies taking 13 of the last 15 meetings between the two teams.
Franklin's defense has been a big reason for their opponent's recent scoreless streak, forcing nine takeaways over the last two contests. Senior Chris Knight, sophomore Wyatt Carmack and freshmen Aaron Black, Kody Wilkerson and JP Osafo each have an interception during the scoreless streak and the team has generated four fumble recoveries on top of that. On the year, the Grizzlies have generated 16 takeaways.
Ground and Pound
Franklin's rushing attack has been the focal point of the offense in 2019, with its four senior backfield occupants leading the charge. Jacob Earl, Braden Smith, Payton Healy and Austin Grunden have combined for 1,696 yards on the ground at 4.7 yards per attempt.
You Shall Not Pass
Senior Brayton Shannon and junior Evan Stambaugh enter the week as two of the top stoppers in the league. Shannon's 88 stops gives him the conference lead with Stambaugh ranking sixth in the conference with 61 tackles.
Return on Investment
Freshman Jarrett Gibson has emerged as the league's top kick returner, racking up an HCAC-best 572 return yards through four games. Gibson ranks second on the Grizzlies with 720 all-purpose yards entering this week.
Around the HCAC
The final weekend of the regular season features two other conference rivalry games and two teams in non-conference action.
Bluffton at Defiance, 1:30 p.m.
Anderson at Manchester, 1:30 p.m.
Mount St. Joseph at Maritime (N.Y.), 1 p.m.
Rose-Hulman at Saint John's (Minn.), 2 p.m.
Follow Saturday's Game Live
Saturday's game will be streamed by live by the Hanover athletic department with live stats provided by the host institution. In-game updates will be available on our Twitter feed