Regeneration will be the challenge early in the season as Hanover College's football squad looks to remain among the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s top programs.
The Panthers kick off the 2013 campaign at L.S. Ayres Field, Saturday, Sept. 7, against Illinois College. The opener will start at 1:30 p.m.
Hanover has captured second place in the Heartland Conference standings for three consecutive seasons and seeks to improve on a 6-4 finish in 2012.
Second-year head coach Steve Baudendistel’s squad returns 50 letterwinners and 19 starters from last season’s team, which posted six straight league wins midseason to finish with a 6-2 HCAC record. The Panthers, however, must replace sweeping losses to its receiving corps and key members of the defensive unit while battling through two daunting non-conference opponents and a competitive league slate.
Senior quarterback Dexter Britt (Louisville, Ky.) and junior running back Spencer Corrao (New Albany, Ind.) will lead an offensive unit which returns seven starters, but must replace more than 60 percent of its yardage production.
Britt, marking his third season as the Panthers’ starter, was a second-team all-Heartland Conference selection last season after leading the HCAC in total offense with 282.4 yards per game. He also paced the conference’s quarterbacks with 260.4 passing yards per contest by completing 236-of-354 passes for 2,604 yards and a career-high 31 touchdowns.
He amassed 2,824 total yards last season to boost his career total to 5,388 and enters the season nearly 2,500 yards from cracking the College’s top five.
Britt and Corrao will lead Hanover’s rushing attack, which averaged nearly 140 yards per contest last season, but the effort will benefit from the continued improvement from juniors Tim Sutton (Hopewell, N.J.) and C.J. Taylor (Indianapolis, Ind.).
Corrao had a break-out season in 2012, earning first-team all-HCAC honors after pacing the Panthers’ backfield with 781 yards and eight touchdowns. Britt rushed 105 times for 220 yards and six touchdowns.
Sutton gained 174 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per attempt last fall. Taylor posted 85 yards and a touchdown in limited action.
The Panthers’ receiving corps must replace six of eight players who caught passes last season, accounting for nearly 90 percent of group’s yardage.
The biggest challenge will be finding the hands to replace graduated all-American Daniel Passafiume, who received a diploma last spring. In addition to the degree, Passafiume left campus with Hanover’s career records for receptions (344), receiving yards (3,485) and receiving touchdowns (39). He was also the second-leading scorer in school history with 257 points.
Corrao snagged 26 pass receptions for 230 yards and two scores last fall, but Sutton is the only other returning player who caught a pass last season. He had five receptions for 85 yards.
The vacancies in the receiving corps have created opportunities for a large group of players to earn playing time. Senior Robert Klotz (Cincinnati, Ohio), junior Alex Freeman (Lancaster, Ky.) and classmate Tanner Parker (Greencastle, Ind.), a converted quarterback, headline the prospects, which also include sophomore Randy Koch (Saint Leon, Ind.).
All of these players are looking to catch their first collegiate pass.
As the passing game seeks to maintain its level of production, the effort will be aided by a seasoned offensive line. The Panthers’ front five returns intact, led by second-team all-Heartland Conference center Ryan Hahn (Fort Thomas, Ky.), and also features returning reserves at each slot.
A two-year starter at center, Hahn anchors a group which helped Hanover generate 412.4 yards per game last season, including 272.9 through the air.
Hahn will be again flanked by three-year letterwinner Joe Sander (Indianapolis, Ind.) and junior Trafton Holder (Crestwood, Ky.), who filled the guard slots last season. Juniors Caleb Williams (Birdseye, Ind.) and Kevin Schlenker (Anderson, Ind.) each logged extensive minutes at tackle the past two seasons, including 20 consecutive starts by Schlenker.
Hanover’s defensive unit returns nine starters, but suffered key losses with the departure of four-time all-conference linebacker Andy Dalton (423 career tackles) and lineman Ajani Jones (58 tackles, nine sacks).
The Panthers, however, return multiple productive veterans in the front, linebacking corps and secondary.
Senior Brandon Foster (Haubstadt, Ind.) and junior Justin Magaw (West Palm Beach, Fla.) will lead the attack from their linebacker positions.
Foster was a second-team all-HCAC selection last season and was third on the Panthers’ defense with 61 tackles. He had 7.5 tackles for loss, including one sack, and also blocked a point-after attempt.
Magaw finished with 73 stops, including 8.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries.
Junior Vince Peiffer (Trafalgar, Ind.) is the front-runner for the third linebacker slot, but will be pushed for playing time by sophomores Zach Burkhardt (Anderson, Ind.) and T.J. Gerking (Danville, Ind.).
Peiffer netted 27 tackles last season, including 3.5 tackles for loss. Burkhardt and Gerking each tallied seven tackles during their first college season.
Eight returning players give depth to the Panthers’ secondary, which is led by seniors Matt McConnell (Buckner, Ky.) and Derrick Worden (Galveston, Ind.).
McConnell had 61 tackles and three interceptions last season, while Worden posted 28 stops and an interception.
Senior Colin Alexander (Indianapolis, Ind.), classmate Sam Louis (Miami, Fla.) and junior Jamal Edwards (Indianapolis, Ind.) return to the defensive backfield.
Alexander returns to safety, where he racked up 40 tackles and an interception in 2012. Louis notched 32 tackles with an interception. Edwards totaled 29 tackles and led Hanover with five pass deflections last fall.
Hanover returns three starters in the trenches, including juniors Tom Call (Spring, Texas) and John Holtkamp (Indianapolis, Ind.), along with sophomore Jake Stillwell (Anderson, Ind.).
Call, a defensive end, earned honorable mention all-Heartland Conference honors last fall after notching 39 tackles with 8.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also forced one fumble.
Junior Dillon Futrell (Louisville, Ky.) and sophomore Charles Snodgrass (Trafalgar, Ind.) will bid for the end slot opposite Call. Futrell registered nine stops and a sack in 2012, while Snodgrass saw limited action.
Stillwell and Holtkamp return to their positions along the interior.
Stillwell totaled 46 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in his first collegiate season. Holtkamp had 18 tackles, with a pair of tackles for loss, and also paced the Panthers’ linemen with three pass deflections.
Caleb Williams, senior Dylan Dunlop (Miami, Fla.) and junior Josh Green (Beaumaris, Australia) provide experience for Hanover’s kicking game.
Williams handled the bulk of the Panthers’ kick-off duties in 2012, averaging more than 56 yards per kick.
Dunlop returns as the Panthers’ placekicker. He nailed his only field goal attempt last season and has connected on 15-20 in his career, including a 42-yarder as a sophomore.
Green, an Australian Rules Football and lacrosse player, averaged nearly 40 yards per punt in 2012 during his first season in American football. He had six boots of 50 yards or farther, with eight landing inside the 20-yard-line.
Published Friday, September 6, 2013