Bluffton 22, Defiance 21
Beavers stun Yellow Jackets with 22-21 victory at Defiance
November 10, 2007
DEFIANCE, Ohio - Proving that you can throw the records out the window when Defiance and Bluffton lock horns on the football field, the Beavers took advantage of four interceptions, two in the last three minutes of the contest, to pull off a stunning 22-21 upset of the Yellow Jackets on Senior Day at Justin F. Coressel Stadium. With the victory, Bluffton avoided its first winless season since 1983, improving to 1-9 overall and 1-6 in the Heartland Conference while Defiance fell to 5-5 with a 4-3 mark in the HCAC.
The Jackets needed just six plays and 2:04 to find the end zone on the first possession of the game. Junior quarterback Hans Vetter capped the 65-yard drive with a 27-yard scoring strike to standout wide receiver Luke Dillon. A missed extra point made the score 6-0 in favor of the home team.
A 21-yard kickoff return by senior Anthony Bryant (Reynoldsburg/Reynoldsburg) gave the Beavers the ball at the Bluffton 33-yard line. Junior tight end Joel Sienicki (Goshen, Ind./Northridge) moved the chains twice with receptions of 11 and 20 yards, setting up a 29-yard Jonathan Thompson (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) field goal which cut the Defiance lead in half.
On Bluffton's next possession, the Defiance defense did its thing, stopping Bluffton behind the line of scrimmage on four straight plays, including an 11-yard loss on fourth-and-30 when Thompson was unable to get the punt off, going down at the Bluffton 21 following two huge sacks. Five straight rushes later, including four runs by Lewis Caralla, and a two-point conversion to Dillon gave Defiance a 14-3 lead over the visitors with just over two minutes to play in the first quarter.
Bluffton forced two Defiance turnovers in period two, but a fumbled punt return and blocked field goal attempt late in the first half allowed the Yellow Jackets to take their 14-3 lead into the break.
Although the Yellow Jackets recovered their on-side kick to start the second half, the Bluffton defense was up to the task, forcing Defiance to punt after picking up only six yards on three plays. Another fumbled punt return by the Beavers sent the defense right back on the field and it picked up where it left off, stopping the Jackets on fourth down at the Bluffton 19-yard line.
The Bluffton offense used the momentum generated on the other side of the ball to jump back into the game when Kyle Coleman (Etna/Watkins Memorial) found tailback Greg Mason (Cleveland/Collinwood) for the Beavers' longest gain of the year, a 65-yarder to the home 18-yard line. Sienicki moved the chains with a 10-yard reception and Ed Jackson (Dayton/Northridge) followed his three-yard rush with a five-yard touchdown catch, his third score of the year.
Following Bluffton's touchdown, Defiance marched 81 yards on 12 plays, riding the legs of Caralla to give the Jackets a 21-10 lead at the 4:36 mark of the third period.
Sensing that the Defiance defense was on their heels, Bluffton's Coleman went to work under center. He had his best series of the year, completing seven passes, including a five-yard touchdown strike to Bryant early in the fourth quarter as the Beavers used 15 plays to go 63 yards in 6:26 while closing the gap to 21-16 when the two-point conversion failed.
On the Yellow Jackets' ensuing possession, All-HCAC defensive end Kyle Rode (Delphos/Jefferson) showed off his athleticism when he picked off his second pass of the year, allowing the Bluffton offense to take over at the Defiance 27-yard line.
A five-yard completion to senior Mike Brown (North Wales, Penn./Calvary Christian Academy) set up Coleman's nine-yard game-winning toss to Greg Mason with just over 10 minutes to play in the game.
A Bluffton defense that has kept the Beavers in most of their contests throughout the season came up huge over the final 10 minutes of the game. The Beavers stuffed Hans Vetter on fourth-and-1 at the seven-minute mark before Mitch Dunlap (St. Mary's/St. Mary's) and Taylor Iceman (Lucas/Lucas) sealed the 22-21 victory with picks in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter.
The Jackets picked up 18 first downs and 322 yards, including 209 on the ground. Bluffton went for 260 yards, with 249 coming through the air. The Beavers were whistled for only one penalty while Defiance was guilty of six infractions for 47 yards. Bluffton took advantage in the red-zone, converting on four of its five chances as the Beavers forced five Defiance turnovers in the contest.
Coleman had his best game of the year, completing 17-of-25 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Mason tallied 66 yards on the ground with a touchdown while hauling in two passes for 69 yards. Sienicki finished with six receptions for 48 yards and Bryant picked up five catches for a game-high 96 receiving yards. Sophomore tailback A.J. Ramthun (Springfield/Southeastern) hit Bryant for a 31-yard completion late in the first half.
Senior linebacker Sam McCullough (Bluffton/Bluffton), who entered the contest tied for second place in NCAA Division III in tackles, posted a game-high 17 stops, bringing his season total to 150 tackles, the most since complete records have been kept. Chipping in with 12 tackles each were seniors Gordon Hagen (Toledo/Libbey) and Ryan Christy (Snellville, Ga./South Gwinnet). Also recording double digits in tackles was senior safety Taylor Iceman who finished with 10 stops and his sixth interception of the year.
Caralla led the Defiance offense with 144 yards on 29 carries while the Beavers' defense limited Luke Dillon to 55 receiving yards on four receptions.
Bluffton regained possession of "The Hammer" following a two-year stint at Defiance as the backyard rivals closed the book on 2007 with the Beavers' 22-21 victory over the Yellow Jackets.