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October 18, 2018

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Football dumps Defiance to re-claim Hammer

By Colton Steiner, sports information assistant
After a year in Defiance, the 'Hammer' is back in its rightful home after a 33-26 Bluffton victory on Saturday, Nov. 11. The Beavers improved to 4-6 overall and 4-4 in the Heartland Conference as Defiance slipped to 2-8 and 2-6 in the HCAC. Bluffton has now won seven of its last eight against the Yellow Jackets for a 46-45-2 advantage in the all-time series.

A Bluffton fumble less than one minute into the game set Defiance up with great field possession and the Jackets capitalized with a 43-yard TD reception for Shoe Sanders just over a minute later. The Beavers responded with a one-play scoring drive that saw Brandon Koch (West Harrison, Ind./East Central) connect with Keyon Camden (Wayne/Elmwood) at the 11:24 mark of the first quarter. A pick-six by Dylan Burkholder (Lima/Bath) with 2:35 on the clock sent the Beavers into the second period with a 14-7 lead.

Defiance notched the equalizer following another Bluffton fumble the gave the home team possession at the visitor 25-yard line. Quarterback Logan Mico snuck it in from one-yard out for a 14-14 score at the 9:42 mark of the second quarter. A pickoff by Defiance helped the Jackets make it 17-14 following a 31-yard field goal with 55 seconds to play in the half.

Senior Jordan Watkins (Reynoldsburg) made it 17 all with a 20-yard chip shot midway through the third quarter before a Defiance safety put the home team back on top 19-17 at the 5:51 mark. Koch hit Lucas Espitia (Lincoln Park, Mich./Lincoln Park) from three yards out and then found Kais Chiles (Wapakoneta) for the two-point conversion as Bluffton went up 25-19 with 3:03 to play in the third. Defiance responded with a 5-play, 66-yard scoring drive that made it 26-25 with 55 ticks left in the quarter.

Bluffton answered right back as Darian Greeley (Mt. Clemens, Mich./Chippewa Valley) ripped off a 30-yard touchdown scamper before Koch hit Thad Phillips (South Bend, Ind./Riley) for a second-straight eight-point possession as the Beavers took a 33-26 lead with 13:59 to play. The two rivals combined for five turnovers over the next 12 minutes with Bluffton finally closing it out thanks to a pair of stout Greeley runs in the last 1:45 as the Beavers re-claimed the Hammer!

Darian Greeley pounded Defiance with 157 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Brandon Koch went 21-of-35 for 244 yards and two scores with two interceptions. He found seven different receivers in the 2017 finale. Micah Roberson (Ada) hauled in seven catches for 62 yards. Lucas Espitia chipped in with five receptions for 45 yards, while Keyon Camden caught two balls for 53 yards and a score.

Dylan Shaffer (Shelby) finished with a team-high eight stops for the defense. Standout bookends Isaac Zickafoose (Middlebury, Ind./Northridge) and Ollie Moorer (Warrensville Heights) added six tackles apiece. Moorer forced a fumble while Zickafoose recovered two of them. Dylan Burkholder was one of four Beavers with a pickoff and he took his back to the house from 20 yards out for his second pick-six in three weeks!

The Beavers outgained Defiance 366-275, including 122-57 on the ground in a game that saw each team turn the ball over seven times. Bluffton was better on third down (7-of-12 compared to 4-of-14) as the visitors finished with a slight edge in time of possession (30:51 - 29:09). Defiance threw four interceptions and fumbled it away three times, while the Beavers coughed it up five time and tossed two picks.

Bluffton heads into the offseason following a pair of big victories over Earlham and rival Deiance. The All-Heartland Conference awards will be announced Wednesday afternoon so check the Bluffton website next week for updated records as well as the All-HCAC release.