The Opening Kick
The regular season draws to a close on Saturday afternoon when Franklin and Hanover renew hostilities in the 87th installment of the Victory Bell Classic, held this year at Alumni Field in Hanover, Ind.
Last Time Out
Franklin wrapped up their ninth HCAC Championship in the last 11 years last Saturday, crusing past Anderson to the tune of 63-17 on Senior Day at Faught Stadium. By winning the conference outright, the Grizzlies also secured a spot in the NCAA Division III Playoffs, which are set to get underway next weekend.
The Grizzlies followed a familiar formula to beat the Ravens - scoring early and often. The Grizzlies jumped out to a 28-0 lead that ballooned to 35-3 at the half. That proved to be more than enough cushion for the Grizzlies as FC rolled to a 63-17 win.
A complete recap is available on page 12 of the game notes.
Hanover comes into Saturday's contest 4-5 on the year and 4-3 in HCAC play. Under second year head coach and former Franklin assistant coach Matt Theobald, the Panthers have won three of their last four games coming into the big showdown.
Hanover's offense is averaging 33 points per game on the year, with senior quarterback Chase Lightfoot leading the charge. Lightfoot has completed 62% of his passes for 2,479 yards with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Lightfoot carries the third highest passer efficiency rating in the conference at 132.1.
Freshman Shawn Coane has emerged as the team's top threat on the ground, racking up 616 yards and eight scores on the year while ranking fourth in the league with 88 yards per game on the ground. Coane also leads the Panthers with six receiving touchdowns on the year.
The wide receiver tandem of sophomore Jackson Daugherty and freshman Cory Leppert have been the team's go-to targets this year, combining for 1,064 yards and 10 TDs.
Defensively, the Panthers allow the fewest yards per game in the HCAC at 350.1 per game. The defense is anchored by freshman Kyle Treber, who leads the HCAC with 98 total tackles and his two interceptions are tied for the team lead. Defensive linemen Zach Dauer and Layne Harnishfeger have excelled at getting to opposing quarterbacks, combining for 12.5 sacks overall.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Franklin has reigned supreme in the Victory Bell Classic as of late, winning each of the last 12 meetings. The Panthers hold a slim 42-41-3 advantage in the all-time series that dates back to 1898. Last year, the Grizzlies and Panthers combined for over 900 passing yards in a 38-21 Franklin win.
The NCAA released the second Division III regional rankings this week. Franklin currently sits seventh in the North Region with a 7-1 record in region play.
One week after surpassing West's record for passing touchdowns, Burton toppled another one of West's program records last weekend. With a 15-yard TD pass to Alex Smith in the first quarter, Burton moved past West's 10,653 career passing yards into first place all-time. Burton has currently racked up 10,963 yards through the air with at least two games to go.
Hey Colligan Man!
Franklin senior kicker Stephen Colligan was named HCAC Special Teams Player of the Week last week, the third time in his career he has captured the weekly honor. Colligan went 8-for-8 on extra point attempts, had one punt inside the 20 and averaged over 56 yards per kickoff last week.
The Grizzlies haven't been afraid to stretch defenses first six games of the year, with 22 of the team's touchdown passes encompassing 25 yards or more and nine TD passes going for at least 50 yards. Deontez Alexander has been the team's go-to deep threat, hauling in 12 of his 16 scores from beyond 25 yards.
Alexander has not only been the top threat to score on the Grizzlies this year, but he has emerged as one of most dangerous pass catchers in the nation. The senior wideout is tied for the Division III and NCAA lead with 16 touchdown catches.
Around the HCAC
The final weekend of the regular season offers up three other league games on Saturday. Anderson heads to Manchester, Bluffton and Defiance renew hostilities and Rose-Hulman tangles with Earlham. All start times are set for 1:30 p.m.
Follow the Action Live
Grizzly fans will be able to follow the game online with live video and live stats provided by the Hanover sports information department. Both of those links can be found at the top of the page. In-game updates and post-game coverage can be found by following the Grizzlies on Twitter @FCGrizAthletics.