Hanover halts Saints’ comeback march just in time
Monday, September 15, 2003 11:00 AM
CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. — Hanover’s Brett Dietz passed for 373 yards and two touchdowns — including the game-winner — and also caught a TD pass to lead Hanover College to a road win over a tough and desperate Thomas More team Saturday.
The Saints, now 0-2 and most likely out of the NCAA Division III playoff picture since they are a non-conference school with two losses, needed a win over No. 17 Hanover to keep any playoff hopes alive.
Dietz, an All-American candidate from nearby Crestview Hills, Ky., and Covington Catholic High School, had to go to the wall to pull out the win, 33-30 in overtime.
“Brett played a great game today,” said Hanover head coach Wayne Perry. “The last time we came up here, the game was kind of like this game, so we’re really fortunate to come out of this place with a win against a really good team.”
Dietz completed 33-of-47 passes with one interception for Hanover (2-0) as the Panthers amassed 544 total yards, but still saw the desperate Saints come marching back in the second half.
Hanover jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Saints answered with two touchdown drives early in the second quarter and then erased a 24-14 Hanover halftime lead by outscoring the visitors 13-3 in the third quarter.
Dietz fueled almost every Hanover scoring drive, capping a nine-play, 69-yard drive with 3:29 left in the second quarter with a 10-yard TD reception from Mike Russell and then adding a 13-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Cummings with six seconds left in the half as Hanover took a 24-14 lead into halftime.
Thomas More sandwiched a 5-yard touchdown run by Tyran Thompson and two Jeff Runion field goals around a 21-yard field goal by Hanover’s Nate Littlefield to knot the game 27-27 with 5:05 left in the third quarter and the two teams played to a standoff over the remainder of regulation.
Thomas More drove the ball to the Hanover 5-yard line in the fourth quarter, but turned the ball over on downs. Hanover had a chance to win the game in regulation when the Panthers moved the ball to the Thomas More 2-yard line with two ticks left on the game clock but Littlefield’s 20-yard field goal hooked wide left.
Hanover won the toss in overtime and elected to defend and Thomas More ran three plays before kicking a 24-yard field goal to take a 30-27 lead.
With Hanover now facing do-or-die, the Panthers capped off the road win when Dietz hit Nick Schmidt for the game-winning touchdown on a third and 12 snap from the 26-yard line.
“That play wasn’t really designed to go to me, it was meant to go to Terrell (Cummings), but Brett had time and found me,” said Schmidt, a sophomore from nearby Cincinnati McNicholas.
“We made enough mistakes to get beat, but we played well enough to win,” said Perry. “This win for us today is a real character builder for our ballclub, especially when you have as many people banged up as we did today.”
Schmidt ended the game with six catches for 89 yards and a touchdown while Cummings caught five balls for 95 yards and a score. Adam Stevenson rushed the ball seven times for the Panthers for 91 yards including a 3-yard blast for a touchdown in the opening quarter.
Running back Tyran Thompson led the Thomas More attack with 153 yards on 34 carries while quarterback Nate Berkley connected on 9-of-20 passes for 11 yards and one touchdown and rushed 11 times for eight yards as he was sacked by the Panthers three times.
Hanover gave Dietz plenty of time to throw all day as the senior was sacked just once for a seven-yard loss, but the same could not be said for Berkley.
Berkley, a junior transfer from Division I Eastern Kentucky who was headed to Hanover this year before an abrupt about-face, took his hardest hit of the game in the overtime when Hanover linebacker Scott Power leveled him on an incomplete pass.
The hit left Berkley wobbly and although he finished the game, he was taken to a nearby hospital where it was determined he had suffered a “major concussion.” In the ambulance ride over, Berkely reportedly argued with attendants that he was actually at Eastern Kentucky, not Thomas More. He is listed as questionable for Thomas More’s game against Wittenberg this weekend.
Power, a senior linebacker from Fowler (Benton Central), led the Panthers with 14 tackles including seven solos, a sack, two tackles for a loss and forced fumble. Tad Brittingham, a junior linebacker from Evansville Reitz, also was in on 14 tackles including eight solos and one fumble forced.
Perry said the Hanover offense, which averaged seven yards per carry on the ground and cranked out a second consecutive 350-yard game in the air by Dietz, was in good form against a formidable opponent.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game versus Thomas More,” said Perry. “We had to be focused, because they couldn’t afford to lose this game,” said Perry. “Our one-minute offense was really good today, especially during that series when we drove down to the 2-yard line, and had the chance to win the game in regulation.
“If our quarterback stays healthy, we have a chance to be a good team this year,” Perry added.
After two straight road games to open the season, Hanover can now return home for the Panthers’ 2003 home opener at L.S. Ayres Field.
Perry has already turned his attention to that opponent, his alma mater DePauw University.
“DePauw has good talent on both sides of the ball, and we will have to be ready to go when Saturday rolls around,” Perry said. “It’s the first home game of the year for us, and we have to make them count because we only have four home games this year.”