BLUFFTON — Bluffton quarterback Plummie Gardner walked off the field slowly after the final gun.
He had taken a four-quarter physical pounding.
But Gardner, a Perry High School grad, kept popping up and charging back at Hanover.
However, Gardner couldn’t match an up-tempo Hanover offense, which went on to post a 28-10 victory Saturday against Bluffton at Salzman Stadium.
Hanover led 14-0 after the first quarter and 21-3 at the half.
Bluffton is 1-3, 1-1 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Hanover is 1-2, 1-0 in the HCAC.
“I’m sore,” Gardner said, while he gingerly left the field. “We have to get better as a team. We have to stay positive.’’
Throwing a heavy dose of short passes, Hanover quarterback Noah Wezensky completed 30 of 44 for 294 yards. He threw three TDs and was picked off twice, both times by Bluffton defensive back Brian Coleman.
Jackson Daugherty had seven catches for 116 yards and one TD for Hanover.
The Panthers also ran the ball out of the four-wide look.
Shawn Coane had 15 carries for 78 yards and one TD. His TD went for 37 yards.
“Give Hanover credit,” Bluffton coach Aaron Krepps said. “Their coach (Matt Theobald) has done a great job there to help restore their program.
“But, our woes continued, offensively. Plummie took some shots. I’m sure there are some things up front that need to be corrected and some of it was probably on him.’’
The sophomore Gardner was instilled as the No. 1 quarterback in the opening quarter of Week 1 when senior Brandon Koch suffered a shoulder injury.
“We’re without him right now and we’re week to week,” Krepps said. “Right now Plummie is the guy.’’
Gardner was banged and bruised all day, both in the pocket, on scrambles for yards and on the read-option.
Gardner completed 12 of 25 passes for 120 yards. He was sacked three times.
Gardner ran 14 times for 47 yards. However, with the three sacks, his net rushing yardage was 19 yards.
“My mindset was to help our defense out, get down the field and put some points on the board,” Gardner said. “Basically, I trusted my teammates and stayed confident and collected.’’
On the ground, the Beavers’ Drake Campbell had 15 carries for 57 yards.
But the bulk of those yards came on one drive which resulted in a field goal.
“We weren’t getting the movement I think we were hoping for up front,” Krepps said.
Hanover came out with its high-octane, no-huddle attack.
The offense featured plenty of quick screens and slants with a sprinkling of running to keep the Beavers honest up front.
The up-tempo attack blew right down the field on Hanover’s second drive.
The Panthers went 76 yards in seven plays for the second.
Wezensky connected with Connor Gibson on a slant pattern, which was turned into a 32-yard TD.
That gave Hanover a 7-0 lead with 8:08 left in the first quarter.
Next time Hanover only needed three plays to score.
This time the damage was done on the ground.
Coane took a pitch to the right and had a double cut-back move to the inside for a 37-yard TD run.
That pushed the Hanover lead to 14-0 with 5:46 left in the first quarter.
Hanover went back to the air with screens and quick slants out of the no-huddle, four-wide look.
Wezensky hit Daugherty on a 36-yard TD slant and the Panthers’ lead was 21-0.
That came with 11:26 left before halftime.
Meanwhile, the Bluffton passing attack had little time to get settled in.
Nearly every time Gardner went back to pass, he was smacked or under severe pressure.
So down 21-0, the Beavers went to the ground game.
The Beavers’ Campbell ran five times for 43 yards on the next drive and the Beavers’ Adam Duncan hit a 33-yard field goal.
That brought Bluffton within 21-3 with 5:32 until the half.
Bluffton held Hanover to seven points in the second half.
“I thought the defense played lights out again,” Krepps said. “This is four weeks straight. But, offensively, our inability to move the football is what’s killing us. We put the defense in bad situations again today, especially early on.’’
Bluffton’s only TD came after Coleman’s second interception gave the Beavers the ball at the Hanover 16.
Bluffton’s Trenton Besgrove, on in relief of Gardner at the end, found Caleb Heilman for a 9-yard TD with 2:31 to bring the Beavers with 28-10.
But the Hanover offense had done its damage by that point.
Ohio Northern 13, Otterbein 7
WESTERVILLE — Head coach Dean Paul picked up his 100th career coaching victory at Ohio Northern.
The Polar Bears improved to 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the Ohio Athletic Conference, while the Cardinals fell to 0-4, 0-3.
In his 15 seasons as head coach at ONU, Paul is now 100-48, a winning percentage of .675. He is 140-60 overall in 20 seasons as a head coach.
“Anytime you reach a milestone like this, it makes you reflect on all of the coaches and players that have been through the program,” Paul said. “Devin Russell and Glenn Scheutzow have been here for at least 90 of those 100 wins and that type of continuity is a big part of the success. We had a large contingent of coaches and alumni at the game today and that was special. It is truly a team effort and I am just so grateful that we have had such tremendous people in our program over the years.”
ONU got on the board on its first possession on a 30-yard field goal by senior Chase Watson (Elida) with 5:16 gone in the contest.
Junior Anthony McFadden then hit sophomore Anthony Amison (Holland/Rogers) on a 45-yard touchdown pass with 11:16 left in the half to make it 10-0 Polar Bears.
The Cardinals closed to within 10-7 early in the fourth quarter on a 15-play, 70-yard drive.
After an exchange of punts, Ohio Northern took over at its 9-yard line with 6:30 left in the contest.
The Polar Bears marched 72 yards in 10 plays, taking 3:05 off the clock, and extended the lead to 13-7 with a 36-yard field goal by Watson with 3:25 to play.
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