The Charger football team won on homecoming for the fifth year in a row, and an historic performance from senior tailback David Graham was a big reason why.
Graham turned in a career-high performance running the football, and seniors Drake Temple and Dan Shanley teamed up on the special teams play of the year so far in a 34-14 Hillsdale victory over Lake Erie College on a muggy Saturday afternoon at Frank "Muddy" Waters Stadium.
The Chargers, now 1-2 on the season, host Walsh University next weekend.
Graham had been held in check by his first two opponents of the season. But on the first drive alone, he served notice that he was going to be a factor in the pursuit of another Great Midwest Athletic Conference championship.
He ran the ball three times for 91 yards, highlighted by a 76-yard touchdown romp, on the opening drive of the game for Hillsdale, quickly staking the team to a 7-0 lead. It was the first, but far from the last big play Graham would turn in.
His second of three touchdown runs on the game covered 55 yards, late in the second quarter to double the Chargers' lead. He would then put the finishing touches on his game with a 15-yard gallop in the fourth quarter to finish the scoring.
Graham ran the ball 15 times for 232 yards and 3 touchdowns. His 232 yards are seventh-most in a game in Hillsdale College history and marked the first time a Charger player rushed for more than 200 yards in a game since Joe Reverman did it on Oct. 31, 2015. Graham averaged a Madden-esque 15.5 yards per rush in this game.
But despite Graham's heroics, this was a close game well into the fourth quarter. The Storm used a pair of long touchdown throws to get back into the game, and trailed just 20-14 early in the fourth quarter, lining up for a field goal that could have made the game uncomfortably close.
Enter great special teams play by two of Hillsdale's best seniors.
Senior Drake Temple shot through the line of scrimmage, getting a clean block of a 36-yard field goal attempt. Senior linebacker Dan Shanley then scooped up the bouncing ball and sprinted 74 yards for a momentum-turning touchdown. Instead of a three-point game, Shanley's touchdown suddenly put the Chargers on top 27-14, seizing all momentum from the Storm sidelines. Four minutes later, Graham's third touchdown of the game sealed it up for Hillsdale.
Junior Konnor Maloney caught 2 passes for 88 yards to lead Hillsdale receivers. Zach Herzog led a terrific defensive effort by the Chargers with 12 total tackles. Although Lake Erie three 60 passes for more than 300 yards, the Charger defense was active in coverage, breaking up 12 passes, coming from 11 different players on the unit. They also had a collective 7 tackles-for-loss, interceptions by Tommy Froman and Nate Jones and sacks by Nate Chambers, Jones and Kendall Tobin. Chambers in particular was disruptive along the defensive line, making 2.5 tackles-for-loss in the win.
PHOTO: Camryn Olson