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Monday, November 11, 2013 12:00 AM

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Beavers shock 9th-ranked Franklin

By Evan Skilliter

Sports information assistant

BLUFFTON — The Beavers of Bluffton University shocked the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and the pollsters around the country by taking down the #9-ranked Franklin College Grizzlies on Saturday.

A late 44-yard touchdown grab by Donovan Brown broke a 17-17 tie and helped the Beavers cap their first win over a top-10 opponent in school history, 24-17.

Those 17 points are the fewest the Grizzlies offense, which averaged 51.3 points per game heading into Saturday, has scored all year, including contests with #1 Mount Union and Butler University.

The defensive efforts of Mike Shroyer and Josh Runda (Lima/Bath) were a huge factor as both seniors racked up 16 tackles on Senior Day.

Bluffton got on the board first after senior Shawn Frost caught a screen pass from freshman quarterback Connor Sheehan and took it 73 yards to paydirt. Sophomore Zach Rader converted the PAT and the Beavers took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter.

In the second period, Rader answered a Franklin field goal with one of his own, connecting from 25 yards out to give the Beavers a 10-3 spread at the 6:08 mark.

Franklin answered with 22 seconds left in the half on a Jonny West rush from nine yards out to knot the score at 10-10 heading to the break.

Bluffton held Franklin scoreless again in the third quarter and took the lead after Sheehan went in from a yard out on a quarterback sneak which helped the Beavers to a 17-10 lead heading into the final 15 minutes of action.

It wasn’t until late that Franklin finally tied the score again when Kole Stogner found the end zone on a 3-yard run with 3:44 remaining in the game.

The Beavers only ran 1:43 off the clock before having to punt the ball, giving the Grizzlies possession on their own 26 with 1:57 on the clock and three timeouts remaining.

West completed 4-of-5 passes to help Franklin get to their own 45 before the quarterback fumbled a snap into the arms of Bluffton defensive end Ryan Leopold (Ottawa/Ottawa-Glandorf), giving the Beavers possession on their own 47 with 1:04 left on the clock.

After an incomplete pass on the first play of the drive and a 13-yard toss to senior C.J. Sewell (Lima/Shawnee) on the second, Sheehan heaved a long ball down the left side of the field for a closely-guarded Brown. The defender got a hand on the ball but it bounced Brown’s way and landed safely in his arms as he carried it across the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown. Senior Austin Sweeney converted the extra point to cap a crazy drive, putting the Beavers ahead 24-17 with just 27 ticks left on the clock.

West completed two short passes to All-American Kyle Linville, moving the Grizzlies to their own 48 with six seconds left and time for just one play. West took the snap and rolled to his right, only to be chased down by freshman lineman Linkoln LaRoche (Dola/Hardin-Northern) for a 14-yard sack with no time left on the clock, helping the Beavers become the first team to hand Franklin’s seniors a Heartland Conference loss in four seasons.

Sheehan finished the day completing 23-of-38 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns. Frost and Brown hauled in five of those passes apiece. Frost finished with 126 yards and a touchdown, while Brown chipped in with 86 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Sheehan’s two TD passes helped him add to Bluffton’s single-season record as the Beavers have 22 now with one game to play. Eric Fox led the Beaver rushing attack with 26 yards on 15 carries. The junior also added 21 receiving yards on eight receptions.

Aside from Shroyer and Runda, junior Wyatt Herman and sophomore Ryan Aelker had big defensive days while constantly pressuring West, racking up 10 and nine tackles, respectively. Travaun Reeves finished with six tackles and a big interception that he returned 25 yards, while Leopold, Ben Schamp (St. Marys/Memorial) and Josh Hadley also recovered fumbles for the victors.

Although the Grizzlies racked up 463 yards of offense, the Bluffton defense came up huge with four takeaways and nearly a fifth if not for a penalty on the other side of the field that negated a fumble recovered by the Beavers late in the fourth quarter. The Beaver victory will likely force Franklin to defeat rival Hanover College next Saturday to claim a slice of its fifth consecutive Heartland Conference title (with Rose-Hulman) and berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.

The Beavers (3-6, 3-4) will play their final game of the season next week in Defiance at 1:30 p.m., looking to finish at an even 4-4 mark in the conference. Bluffton has had the upper hand recently, winning the last three contests with the rival Yellow Jackets.


Beavers earn finals of HCAC volleyball tourney

By Brittany Roth

Sports information assistant

DEFIANCE — After defeating #3 seed Mount St. Joseph Lions in Cincinnati on Tuesday, the Beavers traveled to Defiance ready to take on Transylvania, the #2 seed of the HCAC volleyball tournament.

With the #1 seed and host Defiance College already dispatched from the tournament thanks to a sweep by Hanover College in the 2 p.m. semifinal, Bluffton made sure that none of the top four seeds will earn the HCAC’s automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals next week. The Beavers again rallied from a 2-0 deficit while improving to 15-18 on the season.

Bluffton got the hog’s share of its errors out in the lidlifter, allowing Transylvania to dominate the first set by a 25-11 count. The second set was back and forth with 10 tie scores and five lead changes. The Beavers were knotted at 23, but could not close the set out against the Pioneers and lost 25-23.

Not ready to put away the net for 2013, the Beavers bounced back to gain control of the majority of the third set. With the help of a run with Brooke Ruffer at the service line, the Beavers took the lead halfway through and stayed focused to take the third set 25-21.

The fourth set was another battle with 17 tie scores and five lead changes. After a late timeout by Coach Yarnell with the score squared up at 23, Bluffton capped the set with a Lauren Weisgarber kill and a block by Mackenzie McFarlin and Jenny Brown (St. Marys/Memorial) which pushed the match to a fifth-set tie-breaker.

The Beavers took the momentum from the end of the fourth set and carried it over into the fifth set, going on a 5-0 spurt with senior Hailey Phillips at the service line. The teams battled for several rotations but another run by Phillips at the end of the set clinched it for the Beavers. Bluffton won the fifth set 15-7 to knock the #2 seed out of the tournament.

Ruffer had a phenomenal night on the court with a career-high 16 kills (.414 hitting percentage), 23 assists, three aces and 11 digs for a triple-double. Also sparking the offense was fellow sophomore Sara Roth with 19 assists. Kendra Parmenter and McFarlin were both in double figures with 13 and 10 kills, respectively. Parmenter also had two solo blocks and four block assists. Weisgarber matched Ruffer’s three aces and also assisted with five blocks for the Beavers. Defensively, Phillips led Bluffton with 18 digs.


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