Big second half lifts Hanover to historic win over Griffith
(Cedar Lake, IN) The Hanover Central football Wildcats sent a good crowd of fans home happy last Friday night, beating Griffith 44-21 for the Wildcats’ second straight win.
The win may have also raised some eyebrows for those outside of the program.
Griffith (0-5, 0-1 GSSC) entered the game 0-4, but the losses came to football blue bloods Michigan City (5A, #8 IFCA state ranking), Valparaiso (5A, #2 AP state ranking), Hobart (4A, #15 IFCA state ranking), and perennial Northwest Crossroads Conference title contender Lowell (4A). The historically-good Panthers were surely ready for a step down in competition, facing 3A Hanover Central, right?
Instead, the Panthers ran into a buzz saw at the Wildcat Den. HC had its best offensive performance of the year, putting up 464 yards of total offense. They outgained Griffith 464-279 in total yards, and the 21 points the Panthers put up was more indicative of a few Wildcat mistakes.
“Honestly the game shouldn’t have been that close,” said Hanover head coach Brian Parker.
The Wildcats (3-2, 2-0 GSSC) and Panthers were tied at 7 at the half, before the teams combined for 35 points in a wild 3rd quarter. After a fumbled shotgun snap was scooped up and returned 50 yards for a Griffith touchdown, the game was tied at 21 with just 1:31 in the 3rd quarter.
The other two touchdowns the Panthers scored came on two blown coverages in which Griffith RB Robert Gordon got loose for TD runs of 72 and 63 yards each. Those two plays accounted for over half of Griffith’s total offensive yards for the entire night.
“We overcame. In the third quarter after the fumble, the way we adapted and adjusted, we just kept playing and playing,” Parker said. “I was really proud of them.”
After the fumble return, Wildcat QB Blaze Cano responded just 22 seconds later with a 65 yard touchdown strike to Adam Graham to give their team the lead for good. Hanover outscored the Panthers 23-0 after the fumble, including a 16 point 4th quarter to leave no doubt.
Parker was particularly pleased with Hanover’s rushing attack, bringing some balance to an offense that had been pass-heavy the first four weeks. HC had averaged just 56 yards per game on the ground entering the game. The Wildcats put up 189 yards against the Panthers, led by Graham’s 80 yards that included a 42 yard TD run. Brett Driscoll added 64 yards.
Parker tipped his cap to the offensive line, led by starters Austin Foster, Ian Thompson, KC Sink, Aiden Padilla, and Michael Simon.
“We really rode those guys up front hard. I’m proud of the way they fired off the ball.”
However when the Wildcats needed a big play, it was the line’s pass protection, quarterback Blaze Cano, and a host of talented receivers that provided it.
“We knew the play action stuff would be really effective,” Parker said. “We wanted to challenge the back half of their secondary, and we stuck with our game plan.”
Cano threw for 275 yards and four touchdowns (24, 39, 52, and 65 yards), equaling the modern-era record for touchdown passes set by Tyler Fruehling last season in a loss to Boone Grove. Graham had 228 all-purpose yards: 148 yards and two touchdowns receiving, 80 yards and a touchdown rushing. Jack Kuiper had 80 yards and 2 touchdowns receiving to add to his leaping first quarter interception on defense.
As the offense churned yardage, the Hanover defense was solid throughout, surrendering just eight first downs on the night. The Panthers never took a snap inside the red zone.
Freshman DB Gannon Howes had arguably the most exciting defensive play of the night, picking off a pass at midfield and returning it 43 yards to the Panthers 4 yard line.
Driscoll led the defense with 9 tackles and added a fumble recovery. James Kelly added 7 tackles including a sack and 2 tackles for loss. Michael Simon had 7 and 1.5 TFL. Aiden Padilla had 6 tackles and a sack.
It was Griffith’s first conference loss since joining the Greater South Shore Conference in 2017. Since they started football in 1934, the Panthers have won 16 conference titles, 14 sectionals, 5 regionals, and a state championship. The historical significance of Hanover’s first football win over Griffith in school history was not lost on Parker.
“My senior year in high school, Griffith won a state championship. It’s one of if not the most storied football program around here,” he said.
“For Hanover Central to beat a program like Griffith…these boys and our coaches worked so hard, to put together a performance like that I’m really happy for everybody.”
The celebration didn’t last long, as Parker and his staff quickly went to work preparing for its Friday night matchup at Boone Grove, a game that could very well determine the Greater South Shore Conference South Division title.
The Wolves are 5-0 and have outscored their opponents by an average of 37 points.
“Boone Grove is the team to beat, no doubt about it,” Parker said. “They’ve got weapons, they’re good up front, they’re well coached. We want to be in games like this at Hanover Central, we want to compete for conference championships.”
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Stats courtesy Adam Noel, Hanover Central football statistician