Heartland hung on Victory Bell

More news about: Franklin | Hanover
Franklin and Hanover have met for more than a century.
Franklin athletics photo 

These games go by many different names – Little Brass Bell, Bridge Bowl, Monon Bell, Victory Bell.

What they do have in common are two schools with tons of college football tradition – regardless of classification – and the intensity and atmosphere fans and participants will remember for a lifetime.

Another brick was laid in the battle for the Victory Bell in Franklin, Ind., when the Franklin Grizzles took on the Hanover Panthers. Franklin and Hanover have played against each other since 1898. For the second time in three years, the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title was on the line.

“When I took the job here, I promised these guys that they will get to play in championship games,” said first-year coach Steve Baudendistel. Baudendistel is a Hanover alumnus and played in the Victory Bell game as a player. “If things stay the way they are, this game may be for the championship every single year and they might as well get ready for that. This game will mean something special to them.”

In the end, No. 16 Franklin won the game 58-29, the most combined points both teams have scored in the history of the rivalry. It was Franklin’s eighth consecutive win in the Victory Bell game, but that has not diminished the contest in the eyes of fans and players.

Tailgating tents crowded the grounds outside of Faught Stadium. Hanover fans set up tailgate tents on the opposite side the stadium from Franklin tailgate tents. Both sides of the stadium were packed with fans by kickoff time. The crowd and occasion was not lost on the players.

“Starting on Monday, pamphlets were passed out making sure we’re reminded about the rich history of the rivalry between Franklin and Hanover,” said Kyle Linville, Franklin wide receiver to scored two touchdowns Saturday. “We normally have a great atmosphere here for the games here, but the fans seem to step it up another notch for this game. It’s already a great game without the championship, but having the title on the line just adds to it. It’s something you’ll remember forever.”

Hanover’s All-American wide receiver Daniel Passafiume finished his stellar career with most of the Panthers receiving records. His 343 career catches is the fifth most in NCAA history, all divisions. As he left the field Saturday, he admitted that it stung that he never beaten Franklin in the Victory Bell game.

“This is your rivalry game and who doesn’t get excited about it and want to win it,” Passafiume said. “It’s one of the old rivalry games and will always be a big rivalry. It hurts not to win just one and you know it does. But I will always remember the teammates and friends I’ve made along the way.”

Franklin coach Mike Leonard, who turned the Grizzlies program around six years ago into a consistent winner, said much of what Franklin wants to achieve often comes down to the Victory Bell game.

“It was a fun day,” Leonard said. “These games are always special and we played for the championship in this game two years ago. We have basically four goals this season and we knocked out three of those with this win.”

Baudendistel said there is also the challenge of managing your emotions in a big rivalry game. He said he hopes this team will get better at it over time.

“They need to remember what it feels like today to motivate them and get into the gym,” Baudendistel said. “I’m proud of these guys and the way they hung in there today. “They need to understand, though, the emotions of games like this and stay focused. This is the second time we’ve played for a championship in a game like this. The next time we’re in this situation, we’ll have more guys who’ve been through it and we’ll be ready mentally.”

Midwest playoffs quick hits

No. 14 North Central (8-2) at No. 8 Cal Lutheran (8-1)

North Central bounced back after the Little Brass Bell loss to rival Wheaton to defeat Augustana to grab a share of the CCIW title and take the conference’s automatic bid.

"We play each season for our seniors,” said North Central coach John Thorne. “This isn't the largest group of seniors we've had, but they've worked very hard and they've been through a lot, and we didn't want all that effort to go to waste. We really wanted to win that championship for them and keep this great run of conference titles going. We've tied the second-longest run of consecutive CCIW championships, so our next goal will be to tie Augustana, who won eight in a row back in the ’80s."

No. 16 Franklin (8-2) at Adrian (9-1)

After opening the season with losses to No. 1 Mount Union and FCS non-scholarship Butler, Franklin dominated the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, averaging 49.6-points per game along the way. They will be challenged by the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association champion that traditionally stays strong defense.

“I’m sure (the Victory Bell game) will give us a lot of momentum,” Mike Leonard said. “We can’t control who we plays, we just looking forward to it. I told our team that our defense has been playing really well but our offense has been turning the ball over. Against Hanover it was flipped where we didn’t turn the ball over and converted some key third downs but the defense gave up some yardage. If we can put those together against a tough playoff team we’re going to be okay.”

No. 21 Bethel (8-2) at Concordia-Chicago (10-0)

After knocking at the door for three previous seasons, coach Lonnie Pries’ team finally knocked it down with the school’s first undefeated season since 1937. The Cougars were rewarded with a home playoff game against a very good Bethel team.

"We all feel very blessed to be part of such a special season and be able to experience the thrill of going to the playoffs for the first time,” Pries said. “It's exciting and humbling to hear about all of our alumni and long-time fans paying close attention to what's going on with us. God has blessed us with a great group of players and outstanding leadership from our seniors."

St. Norbert (8-2) at No. 4 St. Thomas (10-0)

St. Norbert lost to Monmouth on Sept. 29 and spent all season look up at Lake Forest in the Midwest Conference standings until the Green Knights beat the Foresters 20-10 last week to get into the playoffs and grab a share of the conference title. St. Norbert will battle St. Thomas in the first round.

“It’s special because of the kids and what we had to do to get this,” said St. Norbert coach Jim Purtill. “This was a hard-fought season. It’s been a dog fight and I’m very proud of our kids for staying the course and believing in each other and being a team and getting the job done. It’s tremendous for them.”

No. 17 Elmhurst (9-1) at No. 10 Coe (10-0)

The Bluejays are the biggest surprise in the playoff picture, getting out of the rough and tumble CCIW with a share of the conference title. Elmhurst has the tall order of upholding the CCIW’s reputation of being a tough out in the playoffs. They will likely to continue to count on its running again, behind Scottie Williams, who was second in the country in rushing this year, averaging a little over 170 yards per game.

"I am extremely proud of our seniors for everything they have accomplished this season,” Elmhurst coach Tim Lester said. “This 9-1 season and playoff berth is a huge step for our program. Our administration and my assistant coaches did a great job to put our team in a position to be successful. Our seniors and our squad went out and competed every second of every game."

Clyde Hughes

Clyde Hughes has been writing sports at various times over the past 24 years, covering everything from high school, college and sporting events. A native of football-crazed Texas, Hughes works in Indiana and has written for numerous newspapers and magazines.
2003-04 columnist: John Regenfuss
1999-2000 columnist: Don Stoner

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