TIFFIN, Ohio – Headed into play on Saturday, the football team at Heidelberg University led the nation in total offense. And, while the offense deserved many of the headlines it gathered, the Heidelberg defense had quietly put together a remarkable season.
That success continued on Heidelberg's Homecoming, as the Student Princes shut out the Cardinals of Otterbein University, 21-0. Both teams entered the contest undefeated and ranked tied for #25 in the latest D3football.com poll.
Linebackers Dawson Gore (Bellevue) and Craig Sykes (Centerburg) had 10 tackles each. Defensive linemen Stephen Fejedelem (Ravenna) and Ben Poirier (Canton, MI) each recorded two sacks.
Heidelberg scored on the opening possession of the game. Running back Cartel Brooks (Kokomo, IN/Galion) found the end zone from three yards out. The touchdown capped a seven play, 61 yard drive.
Otterbein tried to answer on their first possession, as they drove the ball down to the Heidelberg 10 yard line. A holding penalty and a sack pushed the Cardinals back to the 23 yard line, where kicker Nick Ganus missed a 40-yard field goal attempt wide right.
The missed field goal seemed to ignite the Heidelberg defense, which would intercept two passes from Otterbein starter Aaron Kingcade. On the next play after an interception by Chadd Williamson (Land 'O Lakes, FL), Heidelberg quarterback Michael Mees (North Ridgeville) connected on a 28-yard pass to Nate Hasse (Crown Point, IN) for a score. Dan Kilger (Novi, MI) kicked his second extra point to push Heidelberg's lead to 14-0.
In the third quarter, Heidelberg's defense continued to stymie the Cardinal offense and forced a pair of punts.
Mees found C.J. Powell (Detroit, MI/Bishop Foley) for a 22-yard touchdown strike in the third quarter. Powell finished with six catches for 115 yards.
Trailing 21-0, Otterbein drove deep into Heidelberg territory in the waning moments of the third quarter. Heidelberg's defense stood tall and preserved the shutout, as they forced an incompletion on 4th and goal from the eight yard line.
In the fourth, the Heidelberg offense was able to grind seven minutes off of the clock before being forced to punt. Punter Colin Bultinck (Lafayette, IN/Jefferson) watched as his punt bounced inside the 10 yard line and was downed at the one.
On the ensuing drive, the Cardinals converted on two third down plays to move the ball into Heidelberg territory. On 3rd and three from the Heidelberg 36, Sykes and Andy Lovins (Clinton Township, MI/Lake Shore) sacked back-up quarterback Ben Sizemore for a 10-yard loss.
After Otterbein punted, Heidelberg ran out the clock.
"It's a rewarding day," said head coach Mike Hallett. "Otterbein brought a lot of thunder, and I think our guys weathered the storm."
The shutout is the third time this season that the defense has not yielded points. The first was in 45-0 win at Alma in Week One. The second, three weeks later, came in a 56-2 win at Wilmington.
"Shutouts don't happen too often," said Fejedelem, the reigning OAC Player of the Week. "This is our second one this year. We love it."
Brooks was held to 109 yards, his lowest output of the season. The balanced Heidelberg attack was bolstered by Mees, who found seven different receivers. Mees finished 18-of-24 for 240 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
"I didn't take many hits today," said Mees, who was not sacked on the afternoon. "Our line made their blocks up front and gave me time to find our targets."
With the win, Heidelberg (6-0, 5-0) retained the Rhine River Cup, given to the winner of the Otterbein-Heidelberg game. The trophy commemorates the 1992 game between the schools, played in Frankfurt, Germany.
The Student Princes will host Muskingum on October 20 at 1:30 p.m. The game will be the 1,000th varsity football game in Heidelberg history.