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Bluffton nearly topples HCAC-leading Grizzlies at Franklin

Bluffton nearly topples HCAC-leading Grizzlies at Franklin

FRANKLIN, Ind. - The Bluffton University football team gave HCAC-heavyweight Franklin College all it could handle in a 28-24 loss to the Grizzlies on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Franklin improved to 8-1 overall with a perfect 7-0 mark in the Heartland Conference, while Bluffton slipped to 2-7 and 2-5 in the HCAC.

The Beavers trailed Franklin 14-3 midway through the second quarter when freshman quarterback Zachary Nobis (Bryan) found senior Hunter Morrison (Marion/Buckeye Valley) for a 27-yard scoring strike with 7:54 to play in the half. A Franklin fumble just four plays later set up Bluffton's second touchdown of the quarter as Nobis capped a 14-play, 53-drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Espitia (Lincoln Park, Mich.) with two seconds in the half for a 17-14 lead at the break.

Bluffton answered a Franklin touchdown with a 6-yard Drake Campbell (Trenton/Edgewood) run to paydirt late in the third quarter, putting Bluffton up 24-21 heading to the final stanza. The Grizzlies responded with an Austin Grunden rushing score that turned out to be the game winner when Bluffton went three and out and the Grizzlies milked the final 7:40 off the clock for a 28-24 victory.

The Grizzlies finished with 360 yards of total offense, compared to 230 for the visitors. Franklin moved the chains 29 times, while Bluffton went for 15 first downs. The home team did much of its damage on third down, converting 10-of-15 opportunities. Both teams lost two fumbles, but there were just six penalties total for the game, three on each side.

Nobis completed 15-of-19 passes for 116 yards and two scoring strikes. Morrison led the receiving corps with 55 yards and a TD on three catches. Adam Duncan (Northwood/Lake) kicked a field goal, three PAT's and caught five passes for 25 yards.

Junior linebacker Dylan Shaffer (Shelby) paced the Beaver defense with 11 stops, including 10 solos. Sophomores Antonio Crossty (Wooster) and Brian Coleman Jr. (Toledo/St. Francis DeSales) piled up eight and seven tackles, respectively. Senior Isaac Zickafoose (Middlebury, Ind./Northridge) stuffed the stat sheet with six tackles, two TFL's, a sack, two breakups and a hurry.

Bluffton will wrap up its 2018 campaign when the Beavers welcome rival Defiance College on Saturday, Nov. 10. Kickoff on Senior Day is slated for 1:30 p.m. at Alumni Field.