It was the game that G-MAC football fans had talked about for weeks, as two unbeaten teams in conference play would square off to decide the conference championship.
15th ranked Tiffin University and 25th ranked Hillsdale battled on Saturday for the right to claim the title, but the Dragons came up short, falling 48-26 to the Chargers for their first loss of 2018. TU falls to 9-1 with the defeat, 6-1 in the G-MAC.
The game was a back-and-forth affair until the third quarter, when Hillsdale put up 17 unanswered points to take a lead it would not relinquish. TU managed just 7 points after halftime while the Chargers scored 31.
Hillsdale set the tone on its own opening possession, driving 70 yards and scoring on its own 25 yard TD pass. The extra point made it 7-6, Hillsdale at the 6:42 mark.
TU responded with a drive down to Hillsdale's 10 yard line but could get no further, settling for a 27 yard Joe Harakal field goal to retake the lead 9-7 at the 2:37 mark of the first quarter.
Hillsdale retook the lead on its next possession, capping a 72 yard drive with a 14 yard run that put the Chargers back up 14-9 at the 14:03 mark. After holding the Dragons for the first time on their next possession, Hillsdale got the ball at midfield and tacked on a 21 yard field goal to up their lead to 17-9.
The Dragons then started a massive drive that ate up 7:31 of clock and drove down to the Hillsdale 9 yard line before once again stalling. TU got a 31 yard field goal from Harakal to narrow the gap to 17-12. A quick three and out for the Dragons' defense got TU the ball back at midfield with 1:11 on the clock, and TU capitalized as Watson hit on three passes including a 33 yard strike to Victor Talley with 29 seconds left in the half as the Dragons took a 19-17 lead into halftime.
Then came the third quarter.
A 59 yard pass completion on Hillsdale's opening drive led to a 13 yard TD pass that gave the Chargers the lead again 24-19. A TU fumble at midfield on its next possession led to Hillsdale connecting on a 31 yard field goal at the 6:29 mark, and another TU fumble at their own 42 yard line gave Hillsdale another golden opportunity. They took advantage, scoring on a 4 yard pass for their 17th point of the period and a commanding 34-19 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
TU quickly responded, driving 75 yards before Watson hit Blaine Murillo on a 30 yard pass to get to within one score 34-26 with 13:00 remaining in the game.
The Chargers maintained their composure, eating up 5:29 of clock before scoring on a 7 yard pass to push their lead back to 41-26. The Dragons went three and out on their next possession, and Hillsdale put the game away with another score with 3:17 remaining on a one yard run.
Overall TU had 27 first downs to Hillsdale's 23, while also outgaining the Chargers 480-401 in total offense. But two turnovers cost TU, and the Dragons ground game couldn't get on track, totaling 93 yards overall.
Watson finished with 387 yards and 3 TDs on 34 of 50 passing with one interception, with six receivers accounting for more that 37 yards apiece. Gavin Woods had 78 yards, Talley 77, and Tyler Denton 63 to lead the air assault. Murrillo finished with 56, while Brunson had 49 and Charles Holland 37.