Centre wide reciever Jordan Gunter (11) battled Hanover defensive backs all afternoon during the season opener on Saturday. On one play in the end zone, Gunter is able to leap over Hanover’s Adam Grabert (11, above) to get the ball but the Panther defender disrupts him. Gunter still nearly made the catch (right) before dropping it after getting hit by Kornell Dash (3). Gunter did catch two touchdown passes in the game and No. 20 Centre won the game 45-31. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Centre wide reciever Jordan Gunter (11) battled Hanover defensive backs all afternoon during the season opener on Saturday. On one play in the end zone, Gunter is able to leap over Hanover’s Adam Grabert (11, above) to get the ball but the Panther defender disrupts him. Gunter still nearly made the catch (right) before dropping it after getting hit by Kornell Dash (3). Gunter did catch two touchdown passes in the game and No. 20 Centre won the game 45-31. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Hanover dug itself a major hole in the first half of Saturday’s season opener and digging out proved to be too tall of a task as the Panthers fell 45-31 to No. 20 Centre (Ky.) at Alumni Stadium.

The Panthers, who have not won a season opener since defeating Centre in 2010, bested the Colonels in nearly every statistical category but the scoreboard. Hanover trailed by 25 points at halftime and trimmed down on the deficit with a much better second half effort but ultimately found itself pinned down by the slow start to the game against a nationally-ranked opponent.

Hanover opened the game with a first down run by Shawn Coane but was forced to punt the football soon after and Centre struck on its first drive, going 86 yards on three plays and capping it with a 9-yard touchdown run by Patric Edwards and an extra point by Tanner South to go up 7-0 early in the first quarter.

The Panthers responded on the ensuing series and tied the game on a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Noah Wezensky and an Austin Steurer extra point but that’s when the Colonels marched out in front for good.

Clark Payne threw two touchdown passes to end the first frame, a 12-yard pass to Hagen Ellis and a 3-yard pass to Sam Murray for a 21-7 lead and while Hanover trimmed the deficit to 21-10 on Steurer’s 27-yard field goal, the Panthers were never able to consistently string plays together to move downfield.

Centre finished the first half with two more touchdowns in the final seven minutes. Payne’s third and fourth touchdown passes each found Jordan Gunter, including a 56-yard connection at the 1:30 mark that allowed for a 35-10 halftime lead.

Hanover shook free of its early woes and did its best to mount a comeback in the second half, limiting Centre to just 10 points in the final two quarters. The Panthers scored two touchdowns in the third quarter. Wezensky hit Taylor Blestein on an 8-yard pass and the two again connected on a 75-yard pass but each time Hanover started coming back, the Colonels pieced together its only two scoring drives of the half in timely fashion.

Payne’s fifth and final touchdown pass, a 12-yard dart to Mack Cox with 5:32 left in the third quarter followed Bleistein’s first touchdown and South’s 26-yard field goal came with 10:16 left in the game to cap off Centre’s 11-play, 80-yard drive followed the Panthers’ second score of the half. Hanover’s final gasp at a comeback put the game at the eventual 45-31 score with 3:26 remaining when Walt Ballinger ran 42 yards for a score.

The Panthers attempted an onside kick following Steurer’s third made extra point but Centre recovered and walked away with the win.

Hanover allowed 521 yards of total offense but racked up 512 yards of its own including 19 first downs. Wezensky, playing in his first game since suffering a season-ending injury early in the 2018 season, was 23-of-41 for 323 yards and two touchdowns with his top target, Bleistein, picking up 153 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches. Coane led the rushing attack with 159 yards on 25 carries.

Payne threw for 277 yards and five touchdowns on 16-of-27 passing, completing passes to 10 different receivers. Gunter led Colonel receivers with 91 yards and two touchdowns on four catches. Three different running backs collected 60 yards or more on the ground. Edwards led the way with 110 yards and one score on 15 carries.

Hanover (0-1) hosts Adrian (Mich.) on Saturday.

———

at Hanover

No. 20 CENTRE (Ky.) 45, HANOVER 31



CENTRE 21 14 7 3 — 45

HANOVER 7 3 14 7 — 31



SUMMARY

1st Quarter

Cen — Patric Edwards, 9-yard run (Tanner South kick), 12:25.

Han — Noah Wezensky, 1-yard run (Austin Steurer kick), 7:52.

Cen — Hagen Ellis, 12-yard pass from Clark Payne (South kick), 3:38.

Cen — Sam Murray, 3-yard pass from Payne (South kick), 00:27.

2nd Quarter

Han — Steurer, 27-yard field goal, 9:50.

Cen — Jordan Gunter, 8-yard pass from Payne (South kick), 6:46.

Cen — Gunter, 56-yard pass from Payne (South kick), 1:30.

3rd Quarter

Han — Taylor Bleistein, 8-yard pass from Wezensky (Steurer kick), 8:32.

Cen — Mack Cox, 12-yard pass from Payne (South kick), 5:32.

Han — Bleistein, 75-yard pass from Wezensky (Steurer kick), 5:02.

4th Quarter

Cen — South, 26-yard field goal, 10:16.

Han — Walt Ballinger, 42-yard run (Steurer kick), 3:26.

———

Cen Han

First Downs 24 19



Rushes-Yards 43-244 34-189

Comp-Att-Int 16-27-0 23-42-0

Pass Yards 277 323

Total Yards 521 512

Penalties-Yards 5-28 8-75

———

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — Centre, Patric Edwards (15-110, TD), Dameon Jones (16-74), Riley Hall (12-60). Hanover, Shawn Coane (25-159), Walt Ballinger (1-42, TD), Noah Wezensky (8- -12, TD).

PASSING — Centre, Clark Payne (16-27-0, 277, 5 TDs). Hanover, Noah Wezensky (23-41-0, 323, 2 TDs), Conner Gibson (0-1-0).

RECEIVING — Centre, Jordan Gunter (4-91, 2 TDs), Jay Becherer (2-78), Christian Billiter (1-45), Breece Hayes (3-15), Hagen Ellis (1-12, TD), Mack Cox (1-12, TD), Dameon Jones (1-9), Jake Woosley (1-9), Corey Russell (1-3), Sam Murray (1-3, TD). Hanover, Taylor Blestein (7-153, 2 TDs), Conner Gibson (5-53), Jackson Daugherty (4-40), Jared Frank (2-37), Brett Luker (2-20), Matt Pica (1-10), Shawn Coane (2-10).

MISSED FIELD GOALS — None.