Grizzlies keep Victory Bell, earn berth for tournament


Franklin College defensive end Dominque Boyd sacks Hanover quarterback Dexter Britt as freshman Nate Bryan (51) and senior Josh Bales (52) move in to help. The Grizzlies defeated the Panthers 58-29 on Saturday to earn an automatic bid to the national playoffs.

For the eighth-straight year, the Victory Bell will stay at Franklin College.

And for the third-consecutive time, the Grizzlies are going to the NCAA Division III national playoffs.

Franklin earned the Victory Bell and sole possession of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship with Saturday’s 58-29 win against visiting archival Hanover. The Victory Bell goes to the winner of the annual regular-season finale showdown.

With the win, the Grizzlies (8-2, 8-0 HCAC) — who have won 26-straight games against conference opponents — secured the league’s automatic NCAA tournament bid.

Tenth-year head coach Mike Leonard, a graduate of Hanover, said running the table in the conference with eight wins helps build momentum toward the playoffs. The Grizzlies at Adrian College (Mich.) Saturday for a first-round game.

Adrian is 9-1.

“I love the movie ‘Gladiator,’” Leonard said. “When all those guys are chained together in the coliseum, that’s kind of like where we are right now. Is it a purple team? Is it a red team? We can’t control that, but we’re just looking forward to what’s next.”

Ranked No. 16 in the latest poll, the Grizzlies stumbled a bit at the start by going three-and-out on their first possession. Hanover took an 8-0 lead in the first three minute on a 4-yard pass from quarterback Dexter Britt to Daniel Passifume.

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