ADRIAN – The visiting Carthage College Red Men spoiled the season opener for the Adrian College football team on Saturday afternoon at Performance Stadium. The visitors jumped out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter, but the Bulldogs fought back to tie the game at 17-17 midway through the fourth quarter. Carthage put the finishing touches on the road win as Brett Bukari kicked a 22-yard field goal with 17 seconds left to seal the victory.
Carthage took the opening possession and quickly marched down the field against Adrian's defense. Freshman quarterback A.J. Simoncelli looked like a veteran on his first collegiate drive completing two passes for 43 yards and rushing three times for 20 more yards, including a 12-yard touchdown run capping off a seven-play, 71-yard drive in 2:51.
Later in the opening quarter, Adrian took possession of the ball on their own 25-yard line and junior Taylor Copacia tried to make a play out of nothing but awkwardly fumbled the ball and it was scooped up by Carthage's Alex Vitkauskas who rumbled 23 yards for a score. The Red Men kicked the PAT and it was 14-0 with 2:39 left in the first quarter.
Adrian responded by playing stout defense and slowly the offense began to move the ball. The Bulldogs took over with 12:33 left in the second quarter and marched 64 yards in seven plays capped off by a two-yard TD run by junior Damon Brown with 9:57 left until halftime.
Sophomore quarterback Aaron Tenney was then intercepted on back-to-back possessions for the Bulldogs but the defense held firm as the teams went into the locker room with Carthage leading 14-7. Bukari put the Red Men up 17-7 with a 37-yard field goal on their first drive of the second half. Both teams traded possessions and then the Bulldogs took over with good field position at the Carthage 46-yard line with 3:25 left in the third quarter. Tenney completed three straight passes for a total of 37 yards before settling for a Dustin Salliotte 35-yard field goal to cut the lead to 17-10. It was Salliotte's first field goal as a Bulldog.
Adrian kept the game within one touchdown by stopping Carthage on two straight drives limiting them to minus-17 yards. The offense capitalized early in the fourth quarter by driving 70 yards in eight plays. Tenney took a fourth-and-inches snap at the one-yard line and snuck into the end zone with 8:29 left in the game to tie it up at 17-17. Tenney's 37-yard completion to Hemm highlighted the drive.
The Bulldogs had a chance to take the lead on their next possession by going 55 yards in eight plays, but sophomore Ben Klaver's 41-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Nick Dorau to keep the score deadlocked at 17-17. The Red Men mounted one final drive as T.J. Trepanier rushed for 14 yards on the first play of the drive. Simoncelli then connected with Nick Gremley for 13 yards to move the ball to the Carthage 49-yard line. Simoncelli completed a well-designed shovel pass on the next play and Reggie Miller raced 36 yards to the Adrian 15-yard line. Carthage then burned some clock and eventually put the ball in the middle of the field for Bukari's game-winning field goal from 22 yards.
Adrian outgained Carthage, 404-287, with an edge in passing yards by a 323-171 margin. The Bulldog running game never got on track with 43 carries for 81 yards. A large portion of that came off of Carthage sacking the quarterback eight times for a loss of 36 yards. Tenney threw for 323 yards going 22-of-34 through the air, but was sacked seven times. Hemm ended with a career-high 169 receiving yards on nine catches and moved into first place on the all-time Adrian College career list with 1,984 receiving yards.
Senior Mitch Gabriele caught nine passes for 93 yards to compliment Hemm's big day. Junior Danny Cobb led the Bulldogs with 46 rushing yards on 10 carries. Junior Deontae Bridgeman led the Adrian defense with 10 tackles including seven solo stops. The defense had six tackles for a loss of 18 yards as junior Hunter Juntunen had two of those and also eight total tackles. The Bulldogs are now 1-3 in the all-time series against Carthage. The teams played three straight years from 2000-2002.