By ANDY WOLF
There’s no instant replay in Division II football.
Adam Bertke thought he got in.
Or at least was down short.
But the referees ruled the University of Findlay quarterback fumbled short of extending the ball to the goal line and into the end zone.
Hillsdale recovered the loose ball with 4 seconds left to stun the home crowd on homecoming weekend and prevail 17-14 on Saturday at Donnell Stadium.
“I personally thought I broke the plane, but they called what they called,” Bertke said. “There’s nothing I can do about it now and just move forward from it, learn from it.”
Bertke hauled in a pass on a trick play across field from wide receiver Peter Norris inside the 10-yard line and rumbled forward down the left hash to meet a Hillsdale defender.
The 6-foot-6, 240-pounder’s forward momentum sent him falling toward the goal line where he lunged at the last second, only to lose the ball.
“I’m thinking score all the way, I knew we didn’t have a lot of time,” Bertke said. “So we were either going to be short or I was going to get in. It is what it is whether I was down or not. Whatever they called is what they called.”
The referees initially signaled a touchback and Hillsdale ball.
After a few moments of conference between them, the call stood, much to the displeasure of the orange and black faithful.
“We worked that play all week,” UF coach Rob Keys said. “We said that we were going to run it in a critical situation. … It was open. It was completed. He moved the ball within fractions of an inch of the goal line.
“Officials made the call that he was not down, did not cross the plane. So regardless of what I feel is irrelevant because the scoreboard isn’t going to change.”
Bertke got the start for the second straight week over Rhys Gervais, who dressed but did not play.
“We’re going to play the guy who gives us the best chance to win,” Keys said. “Rhys, he’s banged up a little. Nothing that’s going to hold him out completely but we felt Adam was the guy we’re going to go with. When you’re not at 100 percent, it’s tough to play that spot.”
Findlay did not score in the fourth quarter.
Hillsdale’s Joe Philipp drilled a 51-yard field goal to give his team the lead with 1:26 remaining.
The Chargers’ previous two drives ended in field goal attempts as well — a 33-yarder to tie it at 17-17 in the third quarter and a missed 29-yarder midway through the fourth.
After Philipp boomed his clutch kick, Bertke stepped in with hopes to deliver UF a scoring drive.
“Stay even keel,” Berkte said. “Once you get too excited or nervous, that’s when mistakes happen.”
Bertke admitted he wasn’t at his best or most calm early on in the game, completing 7 of 16 attempts in the first half despite drops.
He finished with 200 yards on 20 of 37 attempts with one interception.
But Bertke rose late, completing five straight on UF’s final drive, three to Drew Ogletree for 29 yards, to move the Oilers to the Hillsdale 29.
Three incompletions later, a defensive pass interference call on third down moved the ball inside the red zone where Chauncey Bridges carried for a 4-yard gain, setting up the trick pass play to Bertke.
“He did a phenomenal job,” Keys said of Bertke. “There was no panic. I was shocked the kid made a 51-yard field goal. I thought we’d have a chance to go down and kick a field goal to win.”
“… Offense went out and we clicked off a bunch of plays and moved all the way to the quarter-inch yardline.”
Richard Wilson scored UF’s only offensive touchdown on an 8-yard run in the third quarter.
The score gave the Oilers their first lead at 17-14 since getting out to a 10-0 edge.
Ogletree fought for and recovered a high snap in the end zone on a Hillsdale punt for the game’s first score at the 4:06 mark in the first quarter before Grant Loveridge added a 27-yard field goal.
Ogletree led UF with 48 yards on five catches.
Brian Benson carried 11 times for 68 yards. Bridges had 49 yards on 10 tries.
Justice Jenkins had a team-high 11 tackles. Kyle Gibson had UF’s only sack.
Bertke and his fellow seniors will look to regroup next week for a road contest 1 p.m. Saturday against Charleston (W.Va.) (4-2).
“It’s going to be tough to forget about this one just because what was at stake and everything on the line,” Bertke said. “There’s no other choice. We have to move forward. We have to finish this season strong for the seniors.”
Hillsdale 0 14 3 3 — 20
Findlay 7 3 7 0 — 17
UF — Ogletree 0 fumble recovery (Loveridge kick)
UF — Loveridge 27 FG
HC — Graham 1 run (Philipp kick)
HC — Peterson 8 pass from Stewart (Philipp kick)
UF — Wilson 8 run (Loveridge kick)
HC — Philipp 33 FG
HC — Philipp 51 FG
First Downs 30 25
Rushes-yards 32-93 38-181
Passing Yards 260 210
Comp-Att-Int 27-44-0 21-38-1
Punts-Avg. 1-43 2-40.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-2
Penalties-Yards 1-15 8-90
rushing — Hillsdale, Graham 16-69, O’Brien 4-26, Shepler 4-15, Stewart 6-14, Wade 1-(minus-1). team 1-(minus-30). Findlay, Benson 11-68, Bridges 10-49, Wilson 10-32, Bertke 6-27, Slagel 1-5.
passing — Hillsdale, Stewart, 27-43-260-0, Brock 0-1-0-0. Findlay, Bertke 20-37-200-1, Norris 1-1-10-0.
receiving — Hillsdale, Brock 6-64, Maloney 4-43, Brennan 5-39, Graham 3-36, Petersen 3-33, Zwiers 2-17, Shepler 1-14, Foos 2-8, Chambers 1-6. Findlay, Ogletree 5-48, Norris 4-46, Allton 3-36, Stuffel 1-24, Bridges 1-12, Hill 2-11, Bertke 1-10, Boucher 1-7, Benson 2-2.