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Hanszen takes down two-time defending champ McMurtry for powderpuff crown


Photo by Vidya Giri

By Michael Byrnes     12/7/18 3:13pm

For the second time in the last four years, Hanszen College is Rice’s powderpuff champion. Hanszen defeated McMurtry College 13-6 in the championship game on Tuesday, capping off a 6-1 season in which no team scored more than seven points against them. 

Senior quarterback Gillian Mellor, a team captain, said that although McMurtry’s team was very strong, Hanszen never thought they’d be anywhere else but in the winner’s circle.

“We’ve been first in the South [division] and have made it to the championship for four years in a row now,” Mellor said. “We’re a very good team and we felt confident about our chances of winning this year from the very beginning.”

Hanszen head coach Henry Lanear, a senior, said he was exceptionally impressed with the team’s performance during the victory. 

“Loved the way we played from start to finish,” Lanear said. “We came out with a lot of energy and executed just about everything we wanted to. I’m really proud of our whole team, especially the seniors. To make it to the championship game all four years [at Rice], and to win it two of those years is really something special.” 

In each of the past three years, Hanszen has played McMurtry in the title game; Hanszen defeated Martel in 2015, while McMurtry prevailed over Hanszen in both 2016 and 2017. And on paper, it seemed that McMurtry would have the upper hand this season. The team defeated Hanszen 7-0 in this year’s preseason game and also had a dominant regular season. McMurtry never won by fewer than 20 points, and no team had previously scored a point against them. 

However, the championship game was also the first time this season (not including the preseason) that McMurtry had faced competition from powderpuff’s South Division, which includes the teams from Baker, Hanszen, Lovett, Sid Richardson, Wiess and Will Rice colleges. Mellor said she felt the South Division was the more competitive one this season.

“McMurtry is a good team led by very talented players and coaches, but I think we need to give the South Division more credit,” Mellor said. “I think that any of the [South] teams that made [the] playoffs — Hanszen, Wiess and Lovett — would’ve played a competitive game against McMurtry.” 

Indeed, McMurtry’s defensive scoreless streak was broken on the game’s opening drive, as Hanszen used a series of handoffs, outlet passes and quarterback rushes to break down the stout McMurtry defense. Eventually, they found their way into the end zone and a 6-0 lead. From there on out, Hanszen refused to relinquish control. Their defense came up with two critical stops deep in Hanszen territory, and the offense continued to chip away yardage. Hanszen scored again to take a 13-0 lead before a late McMurtry touchdown cut the score to the final 13-6 margin.

Mellor and junior wide receiver Khiaya Middlebrooks formed the bulk of the offensive attack for Hanszen. Mellor was the game’s leading rusher, using strong blocking from the Hanszen offensive line to find openings and break free from McMurtry’s defensive attack. Mellor’s top target in the passing game was Middlebrooks, whose good hands and explosive speed made her a headache for McMurtry’s defensive backs. 

Senior cornerback and captain Priya Kane said that winning two championships on the bookends of her collegiate career made the victory feel all the more special.

“It’s so exciting to end this senior year powderpuff season the same way we started in freshman year,” Kane said. “With a win!”

This article has been updated to correct an error: Hanszen defeated Martel in the 2015 championship game, not McMurtry [7:30 p.m. Dec. 9].

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