Hiram's coaching staff read the past performance sheet correctly in preparing the Terriers for their homecoming game Saturday afternoon at sun-bathed Charles A. Henry Field.
When the smoke of battle had cleared, Capital maintained its turnover rating in the wake of a fired-up Hiram squad that broke on top and went on to a 34-21 win, its first in OAC play this season after four straight losses.
The outcome left Hiram with a 2-4 overall record and 1-4 OAC mark. Capital fell to 1-5, 0-5.
Led by free safety Brian Rafferty and cornerback Bruce Alexander, the Terrier defense intercepted three passes and forced the Crusaders to cough up the ball two more times at opportune moments for Hiram.
Rafferty swiped two throws by Capital quarterback Shawn Wheeler, both times the result of tipped passes, and recovered a fumble. Alexander, a sophomore, made two crucial plays, falling on a fumble at the Hiram 9-yard line early in the fourth quarter to halt a threat, then picking off a Wheeler throw on the Capital 39 that thwarted another threat.
In between, the Hiram defense, which held Capital to 42 yards rushing in the first half, did a lot of gang-tackling in a new show of ability.
"Our defense was very good," said Hiram coach Bobby Thomas. "We practiced a lot on it during the week. I even worked with the linebackers. Sure, we gave up some things, but we thought our speed would be a factor. We worked on stripping the ball, too."
Thomas also praised the defensive effort of strong safety Alra'shan Clardy.
Rafferty, whose 85-yard interception return sealed Capital's doom in overtime last year, explained the two deflected passes.
"On the first, Rod Coffee got a hand on it and all I had to do was run up and catch it," he said. "On the other, the receiver was trying to get away from a tackle by Matt Cruxton and the ball popped from his grasp.
"We had a good, hard practice this week and now everybody is doing his role."
On the offensive side, former Streetsboro stalwart Kris Giebel rattled off 135 yards in 29 carries for his third straight 100-yard plus game. Reggie Parks, who spells Giebel, returned to the lineup after missing three games with an ankle injury and collected 92 in 16 tries.
Hiram led from start to finish, but the Terriers experienced some anxious moments in the final 20 minutes of the game. Capital finished with a 14-point barrage and threatened to inch even closer, before Hiram came up an interception and a fumble recovery.
The Terriers went to the ground at the outset, but threw just enough passes to open up a 14-0 bulge before the first quarter ended. Quarterback Dwayne Pavkovich was on target with pinpoint throws of 18 yards to wideout Pat Kelley and 15 to Bryan Moore, the OAC's top receiver with 32 catches this season.
The second period was only two minutes old when Parks broke loose for 51 yards to the Capital 2, then ran around left end on the next play to make it 21-0 after Brian Bauman booted his third conversion.
Capital, which lost its leading rusher, Shane Roberts, with a foot injury on its first offensive series, didn't move beyond midfield until the last two minutes of the first half. But the Crusaders made it count when Wheeler skirted left end from the 5 and Scott Crites kicked the point for a 21-7 score at intermission.
With this momentum, Capital received the second-half kickoff. But on the second play, Wheeler, running an option, attempted a lateral to Josh Montgomery, who fumbled the ball. Rafferty scooped it up and ran to the Capital 27.
Giebel ripped off a 15-yard run to the end zone and Bauman converted with 12:47 on the third quarter clock. A few minutes later Hiram got the ball back on Rafferty's second interception, and Pavkovich hit Tim Devericks on a slant pattern over the middle from 21 yards out to make it 34-7.
Capital wouldn't quit, responding with Wheeler's 11-yard toss to Chris Copeland, the Crusaders' star receiver, in the end zone.
The Crusaders kept the pressure on in the final period, scoring with 7:41 left on Wheeler's throw to Dan Peterson that covered 33 yards.
Second-year Capital coach Jim Collins said, "The key was the two touchdowns they scored at the beginning of the third quarter. We just got too far behind.
"We figured it would be decided by who made the fewest mistakes. I give
Hiram credit. They made the big plays and they didn't have a single