ORANGE CITY, Iowa | Here’s a game which has been billed as a matchup between two of the Great Plains Athletic Conference’s top running backs, 1,000-yard rushers Jacob Kalogonis of Northwestern and Briar Cliff’s Noah Ylagan.
However, now that Brad Cagle is back in the picture as Briar Cliff’s starting quarterback, he deserves recognition. Cagle, who has never lost a game in his three appearances, will be matched up against veteran Tyson Kooima in Saturday afternoon’s contest at DeValois Stadium/Korver Field.
Cagle, who has passed for 812 yards and 10 touchdowns, missed six games as he recovered from a broken left radius suffered in the second quarter of a 26-14 GPAC win over Hastings in Week 3. Coming off the bench to take over for injured Jacob Diaz (ankle) on the sixth play of the opening series in last Saturday’s 42-20 win over then, No. 22 Midland, Cagle passed for 207 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for a 25-yard touchdown.
“(Cagle) really has affected us,” said Briar Cliff Coach Dennis Wagner. “He was here all last spring where he established himself. Our players believe in him because he believes in the system. He’s confident. He can beat you on plays with his legs. He’s also a throwing quarterback. It makes you wonder where we would have been in the six games he didn’t play.”
True. Cagle had passed for 605 yards and seven touchdowns for a team that jumped off to the program’s first-ever 3-0 start, which included a 49-20 win on the road over then, No. 25 Dakota State.
Last Saturday in the rain at Memorial Field, Cagle guided the Chargers to touchdown drives on four of five series in a stretch that began in the second quarter when he threw touchdown passes of seven and 32 yards in the second quarter to tight end Tyler French. Best of all, en route to the win which gave the program its first-ever winning season, Wagner’s squad limited themselves to just one turnover and it didn’t come until five minutes left in the game and Midland didn’t take advantage of it.
“Cagle at quarterback is a big difference,” said Northwestern Coach Matt McCarty. “He boosts the confidence of their offense. They have not lost when he has played. He takes care of the football. He distributes it to their playmakers. He brings a lot of confidence to their offense. It will be a challenge to slow them down.”
Elijah Brown is Briar Cliff’s top receiver with 34 catches for 685 yards and 10 touchdowns. Khamren Davenport (24 catches, 418 yards, 2 TDs) and Logann Freeman (22, 458, 5) are also among the top targets for an offense that features Ylagan, whose back-to-back 197 and 150-yard rushing performances have given him 1,006 yards.
Kooima has an 18-3 record as Northwestern’s starting quarterback and hopes to start his third playoff game when NAIA pairings are announced Sunday.
Coming off a 336-yard showing in last Saturday’s 42-28 win over Concordia, Kooima has thrown for 2,433 yards and 19 touchdowns. The 6-foot, 201-pound former Western Christian High School star has passed for more than 300 yards in three of his last four games.
Second in the GPAC in both passing offense (270.3 ypg) and total offense (320.1 ypg), Kooima has also rushed for 448 yards and nine touchdowns. He also has the league’s best rusher on his side in Kalogonis (1,093 yards, 16 TDs) and the second-leading receiver in Shane Solberg (66 catches, 1,150 yards, 9 TDs).
“Northwestern has a quarterback who throws and runs the ball,” said Wagner. “There are similarities with both quarterbacks. It’s more than each team stopping the tailback. The quarterbacks will have something say about that and the receivers will have something to say about that. It’s no different than any other game. You can’t just stop one guy.”