SIOUX CITY – Fittingly, on a day when Briar Cliff set the school record for sacks in a game, the Chargers clinched the game with a sack in the end zone for a safety.
Briar Cliff recorded a school record eight sacks and the Chargers defeated Concordia for the first time in 12 years, winning 23-14 in a Great Plains Athletic Conference game at Memorial Field Saturday.
The win moves Briar Cliff to 3-2 in the GPAC and 5-2 overall this season. Briar Cliff’s five wins ties the school record from 2006 when the Chargers went 5-6.
“We feel great about where this season is going so far, but we’ve still got four games left,” said Briar Cliff coach Dennis Wagner. “We have an opportunity to win those games, but we’re the kind of team that we have to take it one game at a time.”
Nursing a 21-14 lead, Briar Cliff punted to give Concordia the ball at its own 9-yard line with 51 seconds left and no timeouts. After an incomplete pass, Elijah Brown sacked Concordia quarterback Andrew Perea on second down, then Marcus Tappen and Logan Knudson combined to sack Perea in the end zone for a safety to give the Chargers a 23-14 lead with just 36 seconds left.
“That was a big play for us,” said Wagner. “I thought our defensive line played well all day other than the one big run when we got out of position once. As far as sacks go, our guys got great pressure. Those guys put pressure on the quarterback and it rattled Concordia.”
Omar Dyles had 5.5 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in the game for Briar Cliff. Dyles’ three sacks ties Josh Schaffert’s school record from 2006 against Northwestern.
Not to be outdone by the defense, Kwame Johnson rushed for 182 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries. On the first play of the game, Johnson ran for 52 yards to the Concordia 22, then later scored on a 6-yard run to end the drive.
Noah Ylagan ran for 94 yards on 17 carries for Briar Cliff and the Chargers outgained Concordia 332-85.
“We’ve been fortunate to have the backfield we have,” said Wagner. “It’s hard to get all three guys reps. Adonte Maxie is a good back and hasn’t had a chance to carry it as much. Noah and Kwame have been workhorses for us today. It was Kwame’s turn. Those guys are unselfish. They don’t care who’s getting the ball, just to help us win.”
Concordia (3-3, 2-3) took a 7-6 lead after Ryan Durdon scored on an 83-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs extended their lead to 14-6 on a trick play that saw receiver Arthur Anderson throw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Perea to take a 14-6 lead with 9:52 left in the third.
But the Chargers responded on the ensuing drive. On third-and-5, Jacob Diaz threw a jump ball into the end zone and receiver Logann Freeman came down with it for a 33-yard touchdown reception, trimming the Concordia lead to 14-13 with 7:42 left in the third.
After a Concordia three-and-out, Briar Cliff faced a third-and-10 from the Concordia 26. Diaz threw another jump ball into the end zone, this time to Elijah Brown, for a 26-yard touchdown. The Chargers went for two and converted on a Diaz run, giving Briar Cliff a 21-14 lead with 2:03 left in the third.
“We’ve got good athletes out at wideout,” said Wagner. “Jacob did a good job of getting it in the area. We knew that we were bigger than they were to go up and get the ball. It was great protection, he had time to throw it up there and those guys have made big plays for us all year.”
Concordia had five more offensive possessions and only moved the ball into Briar Cliff territory once. The Bulldogs had the ball at the Briar Cliff 49 with 3:30 left in the game, but Dyles sacked Perea for an 8-yard loss and then Markel Roby intercepted Perea on the next play to end the drive.
“It’s been an incredible ride so far, but like I just told the players there are four more games to go,” said Wagner. “We’ll just take it one week at a time.”
Briar Cliff outgained Concordia 430-207, with 83 of Concordia’s yards coming on Durdon’s long run.
“Offensively, (Concordia) had a big play and that’s what we were trying to take away,” said Wagner. “That really sparked them. I thought it was important that we got the two big pass plays in the second half to kind of turn the momentum for us.”
Briar Cliff’s last win over Concordia before Saturday was a 30-24 victory in 2006.
The Chargers play at Doane (3-3, 2-3) next week.
“Doane is a good football team," Wagner said. "All the teams in the GPAC are good football teams. Our job is to just enjoy this and thank God for the victory.”