SIOUX CITY | Adversity wasn’t something Briar Cliff faced in its first two football games of season.
Hastings had rallied from double-digit deficits while winning its first two contests and pulled within 20-14 when quarterback Clark Livingston threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Johnson with 8:35 left in Saturday afternoon's game Great Plains Athletic Conference game at Memorial Field.
Two minutes later, reserve quarterback Cole Hanafan fired his third touchdown pass of the game, a 40-yarder to Kwame Johnson. Their defensive teammates stopped Hastings’ ensuing 19-play drive and the Chargers held on for a 26-14 triumph.
“Today was a tough one, so we had to fight through a lot of adversity,” said Briar Cliff running back Noah Ylagan, part of a program that’s 3-0 for the first time ever and 1-0 in the GPAC heading into next Saturday’s “Battle For The Saddle” game at Morningside (3-0, 1-0).
“We had 4 (Cagle) out, but we had a young buck Cole step in and play a hell of a game. It took fighting through adversity. It took dealing with things that don’t go your way. There was definitely a lot of adversity out there.”
Cagle had thrown his seventh touchdown pass of the season, a 41-yarder to Elijah Brown with 6:07 remaining in the first quarter. However, Hanafan, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound freshman from Elkhorn, Nebraska, came in when Cagle suffered what Briar Cliff Coach Dennis Wagner called “a strain or a sprain” to his left arm on the next series.
Hanifan guided the Chargers to two straight second-quarter touchdowns, setting up his 7-yard TD pass to Brown with a 27-yard gallop to Hastings’ 23-yard line. His 68-yard scoring bomb to Logann Freeman made it a 20-0 advantage for a team that had a 238-51 total yards advantage at halftime.
However, Briar Cliff had three straight three-and-outs on offense to begin the second half. A defense that had forced four three-and-outs in five Hastings possessions from the second quarter to early in the third, started to wear down in the second half.
“I think our defense played really well, but they were on the field too much today,” said Wagner. “I think we got tired and gave up a couple of touchdowns, so we had to use timeouts to catch our breath. Offensively, we couldn’t establish a rhythm. Then, having Brad go out and Cole coming in was a little transition.
“Cole did a fine job when he was in there. We give him a lot of reps in practice and he’s had a lot of reps in fall camp. He’s a confident guy, that’s why we brought him here. We told him he had to be prepared all season long. He had no question in his mind he was going to succeed.”
Hanafan, who completed 9 of 17 passes for 172 yards, credited seniors such as Ylagan (113 yards total offense) and Johnson (94 total yards) for the victory. Senior offensive linemen Nelson Brockwell, Michael McGuire and Kenny Trezvant helped Johnson to a 33-yard gain on the first play of series that followed Jordan Johnson’s touchdown catch that had pulled Hastings (2-1, 0-1) within six points.
Sacked for a 5-yard loss, Hanafan followed with a 17-yard completion to Khamren Davenport, then fired the 40-yard touchdown pass that put the Chargers back up by double digits.
“I had my team support and I felt we really pushed together as a program,” said Hanafan. “As one unit, that’s what helped us win the game today. Our coaches do a really good job of preparing us for any sort of situation.”
Briar Cliff’s defense, paced by Markel Roby and Peyton Bailey’s seven tackles, limited Hastings running back Tahj Willingham to 35 yards after he had 269 yards in the first two games. Bailey said he felt the Chargers held their own against Hastings quarterback Clark Livingston (233 yards passing), the director of the triple-option offense.
Following Johnson’s touchdown catch, Livingston guided the Broncos to a 19-play drive that ate up four minutes. Livingston had a 20-yard rush on the series and three plays after he was sacked by Omar Dyles (5 tackles, 2 sacks), Livingston converted a fourth down as he threw a 16-yard pass to Anthony Martinez to the Chargers’ 19.
Three plays later, Bailey held Martinez to a 6-yard gain. However, on fourth down, LaDarrien Bowman deflected a pass headed to Martinez. Ylagan milked the final game's final 2 1/2 minutes with runs that totaled 21 yards.
“Being 3-0 means everything to me now, honestly, because we’ve been working our tail off all summer long, all season,” said Bailey. “We’ve been preparing really well. As of today, everything started to click and we started to feel how good we can actually be. I feel like we’re coming together.”