Chargers relying on all three phases of the game

September 17, 2018

SIOUX CITY | Cole Hanafan relied upon his teammates on all sides for Briar Cliff to pull out Saturday afternoon’s victory.

Hanafan took over when quarterback Brad Cagle went down with an arm injury late in the first quarter. During his longest stint of the season, he threw touchdown passes to three different teammates and quickly credited Coach Dennis Wagner’s entire squad for the 26-14 Great Plains Athletic Conference triumph over Hastings.

After all, that’s what leaders do. Hanafan patiently waited on the sidelines for his turn while the defense did its job and while the special teams units set up the offense for proper field position.

“I had my team support,” said Hanafan. “We really pushed together as a program. As one unit, I believe that’s what helped us win this game. I believe we rely on each other, offense, defense and special teams. No matter what the occasion is, I believe we grind together.”

True. It was another outstanding first half for Briar Cliff, 3-0 for the first time in the program’s 15-year history.

The defense limited Hastings to 51 yards total offense in the first half. Meanwhile, Hanafan guided the offense to touchdowns on two straight second-quarter possessions, throwing scoring passes to Elijah Brown and Logann Freeman.

Linebacker Peyton Bailey, who along with strong safety Markel Roby recorded seven tackles, credited the offense for their play. Hanafan’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Kwame Johnson with 6:25 remaining in the game fueled the fire for a defense which got a key stop from strong safety LaDarrien Bowman on a pass play inside the 10-yard line with 2:30 left.

“What it took was everybody understanding exactly what they had to do,” said Bailey. “Everyone had to calm their nerves and everyone had to focus on their job. Another contribution was the offense starting to roll and starting to get their momentum back and helping us push forward in ourselves.”

Wagner’s squad, which ended a four-game losing streak in the series against Hastings, has won each of its two games at Memorial Field.

Better yet, the program is riding the momentum of opening the GPAC season with a triumph for the first time since defeating Dana 23-0 on Sept. 5, 2009. Wagner promises that his team, which has averaged 38.3 points offensively, while also recording two defensive touchdowns and a special teams touchdown this season, will spend the week correcting mistakes made Saturday.

Should Hanafan have to start this Saturday’s “Battle of the Saddle Game” at Morningside (3-0, 1-0 GPAC), he’ll get more reps for a unit that committed two turnovers (1 interception, 1 fumble recovery) and sputtered in the second half. The defense, in preventing Hastings from a third come-from-behind victory, spent a lot of time on the field.

Wagner has a special term for the way the offense, defense and special teams units work together.

“We call it ‘wefense’,” he said. “Offense, defense, special teams, it takes all three. It’s we. We all have to do our jobs. Overall, it’s a victory. We have to learn from our mistakes in this game.”

“I feel it’s pretty much like a yin and yang type thing,” said Bailey. “We all co-exist. We all feed off each other the whole time. Whenever we’re doing good, they start to pick it up. Whey they pick it up, we know we have to pick it up even more.”

Wagner said every win is important to the program. The veteran coach is thrilled with the team’s record, but also puts it into perspective.

“I told the kids before the season started, all that matters is the week we’re in,” said Wagner. “Like I told them, nobody promises you tomorrow, so what are you going to do today? That’s really how we have to look at the season.

“We have to do what we can to make a difference on a Saturday and when that one’s done, win or lose, we move to the next one. Our kids have done a good job of focusing. But we still have a lot of football to play. We’ve got eight games left.”

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