After trailing 14-6 in the second half, the Briar Cliff football team stormed back with 17 unanswered points to defeat Concordia 23-14 Saturday at Memorial Field.
The Chargers recorded a program-record eight sacks, three coming from Omar Dyles, and rushed for 313 yards as a team in the victory.
“It showed a lot of character from my football team,” said head coach Dennis Wagner. “We faced a lot of adversity and guys played hard and never gave up.”
Things started great for Briar Cliff, as the offense started the game with the ball and drove 75 yards on four plays for the game’s opening score with Kwame Johnson punching it in from six yards out. The Chargers missed the extra point and led 6-0 less than two minutes in. The drive was jump started by a 53-yard carry from Johnson on the first play from scrimmage.
Johnson was a force all game long, finishing with 182 yards on 23 carries. Noah Ylagan had a big day as well for the Blue and Gold, tallying 94 yards on 17 carries.
Early in the second quarter the Cliff looked to go up two scores, but a Ylagan 27-yard field goal try went wide right. The offense would get another shot at scoring midway through the period, but a fumble was recovered by Concordia just outside the red zone.
The Bulldogs came in to the contest with a +8 turnover margin, having a lot of success capitalizing on other’s mistakes. This proved true to form as Concordia’s offense got an 83-yard touchdown run from Ryan Durdon after a five yard penalty and the Bulldogs would go up 7-6. Durdon finished the game with 87 yards on the ground, 18 yards short of his season average.
Concordia stretched its lead to 14-6 early in the second half after another BC turnover. The Chargers fumbled the ball on their second play from scrimmage in the second half and the Bulldogs drove 46 yards down the field on nine plays, including a fourth-down conversion, and capped the drive off with a 10-yard pass from wide receiver Arthur Anderson to quarterback Andrew Perea on a trick play.
“That really sparked them,” Wagner said. “It was important that we get big plays to turn momentum for us.”
The Chargers responded immediately with big plays as Rashad Brown returned the following kickoff 47 yards to cross midfield for the BC offense. Then, on a third-and-five play from the Concordia 33 Jacob Diaz floated a pass down the right sideline where Logann Freeman hauled it in over a defender for a score. Ylagan booted the PAT through the uprights to get the Blue and Gold within one point.
A three-and-out followed for Concordia’s offense and the momentum continued for BC with an eight-play, 77-yard drive finalized with a 26-yard pass from Diaz to Elijah Brown to give BC the lead at 19-14. Diaz would run in a two-point try to put the Chargers up seven points with 2:03 to play in the third quarter.
The Cliff defense stood tall again, giving the offense a chance to extend its lead to multiple possessions early in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, another BC fumble stalled a drive. This time on a goal-to-go try that Concordia recovered the loose ball and started its drive at the Bulldogs one yard line.
Concordia was unable to capitalize this time around on the turnover and continued to be stymied by the Charger defense. Perea was sacked five times in the final stanza, including a safety in the final moments of the contest to seal the BC victory. Perea was also intercepted in the fourth quarter on his team’s previous drive by Markel Roby. The interception was the first thrown by Perea this season and the first turnover by Concordia since week one, snapping a four-game streak of protecting the ball by the Bulldogs.
Perea, filling in for the second consecutive game for injured quarterback Jake Kemp, finished 15-of-32 passing for 112 yards. Diaz, another backup thrown into the role of starter, was 12-of-23 passing for Briar Cliff for 163 yards and two touchdowns.
Diaz was not sacked at all in the game, while Perea was dealing with defenders all game long. Omar Dyles tied a BC record with three individual sacks and recorded 4.5 tackles for loss. He and Patrick Gassant Jr. led the team with eight tackles. Lane Napier from Concordia led all players with 21 tackles (7 solo, 14 assisted) on the day.
Briar Cliff outgained Concordia 476-207 in the game. The Cliff’s biggest margin was in the rushing attack, outgaining the Bulldogs 313-85. BC had 18 first downs to Concordia’s 12 and BC had a distinct advantage on third downs, converting on 7-of-17 tries compared to CU’s 3-of-14. Briar Cliff was flagged 11 times for 89 penalty yards. Concordia committed 13 fouls for 125 yards.
The loss evened up Concordia’s record to 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the GPAC. Briar Cliff tied a program record with its fifth win of the season, moving to 5-2 overall and 3-2 in conference play. The Chargers are tied for third place in the league standings with Midland and Dordt. Briar Cliff travels next week to take on Doane (3-3, 2-3 GPAC) at 1 p.m. in Crete, Neb.