HASTINGS, Neb. – Color the state of Nebraska in Bulldog Blue. The Concordia University Football team completed a sweep of GPAC in-state rivals on Saturday (Nov. 13) in a contest characterized by another stout defensive performance. Lane Napier and the Bulldogs allowed only 233 total yards while smothering Hastings, 17-7, on a chilly, misty day in Hastings. Jonah Weyand and Art Anderson found the end zone for the victors.
Head Coach Patrick Daberkow’s squad will head into the offseason with plenty of momentum thanks to an active six-game win streak. Concordia finishes at 7-3 (tied for third in the GPAC) and has beaten Doane, Hastings and Midland in the same season for the first time since 1970.
“It’s a cool thing to sweep the state,” Daberkow said. “Ultimately, that’s a byproduct of some bigger goals that we have that we hope to achieve down the road. I think this senior class really helped push us to get closer to that, but sweeping the state is fun. We have big goals in mind for this program and hopefully we can build on sweeping the state and do more in the conference.”
The Bulldogs have no problem slugging it out in cold weather games. Led by Napier and his team high 13 tackles, the Concordia defense punished the Bronco offense. Star running back Tyree Nesmith was limited to just 45 yards on 17 carries and corner Carson Core and linebacker Jorge Ochoa came away with an interception apiece. In addition, Linebacker Caydren Cox added to his sack total (8.5 this season) as part of a stellar campaign, Logan Kreizel broke up two passes and Devon Polley notched a sack of his own.
It was a slow start for the Concordia offense, but it finally got something going early in the second quarter with a nine-play, 63-yard drive that was capped by Weyand’s four-yard touchdown rush. On the ensuing scoring drives, Daniel Cantu converted a 24-yard field goal (nine-play, 49-yard drive) and Art Anderson crossed the goal line on a seven-yard strike from DJ McGarvie (six-play, 56-yard drive). The latter touchdown came with 13:56 left in the fourth quarter and essentially put the game away (the Bulldogs led 17-0).
Napier and his defensive teammates were not going to allow Hastings to score three times. Said Napier, “I think it showed what a lot of us seniors have put into this program. We haven’t had a record like this in a while. The last couple years have been kind of down. It shows that when you put the work in, you can be one of the top teams.”
There wasn’t anything particularly pretty about Saturday’s game, but it was an embodiment of what it means to play defense at Concordia. The pooch punting of Korrell Koehlmoos (four of eight punts downed inside the 20) consistently put the Broncos (2-8) in tough positions offensively. There was no consistency in either the pass or run game of Hastings. A large chunk of its offense came on its one scoring drive – 79 yards on 10 plays. But it was too little, too late.
During the six-game win streak, the Bulldogs held each of their foes to 17 points or less. Four of those opponents failed to put more than seven points on the board. Said Daberkow of the latest defensive effort, “It was phenomenal how they pinned them down when they needed to. The one drive Hastings had I thought we had some things happen that were atypical for us. We always focus on what we can control and have a ‘put the ball down’ mentality. We said as a coaching staff in pregame when it was raining, we’re going to win this game on field position. That was the gameplan going in and I was proud of how the guys executed it.”
McGarvie finished a solid true freshman season going 18-for-39 for 182 yards and a touchdown at Hastings. Cayden Beran caught six passes for 77 yards while Art Anderson made eight grabs for 63 yards and a score. Both Beran and Koehlmoos have moved into the top five of the program’s career receptions list. In the run game, Weyand churned out 128 tough yards on 33 carries. It marked his second 100-yard rushing game in a row.
Napier completes his career an eye-popping 535 tackles. His 13 tackles on Saturday moved his 2021 season total to 124 stops, a number that should make him a virtual lock to be named First Team All-GPAC for a fifth-straight year. Why did he come back for a fifth season? “Winning and being with the guys,” Napier said. “That’s been the major thing. We’re always doing stuff together. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.”
The 7-3 record isn’t likely to lead to a playoff berth for the Bulldogs, who did not receive votes in this week’s NAIA coaches’ poll. However, it signals the program’s best record since 2016 and marks the 18th time Concordia Football has won at least seven games in a single season.