Defense and special teams key as Concordia tops Briar Cliff, 30-26
Concordia University used big plays from its defense and special teams to help secure an exciting 30-26 GPAC football win over Briar Cliff on Saturday afternoon in Seward. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Bulldogs, now 3-4 overall and 2-4 in GPAC play. Briar Cliff moved to 2-5 overall and 1-5 in league play with the loss.
Concordia put together an impressive drive to take an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The Bulldogs marched 73 yards in 11 plays, and quarterback Cohl Tufford’s six-yard touchdown run put the Bulldogs on top.
Briar Cliff came right back with a big play to tie the game. The visiting Chargers struck quickly with a two-play scoring drive. Drew Prohaska broke a 78-yard touchdown run to knot the score at 7-7.
Ben Klein and Austin Freudenberg came up with a big play for the Concordia special teams unit to reclaim the lead for the Bulldogs. Klein blocked a punt, and Freudenberg recovered the blocked kick for a score. The Bulldogs held a 14-7 lead after the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Concordia extended its lead. Freshman Derek Blessing broke a 24-yard touchdown run to increase the Bulldog lead to 14 at 21-7. It was the first rushing touchdown of the year for Blessing.
With just over four minutes remaining in the first half, Briar Cliff cut into the lead. Quarterback Lehi Tonga connected with Zack Kliment on a 31-yard touchdown strike. The extra point attempt was blocked, and Concordia took a 21-13 lead into the halftime break. The failed extra point attempt would prove costly for the Chargers.
The Concordia defense came up big early in the second half. Briar Cliff was on the move, but Heath Broekemeier picked off a Lehi Tonga pass and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown. Kenny Zoeller’s extra point was good, and the Bulldogs grabbed a 28-13 lead.
Later in the third quarter, Briar Cliff again cut into the lead with a two-yard touchdown run by Stavhn Leavy. The extra point cut the Bulldog lead to eight at 28-20.
The score remained the same until late in the fourth quarter. Kliment caught his second touchdown pass of the game, this time from nine yards out, and the Chargers climbed within two at 28-26 with just over four minutes remaining in the game. Because of the blocked extra point earlier in the game, the Chargers were forced to go for two to attempt to tie the game. Tonga’s pass was intercepted by Broekemeier, who returned it the other way to give Concordia the two points for a 30-26 lead.
The Concordia defense held down the stretch, and the Bulldogs secured the win.
Concordia finished with 250 yards of total offense for the day (196 rushing, 54 passing). Briar Cliff totaled 272 yards of total offense (214 passing, 58 rushing). Briar Cliff had five turnovers, and Concordia turned it over three times. The Bulldogs had 17 first downs compared to 11 for the Chargers.
Tufford completed 8-of-15 passes for 54 yards and rushed for 81 yards on 28 carries with a touchdown for the Bulldogs. Tonga was 17-of-35 through the air for 214 yards with two touchdowns and three picks for the Chargers.
Broekemeier had a team-high six tackles to go along with his interceptions for the Bulldogs defensively. Jerrod Fleming added four tackles (including two tackles for loss) for Concordia. Preston Harris added two interceptions, and Klein also added a pick for a Bulldog defense that created five turnovers on the day. Adnan Kasapovic had a game-high nine tackles for Briar Cliff.
Concordia visits Morningside College next Saturday at 1 pm.