Photo description: Junior Austin Jablonski jumps up for a catch
Photo credit: Josiah Seabaugh
The Concordia Bulldogs improved to 2-3 on the season Saturday night in Seward with a 35-23 win over the Briar Cliff Chargers, with strong trench play on both sides and hanging onto a slim lead in the fourth quarter.
The Concordia Bulldogs played their first night game in three seasons, playing with a loud and packed crowd under the new stadium light shows. Just one week ago, the Bulldogs suffered a heartbreaking homecoming loss to Dakota Wesleyan, pushing them to 1-3 on the year. In a season-defining game the Bulldogs came out aggressive. On the opening possession, the Bulldogs forced the Chargers to punt early, then blocked the punt.
Coach Daberkow liked that the Bulldogs displayed some grit by finishing the Chargers on the night in a Great Plains Athletic Conference matchup.
“We got to absorb every lesson you can out of every game, and we had some opportunities to bust this game open, but Briar Cliff played really well and capitalized on our mistakes,” Daberkow said. “That’s life in the GPAC; a win is a win, and we aren’t going to apologize for it. I love this team and my job and community that surrounds me and it’s just so much fun to see them celebrate with each other.”
Both teams struggled with special teams on the night, with a punt block on each side and the Chargers bringing theirs to the endzone. That score made the game 21-16 with 14:52 left in the fourth quarter. The offensive struggles reared their head at points in the game along with the special teams.
The Bulldogs put up 21 points by halftime with an eight-yard rush at 6:06 in the second quarter. The team’s next score did not come until the 4:56 mark in the fourth quarter when junior D.J. McGarvie hit senior Carson Arline for a 68-yard touchdown. McGarvie finished the game with 229 yards passing, Arline led receivers with five catches for 95 yards, while senior Devin Zeigler added 87 yards and two touchdowns on the night. The run game was key and emphasis for the Bulldogs according to lineman junior Tyler Walford.
“We take pride in running the rock. That’s one of the things that we preach to all our guys. We are going to put the game on our shoulders,” Walford explained.
Junior Austin Jablonski is ranked second in the GPAC in receiving yards per game, but his legs were key in the final minutes. Concordia used Jablonski in the wildcat to close out the game, resulting in a 75- yard touchdown to shut the door on the night. The formation is primarily a changeup for the team, giving the team a unique look.
“It’s always nice to get back into the win column; obviously it was a few tough ones back-to-back. We are really happy to see the result and we want to keep it going,” Jablonski said. “It’s really just a nice switch up for us to use as an offense and catch the defense off guard. We know that it’s going to be hard yards. We just want to execute and do our thing,”
The defense played a good game overall, minus a few miscues. The Bulldogs forced a few three and outs before allowing an 80-yard touchdown screen in the first to make the score 7-14. The defense also had six penalties for 75 yards, including three hard hits on Charger quarterback junior Gavin Dobson. Dobson had to leave the game after one of the hits in the second half.
Sophomore Daylan Henson intercepted a pass in the first half, leading to points for the offense. The Bulldogs held the Chargers to an impressive 40 yards on the ground and 284 yards total on the night. Senior Michael Grindey led the team with 15 tackles and sophomore Carson Fehlhafer added 10 tackles, including the team’s lone sack and three tackles for loss. Felhafer switched to the defensive line this season after being an offensive lineman and is enjoying a good sophomore campaign.
“I think just getting back into the rhythm with knowing the defense and just trying to do my best. I’m just focused on that while doing my best and playing my game perfectly and doing my job right,” Felhlafer said. “We knew we had to finish the game. We had to put it on our backs and make plays that we needed to make, and not let Briar Cliff score at the end.”
The Bulldogs (2-3, 2-3 GPAC) will prepare to play Morningside (5-0 4-0) in Sioux City, Iowa, in what will be a tough matchup that the Bulldogs must play up to keep the season alive and build some momentum into the second half.