In a game where time was slipping away fast, Hastings College found a way to make it stand still, coming from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to score what head coach Matt Franzen called “the most improbable win” of his coaching career: a 37-31 overtime road win over Peru State Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve been part of some big comebacks, but they happened over a little bigger stretch of time than the last four minutes of the game,” Franzen said. “Down 31-14 midway through the fourth quarter, we felt like time was running out on us, and we weren’t doing much on offense at that point. Then things just suddenly flipped.”
A pair of onside kick recoveries and field goal turned what looked like a pending loss into one of the most memorable and unlikely come-from-behind wins in school history.
Junior quarterback Eli Nappe and senior running back Brett Simonsen put the finishing touches on the victory with runs of 23 and two yards, respectively, to seal the turn-around win for the Broncos, making Franzen’s first game coaching against the Bobcats a win for the ages.
The backfield duo utilized the option run to perfection to complement HC’s pass-heavy attack, with Simonsen scoring three touchdowns on 27 carries for 83 yards to give Peru State’s defense more to think about than the Broncos’ aerial antics.
Nappe completed 15 of 33 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, connecting twice for TDs with junior receiver Ethan Wilborn, who logged three catches for 89 yards. Nappe ran 12 times for 61 yards, most of them coming on the much-used quarterback option, a weapon Franzen said he plans to utilize far more than he did last season with quarterback John Zamora.
“We felt good about Eli,” Franzen said. “He did some really good things in the first half. In the third quarter, he missed a few things that I think being in his first varsity start at quarterback were probably to be expected to a degree.
“The best thing was how he finished the game. He really led the offense with those late scores and made the throws he needed to successfully. It was neat to see so much of it go right through his hands. His leadership role was huge for us.”
Both Simonsen and Wilborn recovered onside kicks on special teams in the final four minutes of regulation play, exhibiting a versatility that seemed to became contagious in the final minutes of the game, Franzen said.
“We had some guys really step up and make plays, doing things that aren’t their natural role,” he said. “In that scenario late in the game, we put the guys in who could go win a game in desperation time. A lot of guys stepped up and were part of something pretty special.”
Senior defensive lineman Laython Shaw was dominant in his efforts to slow the Bobcats’ highly potent offense, registering 10 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks. His efforts drew comparisons from Franzen to Peru State’s senior All-American standout Devin Adams, who made the Bronco offense work for its successes with one sack and three tackles.
“We talked about how well Adams played against us and how disruptive he was, well Laython really gave that right back,” Franzen said. “He had a tremendous game.”
Sophomores defensive back Marcus Dustin and linebacker Jayden Roberts topped HC defenders with 13 and nine tackles each for the winners.
The Broncos’ bend-but-don’t-break defense yielded 381 total yards on the day — a virtual push to Hastings 370 total yards on offense — and showed significant improvement as the game progressed, Franzen said. It was the defense’s four-down shutdown of Peru State’s offense in overtime that set the table for HC’s dramatic finish.
“Defensively, it was a matter of some of our young players getting out there, seeing some things in the first half, and getting their game feet underneath them down the stretch,” Franzen said. “I was excited seeing our young defensive players learning under fire. To finish the game like those guys did is exciting for us moving forward.”
Junior kicker Casper Feijen was four-for-four on PAT kicks and one-for-two with a 25-yard field goal in his Bronco debut.
Hastings (1-0) travels to face Dakota Wesleyan (1-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Tigers bested Dakota State 23-13 in their opening game Saturday.
“What this win brings is some nice momentum at the beginning of the year,” Franzen said. “From a confidence standpoint, it was a really big win. It will have us in a very good place.”
Source : Hasting Tribune