Football: Chargers rolling into playoffs after seventh straight win
The Brandon-Evansville football team beat up on a winless Laporte program in Week Seven. Things figured to be a little tougher in the regular season finale at 5-2 Hancock, but this Chargers team is cruising right now on the way to a 7-1 record.
It was tied 8-8 after the first quarter, but Brandon-Evansville controlled things from there on out in a 50-28 win over the Owls (5-3).
The victory sets up the Chargers to take the second seed into the Section 4 9-Man playoffs. That bracket will be officially set on Oct. 19 by the QRF on Minnesota-scores.net, with undefeated Verndale likely getting the top seed.
"We're very open with (our players)," Brandon-Evansville head coach Tim Pattrin said. "They knew the situation. It was, 'You guys want this. Go take it.' They came out and they took it. A Brandon-Evansville team has never finished a season 7-1. We've had a couple of six-win seasons and these guys really wanted that 7-1."
The Chargers withstood an early punch and took control in the second quarter. Jake Hintermeister gave them a lead they never relinquished as he struck from seven yards out to make it 14-8. He added a 17-yarder in the fourth quarter to make it a 42-16 game.
"The guys on the line were physical and owned the line of scrimmage and Taylor (Bitzan) and Jake really ran well," Pattrin said. "Then (quarterback) Keagan (Schiele) ran the ball well and made some plays with his legs. Overall, the offense really wasn't stopping."
Darrin Wibstad caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Schiele to make it 22-8 after Schiele converted the two-point conversion before the break.
The Chargers continued to dominate in the second half. Schiele broke free for a 44-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, and it was 30-8 after the Hintermeister two-point conversion. Trey Bosek then caught a Schiele pass from 10 yards out to make it 36-8.
That was plenty of offense for a good Brandon-Evansville defense. Hancock came in averaging almost 37 points per game, and had a long touchdown run in the first quarter. They didn't score again until the fourth quarter with the game already out of reach.
"Early on, they got outside of us a couple times, but our defense prevented the score," Pattrin said. "We knew they would get a big play, but we had to make them work down the field. Our guys didn't stop working and that turned out huge for us to keep them off the board."
Brandon-Evansville has also scored more than 40 points in four straight games to add more intrigue to this winning streak.
Bitzan, a 1,000-yard rusher from a year ago, started the season by easing into things after an ACL tear during basketball last season. On Friday, he scored two touchdowns, including a 15-yard score that put the finishing touches on the win.
Nick Thorstad and Hintermeister paved the way for the run game behind a talented offensive line through much of the season. Now with Bitzan back in the mix, the Chargers have added another dimension to an already loaded backfield.
"Taylor is back to full go," Pattrin said. "This is the first night we really let him run and we had no reservations. It was just like having the old Taylor back. What it does is allow us to rotate Nick, Jake and Taylor and give them some breaks so they're not playing every single down."
That has this team playing with confidence heading into the playoffs on Oct 24. The Chargers have had good seasons in recent years, only to watch that end with a loss to Verndale.
If Brandon-Evansville meets the Pirates (8-0) again, it will come in the section title game. That's the goal for the Chargers as they set their sights on trying to reach the FargoDome on Nov. 3.
"It feels about a week and a half away," Pattrin said. "We're going to see teams we've already played. The guys will be confident. The first goal was 7-1 and then we wanted two home playoff games, which we lined ourselves up for if we take care of business on Tuesday. If things work out like the seeds are, it will be us and Verndale at the end to go to state, which would be fitting."