The Hancock football program is ranked as the No. 1 9-man team in the state through the QRF on Minnesota-scores.net, and the Owls played like it on Wednesday at Brandon.

Hancock, 8-0 and ranked fifth in the Associated Press polls, went in front of a big crowd with a district title and top seed in the Section 4 playoffs on the line and won against the fifth-ranked Chargers (7-1). After Brandon-Evansville scored on its first possession, the Owls did not let the Chargers touch the end zone again in a 16-6 final.

“They’re very athletic,” B-E head coach Tim Pattrin said of the Owls. “They use their skill positions in very good ways. They have some deficiencies, but they’re able to cover it up really well with speed. We need to do a better job of getting off blocks. We need to be able to sustain our blocks better. Just things we need to learn from to get ready for whoever we see next.”

One of the biggest plays in the game came right away in the second half after the Chargers tried an onside kick to start the third quarter. Hancock recovered the ball. Two plays later, junior quarterback Preston Rohloff hit sophomore Luke Joos with a perfectly-placed pass for a 49-yard score. It made for 16 unanswered points for the Owls and a 10-point lead they never gave back.

Hancock quarterback Preston Rohloff breaks free toward the sideline after getting away from the rush on Wednesday night. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
Hancock quarterback Preston Rohloff breaks free toward the sideline after getting away from the rush on Wednesday night. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“Obviously, we want to win the game. It’s our home field, and we don’t like losing at home,” B-E senior quarterback Keagan Schiele said. “We know we didn’t play our best. We can play better, so it’s just do or die now. We got to just play our game (going forward).”

Schiele said it was hard to pinpoint one or two things specifically as to why the offense slowed after a fast start. The Chargers marched methodically down the field on their opening possession and scored on a 17-yard Marshall Riedel run. The score stood at 6-0 through almost two quarters, but the Owls finally took advantage of a drive late in the half.

Hancock’s offense had stalled twice inside the red zone early. Then facing another empty possession, Rohloff found Joos for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal. Rohloff again connected with Daniel Milander for the two-point conversion to take the 8-6 lead into the half.

Rohloff threw for 129 yards on 10-of-21 passing. Tyler Timmerman was a workhorse for the Owls on the ground with 33 carries and 167 yards.

“They got speed, and we had a hard time catching up to their speed on their blocking,” Pattrin said. “They gang tackle defensively. We just have to learn from that, be able to adjust to that and be better next time.”

Brandon-Evansville’s offense, which had averaged more than 40 points-per game, had a couple chances to strike for big plays against an Owls team that allows just 9.6 points per game.

Brandon-Evansville senior quarterback Keagan Schiele runs toward the sideline as he scrambles against the Owls on Wednesday night. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
Brandon-Evansville senior quarterback Keagan Schiele runs toward the sideline as he scrambles against the Owls on Wednesday night. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

Schiele threw two perfect deep balls to Riedel. The first one went for a 48-yard reception, but then a fumble that Hanock recovered after a strip on the run-after-catch. A second deep ball was dropped along the right sideline in the third quarter on a ball that might have been a touchdown had it been hauled in cleanly.

“That would have been huge,” Pattrin said. “We had some big plays that we just didn’t convert. That’s what happens during the game. Give them all the credit. We just weren’t able to convert, and they were.”

Pattrin’s message to his team was very clear after this one. The Chargers have no time to dwell on things. They need to learn from it before turning around and hosting a playoff game on Tuesday.

“It’s the end of the regular season. It is what it is,” Pattrin said of the loss. “We’ve had a heck of a season and now we’re going into playoffs. We’ll learn from it, just like we have from every loss we’ve ever had. You learn from it and get better from it. They exposed some things we need to fix, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

The Chargers went from being the top seed if they could have beaten Hancock to being in a fight for the second seed in the Section 4, 9-man playoffs. Both Brandon-Evansville and Verndale finished the season at 7-1 with their only losses coming to the Owls.

Hancock has a lock on that No. 1 seed in the section, and the Pirates and Chargers will wait to see on Thursday where they get placed.

“We just need to come to practice every day wanting to get better,” Schiele said. “It’s getting better and then just playing our game, playing our brand of football and advancing.”

The loss to the Owls means a tougher road through the section playoffs. The Chargers vowed to be ready for that once the quarterfinals start on Oct. 22.

“It’s back to the grind,” Pattrin said. “Our saying at the beginning of the year was, ‘Earn, not given.’ We got to earn what we want. This is just a little bump in the road, and we’ll earn it.”

HANCOCK 0 8 8 0 - 16

B-E 6 0 0 0 - 6

SCORING - FIRST QUARTER - B-E - Marshall Riedel 17-yard run; Conversion no good

SECOND QUARTER - Hancock - Preston Rohloff 2-yard pass to Luke Joos; Rohloff 2-point conversion pass to Daniel Milander

THIRD QUARTER - Hancock - Rohloff 49-yard touchdown pass to Joos; Tyler Timmerman 2-point conversion run

FOURTH QUARTER - No scoring

TOTALS - Hancock - Offense - 65-341; Passing - 10-21, 129; Rushing - 44-212; Turnovers - 1; First downs - 15; Time of possession - 26:55; B-E - Offense - 51-258; Passing - 3-12, 61 yards; Rushing - 39-197; Turnovers - 1; First downs - 9; Time of possession - 20:35

B-E OFFENSE - Passing - Keagan Schiele - 3-12, 61 yards; Rushing - Marshall Riedel - 22-121, TD; Cade Carlson - 12-45; Schiele - 3-20; Tanner Bitzan - 2-11; Receiving - Riedel - 1-48; Andrew Perrin - 1-13; Tanner Bitzan - 1-0

B-E DEFENSE - Mike Cochran - 10 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL; Schiele - 5 tackles; Riedel - 4.5 tackles; Tanner Bitzan - 4.5 tackles, 1 TFL; Nathan Baumann - 4 tackles; Kyle Schaffran - 4 tackles; Cade Carlson - 3.5 tackles; Andrew Johnson - 3 tackles; Tyler Bitzan - 2.5 tackles; Hunter Koep - 2.5 tackles; Andrew Perrin - 2.5 tackles; Tony Schaffran - 1 tackle