FARGO, N.D. – With 19 seconds left in the game, Hancock's Daniel Milander caught a pass to end Brandon-Evansville's magical football season with heartbreak on Friday afternoon.
Hancock capped its game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes when quarterback Preston Rohloff rolled out to his left and found Milander near the pylon, giving Hancock (11-0) a 24-16 win in the Section 4 9-man championship game.
"(Milander) was telling us that he thought he could get open on that ou route," Hancock head coach Chad Christianson said. "I trusted him to go make that play and win us the ballgame."
The Chargers broke the ice with a 21-yard touchdown run by Kyle Schaffran on the first play of the second quarter to take their only lead of the game.
"Both of the Schaffran brothers work hard and have a great attitude," Brandon-Evansville head coach Tim Pattrin said. "Tony doesn't get a lot of the sexy plays, but he blocks well, and he makes a catch when he needs to. We saw an opening to run that play with Kyle. It was cool to see him score today."
The Owls answered on their next drive when Rohloff connected with Milander for a 39-yard touchdown pass. Rohloff had overthrown two previous deep balls but finally made the Chargers pay.
B-E had a chance to score late in the second half but turned the ball over on downs. With the game tied going into the break, Pattrin felt better about the way his team was playing this time around against the Owls.
"We didn't play very well when we saw them a few weeks ago," Pattrin said. "I think because we played better today, we had more chances to execute our game plan the way we wanted to. They're a fast team that has a lot of skill. We made some mistakes, but for the most part, I thought we played well with them."
There were five combined fumbles in the third quarter between the Owls and the Chargers. After B-E received the opening kickoff, senior running back Marshall Riedel was stripped at midfield. On Hancock's next possession, three ball-carries fumbled four times. All of them were recovered by Hancock except the last one. Tanner Bitzan stripped Rohloff while his brother, Tyler Bitzan, picked up the loose ball at the B-E 22-yard line.
"I think that was just our guys trying to do too much," Christianson said. It's a big moment, and everyone wants to do as much as they can to help this team. We didn't get any less confident in their ability to move the ball. We told them that they need to protect the football better if they want to win this game."
Early in the fourth quarter, the Owls took their first lead of the game. Rohloff connected with Brandon Kellenberger for a 12-yard touchdown pass. Timmerman punched in the two-point conversion to put Hancock up 16-8.
With time winding down, the Chargers showed some life. Senior quarterback Keagan Schiele led the offense into the red zone with under five minutes to play. On Fourth-and-four from the Hancock 15-yard line, Schiele fooled the defense and threw a screen pass to Riedel for a touchdown.
Needing less than three yards to keep the season alive with a two-point conversion, Pattrin put the ball in the hands of his quarterback again. Schiele rolled out to his right and found an open receiver in at the goal line to tie the game 16-16.
"I knew that Keagan could throw the ball. We just haven't had to do it much this year," Pattrin said. "I trust these guys when they come back to the sideline and say they notice something that could work. Before the play, (Hancock) took a timeout, and we talked it over. Turned out to be the right play to call."
Despite the Owl's game-winning drive, the Chargers had a few desperation attempts left in the final seconds of the game. After several heaves downfield, the clock had run out, and Hancock was crowned the section champion.
"It's hard to put into words what this feels like right now," Christianson said. "We are all so proud of what these kids have accomplished so far. This is such a great opportunity for this team and the people in our community, and we can't wait to get after it."
The Chargers are still looking for its first state tournament berth since the schools unified. After raising the bar, Pattrin believes this team elevated the program to a new level.
"There's not enough I could say about what these guys and these coaches have done for this team," he said. "The goal here is not only to make them better athletes and students but also better men. I am so proud of the way they competed every day this season. It was cool to see the community come together and support this group, and we thank them for that."
B-E 0 8 0 8 – 16
Hancock 0 8 0 16 – 24
B-E – Kyle Schaffran 21 run (Keagan Schiele run) 11:53.
H – Daniel Milander 39 pass from Preston Rohloff (Tyler Timmerman run) 6:22.
H – Brandon Kellenberger 12 pass from Rohloff (Timmerman run) 10:56.
B-E – Marshall Riedel 15 pass from Schiele (Schaffran pass from Schiele) 3:14.
H – Milander 5 pass from Rohloff (Timmerman run) 0:19.