Concordia Cobbers Hold Off Gustavus Adolphus, 35-26
On Saturday the Concorida Cobbers rolled out to a 35-13 lead entering the fourth quarter, but the Gusties of Gustavus Adolphus were not done by any stretch of the imagination. They put up 13 in the fourth quarter, but still fell short, as the Cobbers finished off a 32-26 win to move to 8-2 on the season.
The two teams left the first quarter tied at seven. Gustavus Adolphus got on the board on their first possession of the game. Concordia had decided to go for it on fourth and one from their own 36 but Andrew Lonneman stuffed Alex McLean to turn the ball over on downs. Gusties Air Marshall Mitch Hendricks then made short work of the drive from there, hitting Matt Boyce with a 31-yard strike down to the Concordia five-yard line. Two plays later Hendricks found Boyce’s brother Gabe for the five-yard score and a 7-0 lead.
The Cobbers were being stymied by the Gusties defense on their first two drives, but on their third they finally got rolling. Conference MVP candidate Griffin Neal led his team on a 12-play, 96-yard drive that ended when Neal scored from one-yard out. The Cobbers quarterback carried the ball on the drive three times for 16-yards and was 4-6 passing for 54 more. From there the Cobbers offense took over.
Their next drive was a 6-play, 58-yard drive that was capped off by an 11-yard scoring strike from Neal to Brandon Zylstra. It was the second pass completion of the drive to the wide receiver, who also had a 23-yard catch.
Neal would lead the Cobbers on another scoring drive before the end of the half, but the Cobbers “Black Shirt” defense would create a touchdown of their own with a little over four minutes left in the half. Senior Christian Erickson would step in front of a Hendricks pass, picking it off and returning it 30-yards for the score. It was a great way to cap off the senior’s career at Concordia and staked his team to a 21-7 lead.
On the Gusties next possession Hendricks would be intercepted again, this time by Erik Bye, who returned it 25-yards to the GAC 15. Three plays later Neal took off on a quarterback keeper and scored from 11-yards out to increase the lead to 28-7. For Hendricks it was a nightmarish quarter that saw the Air Marshall picked off three times, and he was just 7-16 passing in the second frame.
The third quarter continued the nightmare for the junior. The Gusties moved the ball to the Concordia 21, but on a second and eight play Matt Ahrndt made the fourth interception of the day for the Black Shirts. Hendricks was clearly struggling, but he was not going down without a fight.
On the Gusties next possession he led the team on a 10-play, 88-yard drive that saw him complete 4 of 5 passes. The final one of those was a nine-yard strike to Gabriel Boyce for the touchdown. The extra point was blocked making it 28-13, but Gustavus Adolphus had life. Neal had every intention of crushing that life out.
Following the GAC score, Zylstra returned the kickoff 37 yards to the Gustavus Adolphus 47. From there Neal went to work. He ran twice for 10 yards, and completed 2 of 3 passes for 35-yards, including a 24-yarder to Cooper Gaudlin for the touchdown. That made it 35-13.
The Gusties needed their Air Marshall to come up big, and he came to life in the fourth quarter. The team’s second possession of the fourth frame was an 8-play, 39-yard drive that was capped off by a one-yard run by Hendricks for the score. The QB was 3 of 4 on the drive, and with the extra point they were within 15.
Their next possession saw the visitors move to the Concordia 11, and look like they may score again. However, Erickson picked off Hendricks for the second time in the game, at the goal line, to end the threat.
One possession later the Gusties would be back at it, this time the Air Marshall and his group of Aces would not be denied. Hendricks hit Matt Boyce in stride for a 32-yard touchdown. The extra point failed and the team was down by nine.
An onside kick attempt with 3:53 left failed, and from there the Concordia offense ground out the clock. The final score was 35-26.
Neal had an excellent day to add to his MVP candidate resume. He finished 13-22 for 140 yards and two touchdown passes, and added two more scores on the ground. McLean was the leading rusher for the team, gaining 68-yards on 12-carries.
The Cobbers offense held the ball for 34:31 and the defense had five interceptions and four sacks. Erickson not only had two interceptions, but added two pass breakups. Derek Rachel had two sacks and Bye had seven tackles and an interception.
For Hendricks it was another tough day. He finished 28-54 for 296 yards and three touchdowns, but the five interceptions. Luke Martinez was a beast on the ground, gaining 174 yards on 25-carries. Matt Boyce continued his assault on the school’s record book, adding to his school record for touchdown receptions in a season with his 16th, to go along with six catches and 91 yards. Gabriel Boyce had 10 catches for 86 yards and two scores.
The Cobbers are now done for the season, and at 8-2 await to see if they will be in the Division-III playoffs. The Gusties travel to St. Thomas next week looking to end their three-game losing streak. That will be the Minor League Sports Report MIAC Featured Game of the Week. Watch for the preview as well as articles about the Gusties defense this week.
By Robert Pannier