Leavens Four TDs Highlights Pipers Victory over Scots, 31-27
For the last two seasons, the Hamline Pipers have had to endure watching the Macalester Fighting Scots take home the coveted Bucket in this rivalry contest. But not on Saturday night, as Connor Leavens threw for four touchdowns in helping to lead the Pipers to a 31-27 victory. Hamline dominated the time of possession and scored on all four of the red zone opportunities on their way to victory.
Macalester College received the opening kickoff and would begin to move the ball down the field. They reached the Hamline 25, where quarterback Johnny Bice was sacked for a 5 yard loss by Max Fick. On fourth and 12, the Scots opted to go for it, but Bice was chased from the pocket and eventually dropped by Rudy Barron, turning the ball over on downs to Hamline.
Back the other way the Pipers went. The team grabbed a huge chunk of yards when Leavens completed a 29 yard strike to Matt Miller, moving the ball to the Macalester 33. It looked like the drive may stall, however, when Hamline was faced with a fourth and 2 at the Scots 25, but the coaching staff opted to go for it. Leavens kept the ball, gaining 9 yards for a first down to the 16. Two plays later, Zander Payne burst into the end zone from 3 yards out to give Hamline a 6-0 lead.
The Fighting Pipers defense would come up with a huge play on the next possession for the Scots. On third and 1, Kian Sohrabi fumbled and Adrian Cracolic recovered at the Macalester 39. Eight plays later, Leavens was flushed from the pocket, but found Tyler Dobbs coming across the middle, hitting the freshman in stride, who raced to the corner of the end zone for the touchdown to give Hamline a 12-0 lead.
Down early, the Scots were not deterred. They mounted a 10 play, 75 yard drive that took 5:37 off the clock before scoring. The big play of the drive was when Bice connected with Reese Breeson for 46 yards on a third and 9 play at the Hamline 39. Kai Akimoto scored three plays later to cut the Scots deficit to six.
On the next possession for Hamline, the Pipers would punt. However, a bad snap would result in a 12 yard loss, giving the Scots the ball at the Pipers 15. Four plays later, Akimoto scored from 6 yards out to tie the score at 12.
The tide had turned quickly, but Leavens remained cool and led his team on an 11 play, 65 yard drive just before the end of the half then gave Hamline an 18-12 lead heading into the locker room. The Pipers quarterback completed five of eight passes on the drive, including a 12 yard touchdown toss to Triston Thomas.
Hamline University would take the opening kickoff of the second half and march 73 yards to restore their 12 point lead. Leavens had three huge completions on the drive, one to Thomas for 13 yards, another to Brandon Miller for 17, and the third to Tanner Luncefor for 13. However, the drive looked like it was going to stall when it was fourth and two at the Macalester 10. The coaching staff opted to go for it again, and Payne came through with a 3 yard carry for a first down. On the next play, Leavens found Luncefor for a 7 yard touchdown to make it 24-12.
Macalester would find the end zone on their first drive of the second half. Akimoto got the drive going with carries of nine and 11 yards. Bice took it from there, finding Brendon Hodges for 18 yards before completing a 30 yard strike to Rex Desso for a touchdown. The extra point wasgood, the first extra point hit by either team to that point, making it a 24-19 score.
Just before the end of the third quarter, the Macalester Fighting Scots would take their first lead of the contest. After Leavens had been sacked on a fourth and three play, the Scots had the ball at the Hamline 45. Two plays later, Bice went up top to Desso once again, hauling in the 33 yard touchdown pass. Macalester was successful on the two-point conversion giving them a three point lead.
The Fighting Pipers were trailing for the first time in the contest, but they responded right away. Starting from their own 35, Hamline moved to midfield where they faced a third and 5. The Pipers quarterback found an open Thomas for 21 yards and a first down. Three plays later, it would be Leavens to Dobbs for another 21 yard completion, this time for a touchdown to put Hamline back up by four.
The Pipers had the lead once again, but there was still 10:29 left on the clock. The Scots would come charging back the other way, moving to the Hamline 11 where they had a first and 10. However, Bice would be tackled on the next play for 3 yard loss, fumbling the ball as he went down. Chip Kindt recovered to kill the drive.
The Pipers would be forced to punt on their next possession, but the defense would come up big one more time. Macalester had the ball at the Hamline 41, looking to reclaim the lead. On the third play of the drive, Bice looked for his big play receiver once again, but the ball was overthrown and Tommy Whipple made the interception.
Macalester College would get the ball one more time, taking possession with 1:14 left in the contest. Bice led his team to the Hamline 30, but Rudy Barron would break up the pass attempt in the end zone to end the game.
Connor Leavens was incredibly impressive in his second start for the Pipers, throwing for 287 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 25 of 35 passes. Triston Thomas had nine catches for 116 yards and a score. Tanner Luncefor also had nine catches. He recorded 61 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Dobbs made two receptions, both for touchdowns.
Adrian Cracolic led the team with nine tackles. Max Fick had five tackles and recorded a sack.
The Hamline University Pipers (1-1) will welcome the St. Thomas Tommies (1-0) next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:10.
By Robert Pannier
Featured Image Courtesy of Hamline University