CRETE – Doane needed some positives.
They had next to none in a 69-7 loss at No. 1 Morningside the week prior, and had an overall frustrating three weeks with three straight losses.
But on Saturday, the Tigers defense forced a season-high five turnovers, and junior quarterback Jack Kalina threw for a season-high 259 yards as Doane held off the Briar Cliff Chargers 17-7 in front of 900 fans at Al Papik Field.
Kalina, playing through some lingering injuries, completed 25-of-37 passes for a touchdown and one interception. He’s thrown for 200 or more yards in every game this year with the exception of Morningside.
“Jack’s a tough kid,” Doane head coach Chris Bessler said afterward. “He stiffened up there in the second half, but he played through it and did a nice job for us.”
Kalina spread the ball around well, with four different receivers catching at least four passes, and eight total receivers making at least one catch.
Sophomore and Omaha native Josh Baker led the Tigers with five catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Doane went up 17-7 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Kalina hit Baker down the sideline for a 44-yard score.
Baker leads all Doane receivers this season with four touchdown grabs.
Doane was also sparked offensively by senior running back Garrett Sonderup. The Genoa, NE native had season-highs with 26 carries and 107 yards.
Saturday was Sonderup’s first 100-yard rushing game since he accumulated 109 yards against McPherson, KS on Sept. 5, 2015.
“Our run game is a reflection of our offensive line,” Bessler said. “Our offensive line did a terrific job for us today, and did a great job creating opportunities.”
Briar Cliff had 12 possessions on offense. Three of them ended with an interception, two with a fumble, two with missed field goals, two with turnovers on downs, one with a punt and another ended when the first half did.
Doane went into the locker room with a 10-0 lead.
The Tigers struck first with 6:44 left in the second quarter. Senior safety and Hershey, NE native Chayton Crow ran the ball in from two yards away for his first career rushing touchdown.
Crow finished with eight carries for 26 yards. Those were his first career carries and rushing yards as well. The touchdown was his second overall of the season. Crow had a 33-yard pick six against Friends University in the season opener on Aug. 25.
Doane racked up 391 yards offense Saturday after managing only 90 against Morningside. They also rushed for 132 yards. Doane hadn’t rushed for 100 yards as a team in a game since they ran for 193 against Jamestown on Sept. 22.
Briar Cliff finished with 316 total yards – 157 through the air and 159 on the ground. Junior quarterback Jacob Diaz made his fourth consecutive start for Briar Cliff, but only played the first half, completing 2-of-6 passes for 25 yards and an interception.
Freshman and Elkhorn native Cole Hanafan took over for Diaz in the second half and delivered Briar Cliff’s only score at the 13:38 mark of the third quarter. Hanafan connected with sophomore receiver Rashad Brown for a 70-yard touchdown on the Chargers’ third play of the second half.
After the Chargers’ first score, Doane’s offense went three and out on the ensuing drive. Things went from bad to worse for the Tigers when Briar Cliff’s LaDarrian Brown blocked Levi Sudbeck’s punt, giving the Chargers 1st and 10 at the Doane 17.
Three plays later, senior defensive end Shane Holzworth tipped a pass high in the air at the line of scrimmage and came down with the interception.
In total, Briar Cliff had three redzone trips and none of them resulted in points.
“Some of those turnovers were freak plays,” Bessler said. “But, those are going to happen, and you have to be ready when they do. Our guys capitalized, and made the big plays when we needed them.”
Hanafan finished 7-of-17 through the air for Briar Cliff with 132 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He threw incomplete on his final eight attempts.
After the Tigers went up 17-7 with 14:54 remaining, Briar Cliff missed a field goal, muffed a punt, punted back to Doane and turned it over on downs with 1:14 remaining.
Both teams left points on the field. Doane kicker Bryce Cooney and Briar Cliff kicker Noah Ylagan each missed a pair of field goals. Winds of 20-25 mph throughout the game certainly played a factor.
It wasn’t perfect, nor pretty, but Bessler was relieved.
“This was huge,” Bessler said of the victory. “There’s absolutely no question. These guys have been through a lot over the last three weeks, and they needed that. We kept our heads up and our spirits up through the tough times, and they did enough to win today. I’m proud of our guys.”
Doane stays home next week when they welcome in intra-state foe Midland (6-2, 4-2). The Warriors beat Dakota Wesleyan in Fremont 21-14 on Saturday.
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