MINNEAPOLIS — Hancock football picked a fine time to put together its finest offensive showing during its historic 2019 campaign.
Waltzing into the purple-painted end zone on nine separate occasions and racking up more than 500 yards of offense, the Owls qualified for their first Prep Bowl in program history. The Owls flew past Mountain Iron-Buhl, 65-32 in the 9-Man state semifinals over Mountain Iron-Buhl Thursday from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Improving to 13-0, Hancock shattered its previous season high of 52 points established against Rothsay on Sept. 27.
“It’s huge for us right now,” head coach Chad Christianson said during the post-game press conference. “With the staff that we’ve gathered here together — they’ve been together now for five years — we were hoping to get to this point eventually and didn’t know how long it would take, but we got the players to buy in. These guys haven’t been coached by anyone other than our group, so they bought into the system and it paid off in the offseason.”
Making only its second state tournament appearance, the Owls are in search of the school’s first state title in any sport since 1997. The last time Hancock played for a state championship was in 2007 with the girls basketball program.
With the championship game slated for 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 30 at U.S. Bank Stadium, Hancock awaits the winner of Win-E-Mac and Mountain Lake Area, who are scheduled to play 9 a.m. Friday.
“Looking at the state championship appearances, we’ve gone a few times for basketball and this is the first time we’ve got this far for football,” Christianson remarked. “It’s huge for us, it’s huge for our community. The whole town I think was up in the crowd and seeing how little it made me in the stadium, but it’s great for us out there and we’re really excited to be here.”
As was the case during the quarterfinals, Tyler Timmerman was unstoppable. The senior running back reached paydirt five times and accumulated more than 350 all-purpose yards.
Capping a three-score stretch in the span of 26 seconds, Timmerman scored his first touchdown on a 75-yard kickoff return midway through the second quarter, giving his team a 22-14 advantage it would not relinquish.
“It felt great, but it was all my blockers,” said the humble and gracious Timmerman of his game-changing kick return.
On the prior kickoff, Rangers senior Dillon Drake scored on a 85-yard return in response to a 19-yard touchdown reception by Hancock junior wide receiver Brandon Kellenberger.
Later in the quarter, junior quarterback Preston Rohloff faked to the running back and hit senior wide receiver Daniel Milander on a skinny post for a 85-yard scoring strike.
Rohloff finished 7-for-14 passing for 227 yards and three touchdowns.
After the halftime break, Timmerman added scoring runs of 46, 31, and 8 yards, as well as a 61-yard catch and run.
While the Owls quarterback and running back combo was spectacular, Mountain-Iron Buhl’s tandem of Drake and freshman signal caller Asher Zubich were held in check by an aggressive defense.
Led by senior linebackers Dalton Rose and Gideon Joos, who each racked up 11 tackles, the Owls defense allowed just 35 yards of offense in the second quarter. After scoring on their first drive, the Rangers punted twice and were intercepted twice in their final four drives of the half.
“We knew they were going to make big plays, they had scored quite a bit of points,” Christianson said. “We knew they were going to get their shots in; we just had a couple missed tackles and missed key-reads and we fooled a couple of times. So we got the kids kind of locked back into (sticking) with your reads, follow it. We had guys assigned to each player cause the quarterback does a great job of making reads and running option.”
Reaching the state semifinals last season, Mountain Iron-Buhl was supposed to be the calm-and-collected team playing on the field that the Minnesota Vikings call home. However, in the first time on this stage, the Owls were as cool as ice.
“I don’t know if I really had nerves, I guess,” Rose said. “It was just another game. It felt like it.”
State 9-Man semifinal
Mountain Iron-Buhl (10-2) 6 8 6 12 — 32
Hancock (13-0) 6 24 20 15 — 65
M – Dillon Drake fumble recovery in end zone (pass failed)
H – Issac Neinhaus 6 run (pass failed)
H – Brandan Kellenberger 19 pass from Preston Rohloff (Tyler Timmerman run)
M – Drake 85 kickoff return (Drake run)
H – Timmerman 75 kickoff return (Kellenberger pass from Rohloff)
H – Daniel Milander 85 pass from Rohloff (Timmerman run)
H – Timmerman 46 run (pass failed)
H – Timmerman 31 run (run failed)
H – Timmerman 61 pass from Rohloff (Dan. Milander pass from Rohloff)
M – Nikolas Jesch 9 run (pass failed)
M – Aidan Bissonette 27 pass from Asher Zubich (run failed)
H – Timmerman 8 run (Nienhaus run)
H – Dalton Rose 2 run (Gideon Joos kick)
M – Jesch 48 pass from Zubich (pass failed)
First downs: 19 … Penalties: 3-19 … Rushing (Individual and team): D. Drake 22-101, Zubich 16-76, Jesch 2-17, Hunter Weigel 1-15, Bissonette 2-(-6). 43-203 … Passing (Individual and team): Zubich 10-17-136-3. 10-17-136-3 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Weigel 4-19, Jesch 2-50, Bissonette 2-42, D. Drake 2-25 … Interceptions: None … Fumble recoveries: D. Drake 1 … Tackles (solo-assist): D. Drake 5-1, Zubich 3-2, Teddy Olivanti 3-1, Ryan Drake 3-1, Mason Clines 2-2 … QB sacks: None
First downs: 16 … Penalties: 3-25 … Rushing (Individual and team): Timmerman 22-239, Jed Feuchtenberger 4-19, Dain Schroeder 2-10, Jackson Koehl 4-9, Nienhaus 3-8, David Milander 1-4, Dal. Rose 2-2, Davin Rose 1-(-4). 39-287 … Passing (Individual and team): Rolfoff 7-14-227-0 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Kellenberger 3-58, Dan. Milander 2-98, Timmerman 1-61, Nienhaus 1-10 … Interceptions: Kellenberger 2, Joos 1 … Fumble recoveries: None … Tackles (solo-assist): Dal. Rose 6-5, G. Joos 5-6, Adam Shaw 7-1, Kellenberger 2-4, Matt Thompson 1-4, Dav. Rose 3-1, Toby Messner 3-0, Parker Schmidgall 2-1, Colton Crowell 2-1, Devon Schroeder 2-0, L. Joos 2-0, Bryce Hacker 1-1, Feuchtenberger 0-2, Isaiah Flaten 1-0, Dan. Milander 1-0, Timmerman 1-0 … QB sacks: None