Bryan McLaughlin couldn’t have scripted a better way to end his collegiate football career on Saturday afternoon at Heedum Field.
McLaughlin, a senior linebacker for Midland University, had nine tackles and forced a fumble as the Warriors beat Doane 31-20. The win secured Midland’s second-straight winning season at 6-4 and also gave the MU seniors their first win ever over the Tigers.
“This is a great way to go out,” said the Elkhorn native. “This is a huge rivalry game for us. We’ve got back-to-back winning records under our belts and I think the program is just going to keep going up.”
All three phases for the Warriors — offense, defense and special teams — played a factor in the win. All three also helped Midland jump to a 17-0 lead in the Great Plains Athletic Conference battle.
“Our guys brought it in all three units today,” Midland coach Jeff Jamrog, who guided the Warriors to a 6-4 record and ended the season on a two-game win streak. “It was great way to culminate the football season. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”
Receiver Hayden Dunn, who was elected with McLaughlin, cornerback Exavier Edwards, defensive lineman Mikal Coleman and linebacker Taylor Syvertsen as captains earlier in the week, got the Warriors started with a 44-yard punt return.
Following Dunn’s runback, the Warriors drove 45 yards in 13 plays. Freshman quarterback Payton Nelson covered the final 2 yards for the touchdown. On the conversion, Dunn ran it in to make it 8-0.
Midland forced a three-and-out on Doane’s next series. Syvertsen blocked Levi Sudbeck’s punt out of the end zone giving MU a 10-0 advantage with 14:32 left in the opening half.
“Everyone was going crazy after Syvertsen blocked that punt,” McLaughlin said. “It gave us a momentum boost and we got another one on Coleman’s play.”
Brody Azbill of the Tigers intercepted two passes in the first half. His first led to a missed 43-yard field goal by Bryce Cooney. His second ended a Warriors’ scoring threat, but the MU defense came up with a big play of its own.
On the first play after Azbill’s second pickoff, Eli Soga sacked backup quarterback Trev Lovell and caused a fumble. Coleman fell on the ball in the end zone. Camdon Griffiths’ conversion kick made it 17-0.
“Our goal as a defense is to score and we hadn’t done that for a long time,” McLaughlin said. “It was a big boost to do that.”
Later in the period, Cooney missed a 44-yard field goal enabling the Warriors to lead 17-0 at halftime.
Doane threatned on its first series of the third quarter, but McLaughlin forced Najee Mustafaa to fumble and Tanner Swett fell on it at the MU 18.
The Tigers finally scored when Jack Shadley connected with Jacob Cornelius on an 86-yard touchdown pass with 5:50 left in the third quarter. Nelson answered when he hit Mike Seawell with a 33-yard scoring toss just 41 seconds later.
The Warriors made it 31-7 just before the end of the period. Nelson guided MU on a nine-play, 71-yard march that featured the running of Emmitt Knight. The march also included a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Doane. Nelson convered the final 2 yards to five MU a 24-point lead entering the final quarter.
Doane out-yarded Midland 470-394, but the Warriors came up with big plays when they needed them.
“We had a lot of excitement on our sideline and it was a great atmosphere,” McLaughlin said. “We played strong and we knew what we had to do to win.”
Knight had 23 carries for 96 yards while Nelson was 15 of 27 passing for 226 yards. He had one interception and one touchdown.
“He just keeps getting better and better,” Jamrog said. “The good thing is we have him for three more years. He just has a knack for making big plays.”
Linebacker Wyatt Tremayne had 10 tackles to lead the MU defense. Edwards intercepted a pass while Jason Martin and Coleman had a sack each.
The Warriors finished tied for fourth with Dakota Wesleyan in the GPAC with a 4-4 league record. Doane finished sixth in the conference at 5-5 overall, including 3-5 in the league.