Every time Friends managed to gain an upper hand Saturday night, Doane College would answer.
Finally, the Falcons found a time when Doane couldn’t answer — on the final possession in overtime.
Thomas Hankerson lowered his head and bulled over from the 1-yard line for a touchdown that enabled Friends to survive, 24-21, over the 20th-ranked Tigers in both teams’ season opener.
But even that didn’t come easy.
Doane sophomore kicker Jordan Pedersen hit a 49-yard field goal with 0:01 in regulation for an 18-18 tie to send the game to overtime. He also hit a 36-yarder on Doane’s overtime possession, his fourth of the game.
Then, it was the Falcons’ turn. And, not having a kicker with Pedersen’s accuracy, a touchdown was their only option.
Taking possession at the 25, Friends faced a fourth-and-9 at the 23 after a false start moved the Falcons back 5 yards. But junior quarterback Aaron Hansen hit Chris Allen for 17 yards down to the 6 for a first down.
Running back Thomas Hankerson gained 2 and 3 yards on the next two plays, putting the ball at the 1. Hankerson got the call on third down as well, and appeared to score the winning points.
But even that wasn’t assured. The officials immediately called a huddle because the ball had come out at the goal line. They ruled that Hankerson had crossed the plane before losing the ball, and Friends could finally exhale with the victory.
“Gosh, what a game,” Friends coach Monty Lewis said. “I saw the hands go up (for the touchdown), then I saw them pow-wowing, and that doesn’t always bode too well.”
Lewis said he wasn’t surprised by Doane’s resilience.
“That’s a top-25 reaction. We played decently in the first quarter. I thought we lost focus in the second quarter, even though we put another touchdown on the board. Then (Doane) came out of the locker room with something to prove.”
Hansen had a nice Falcons debut, passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns. One was a screen to Hankerson, who took the ball and outran the Doane defenders for a 71-yard score that gave the Falcons a 12-0 that they carried to halftime.
But in the second half, Doane snagged the momentum and appeared to be rolling, right up to Pedersen’s tying field goal.
“We adjusted two blocking schemes in our run game,” Doane coach Matt Franzen said. “Friends did some things in the first half that we didn’t expect. The short-yardage defense they were running was really shutting us down.
“We haven’t been an option team, but our sophomore quarterback (Phil Hamburger) got us back in the second half, and our defense made the stops that we needed down the stretch.”
In the overtime, the Falcons were able to keep the Tigers from reaching the end zone, allowing their offense one final chance to pull out the victory.
Juniors Hansen and Allen were particularly effective, connecting on pass plays eight times for 160 yards and a touchdown with 1:30 to play that put Friends ahead, 18-15.
“He’s a dynamite wide receiver,” Doane’s Franzen said of Allen.
“When they call my number, I just have to catch the ball,” Allen said. “That’s how I look at it.”
But with 31 seconds left, the Falcons couldn’t run out the clock and took a safety that set up Pedersen’s field goal.
F – Hansen 1 run (kick failed)
F – Hankerson 71 pass from Hansen (pass failed)
D – Pedersen 46 FG
D –Pedersen 30 FG
D – Samuelson 12 pass from Hamburger (Pedersen kick)
F – Allen 20 pass from Hansen (pass failed)
D – Safety, Racette tackled in end zone
D – Pedersen 49 FG
D – Pedersen 35 FG
F – Hankerson 1 run
Rushing — Doane: Boggs 19-88, Hamburger 15-71, Moore 3-6, Dose 1-2. Friends: Hankerson 27-196, Bauer 3-17, Scott 5-12, Brandon 1-9.
Passing — Doane: Hamburger 17-33-1-209, Thramer 1-1-0-5. Friends: Hansen 13-26-1-261.
Receiving — Doane: Kawata 7-86, Marvin 4-65, Cornelius 2-20,Boggs 2-15. Friends: Allen 8-160, Hyde 2-16, Hankerson 1-71, Becker 1-12.