NEWTON — Brandon Wise just wanted his Osborne Bulldogs to have a chance late against Hanover with an Eight-Man Division II state title on the line.
After digging themselves a huge hole in the first half, the Bulldogs fought back to give themselves that chance.
Osborne rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit to cut Hanover’s lead to two midway through the fourth quarter, but Hanover answered the challenge, using a late score and a fourth-down stop to fend off the Bulldogs, 58-50, on Saturday at Fischer Field in Newton.
“I told them the goal was to be competitive,” Wise said. “You want the ball with a chance to win it, and we had the ball with a chance to tie it. ... I can’t tell you how happy I am with these guys. I wished it would have turned out better for them.”
In holding off the Bulldogs, Hanover pushed its winning streak to 38 games and notched its third straight undefeated season.
Osborne stormed back in the second half behind big plays from Darnell Holloway, Darrien Holloway and Kade Miller. Hanover left the door open by struggling on two-point attempts (2 of 9), and the Bulldogs finally came up with a key stop, forcing a punt while trailing by 10 early in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs (11-2) capitalized with a 10-yard touchdown run by Darnell Holloway and Darrien Holloway got the two-point conversion, making it 52-50 with 4:21 left.
“We didn’t change anything. We stuck to the game plan,” Wise said. “We ran the same offense we’ve ran all-year long. We just kept fighting and grinding it out. Darnell did a great job with his reads. Darrien ran hard; everybody ran hard. I’m just proud of everybody.”
After Osborne cut the deficit to two, Hanover answered with a touchdown pass to Thomas Atkins and then came up with a fourth-down stop in Osborne territory when sophomore cornerback Colin Jueneman wrapped up Osborne quarterback Darnell Holloway on a fourth-and-4 play to turn the Bulldogs over on downs with under three minutes left. The Wildcats then sealed it with a first down to run out clock.
Hanover (13-0) was on the verge of blowing Osborne out in the first half, leading 32-12 at halftime with the help of three Bulldogs' turnovers (two fumbles and an interception) and a 67-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Atkins.
“Yeah, the turnovers hurt us, but we did little things to hurt us, too,” Wise said.
Atkins killed Osborne’s momentum at several different points of the game, finishing with 143 yards receiving on eight receptions with two touchdown catches.
"We just had to answer back to them,” Atkins said. “If they hit us with a touchdown, we got to get one too."
Darnell Holloway had 159 yards on 29 carries with three rushing touchdowns, while Darrien Holloway, a junior running back, went for 138 yards on 28 carries and two scores. Kade Miller had three catches for 56 yards with a TD and also had a 73-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second half.
Osborne (11-2) was making its third appearance in the state title game since switching to Eight-Man in 2010. The Bulldogs won Division I titles in 2013 and 2016.
“We were down three touchdowns going into halftime, and to fight back and have a chance to win the game, I’m super proud of them,” Wise said. “That’s the type of team this is and that’s why we are where we are.”
Hanover quarterback Daiken Stallbaumer was 13 of 14 through the air for 200 yards with three touchdowns, and the senior also ran for 114 yards and three scores. Hanover’s Carter Bruna finished with 110 yards rushing on 16 attempts with two TDs.
The win capped off a 50-1 career for Hanover’s senior class.
“It feels awesome,” Bruna said. “You always dreamed about getting one (state title). But when you can do what we accomplished, its incredible.”