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Next up: National champs

The Concordia football team's dominant running game has led them to a date with No. 1. Playing on a slippery, muddy field, the Cobbers ran 72 times for 374 yards en route to a 27-14 victory against Coe (Iowa) on Saturday in the first round of the...

The Concordia football team's dominant running game has led them to a date with No. 1.

Playing on a slippery, muddy field, the Cobbers ran 72 times for 374 yards en route to a 27-14 victory against Coe (Iowa) on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs at Jake Christiansen Stadium.

The win propelled No. 10 Concordia (10-1) to a second-round showdown with top-ranked and defending national champion Linfield next Saturday in McMinnville, Ore. The Wildcats crushed No. 5 Occidental (Calif.) 63-21 Saturday.

"Linfield is the defending champions until someone proves different,"Cobber coach Terry Horan said. "You've got to play the best sometime. Why not get them out of the way now?"

Despite poor playing conditions, Concordia rumbled down the field for a seven-play, 62-yard scoring drive on its first possession. Junior running back Ben Thoreson provided the spark with a 43-yard run on third-and-5.

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Coe, however, found big plays on the ground hard to come by.

The Kohawks (9-2) - who averaged190 rushing yards a game during the regular season - managed just 29 yards on 21 carries against the Cobbers.

Fullback Ashton Northern, a punishing 6-foot, 223-pound junior who led the Kohawks with 919 rushing yards this season, never found proper footing on the muddy turf and finished with 40 yards on 10 attempts.

"We tried to establish the run," Northern said. "But it was going nowhere."

With the running game stalled, Coe looked to sophomore quarterback Andy TeKippe to jump start the offense.

TeKippe came through early, leading the Kohawks to a pair of first-half scoring drives.

TeKippe tied the game at 7-7 with a 16 yard touchdown pass to Brandon King early in the second quarter.

The lefthander tied the game at 14-14 with a 32-yard strike to Jon Rife late in the first half.

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"I want the ball in my hands to be able to make plays," said TeKippe, who finished 16 of 37 for 247 yards. "I know if I have success we have an excellent offense and we will be able to move the ball."

The Cobbers relied on some trickery to break the tie before the half.

Junior receiver Eric Rodel - who started his career as a quarterback - tossed a 37-yard pass to Levi DeVries on a fake end around to get the ball to the Coe 4 yard line.

Senior quarterback Brian Schumacher scored on the next play to give the Cobbers a 21-14 advantage with 29 seconds on the clock.

Concordia turned up the defensive pressure in the second half, limiting the Kohawks to 72 total yards. TeKippe was 4 of 19 for 46 yards in the second half.

"I think the defense as a group kind of pulled together," Cobbers senior defensive lineman Travis Almquist said. "We needed to get after it. We just kind of came out tougher and made some plays."

DeVries had a 23-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to make the score 27-14.

The Cobbers now turn their attention to Linfield, which has scored 63 points in two consecutive games. Wildcats quarterback Brett Elliott set school records with 525 passing yards and seven touchdowns in Saturday's first-round win against previously undefeated Occidental.

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"If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best," Schumacher said. "We've got to give it all we have and that's all we can ask."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562

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