Piper football at a crossroads

The football team finishes the season 4-6 for the first time since 2009 after falling 13-6 to Carleton.


Gino Terrell

Senior wide receiver Hoyfal Adam hauls in a 10 yard touchdown catch before halftime against the Carleton Knights on Nov. 15.

Paul Patane, Reporter

Junior running back Austin Duncan returned from a foot injury and rushed for 131 yards through the snow, but the Pipers fell to the Carleton Knights on Saturday, Nov. 15 at Klas Field. The team finished 2014 with a record of 4-6 (2-6 MIAC).

Junior quarterback Tim Bona completed 18 of 34 passes for 122 yards, including a touchdown and an interception. Sophomore wideout Naji El-Araby caught six passes for 31 yards.

The Piper defense was led by sophomore linebacker Jonny Nguyen and sophomore safety Anthony Hill. Nguyen had seven solo tackles and six assisted tackles, while Hill contributed with five solo tackles and three assisted tackles.

Even though the Pipers lost their last game of the season, the program has progressed.

From 2010 through 2012, Hamline’s football program accumulated a total of 2 wins and 28 losses. A new direction was needed and Head Coach and Piper alum Chad Rogosheske was hired in Dec. 2012.

“The biggest thing is validation of what we’re asking of our players. It’s a sign of progress that the program’s moving in the right direction. The last place progress shows up is on the scoreboard,” Rogosheske said.

Piper football started strong this season with two consecutive victories before hitting the brutal portion of their conference schedule. They lost five games in a row to powerhouse conference opponents, four of which are nationally ranked.

Center and senior co-captain Alec Grimm saw frustration from some of his younger teammates.

“A unique challenge as a captain was keeping everyone invested through the tough part of our schedule. We started off 2-0 and it’s easy to be satisfied starting off the season like that. We had to keep pushing everyone and emphasize that we weren’t finished,” Grimm said.

The team battled through the frustration and adversity before something incredible happened on Saturday, Nov. 1. Against St. Olaf, with one second left, Bona threw a 35 yard pass in the end zone that was tipped and caught by junior tight end Philip Sherman to win.

“Bona launched it, I got prepared for the tip and it went to me. Players always talk about being clutch, and it was a clutch moment,” Sherman said.

Sherman’s game-winning touchdown excited Duncan as well.

“That touchdown pass was incredible. The chances of that happening were slim. I’m just glad that things swayed our way in that game. The win was just unbelievable,” Duncan said.

Grimm saw the game-winning catch as a special moment.

“It definitely gave us some confidence coming off a losing streak. We had confidence that we would win that game and the way it happened made it that much better. I will never forget that game,” Grimm said.

A week later, the Pipers traveled to Augsburg College and came home with the trophy presented to the winner of the annual Hamline-Augsburg football game, The Hammer.

The victory over Augsburg was unique as Hill blocked the Augsburg extra point attempt after the Auggies scored a touchdown in overtime. Hill’s clutch block allowed the Pipers to drive down the field and win the game, 28-27.

Winning The Hammer for the first time in a half decade was special, especially for seniors like linebacker and co-captain Corey Touchette.

“It felt amazing. I don’t think there’s a team I hate more than Augsburg in our conference.  It felt good to grab The Hammer from them after the game,” Touchette said.

Duncan was happy to bring The Hammer home, especially for his senior teammates.

“It was just like winning The Bucket [against Macalester]. All those feelings just came back and I was really glad the seniors got a chance to have that feeling again,” Duncan said.

Similar to 2013, Duncan was a premiere running back in the MIAC with the results to show it. He rushed for 1,237 yards this year and now has 3,565 yards as a Piper across his collegiate career. He holds the school record for rushing yards and touchdowns.

“Austin has a positive attitude. He enjoys football so much and that creates a lot of energy,” Rogosheske said.

Duncan takes pride in his preparation and for his eagerness to be a complete running back, not just a good rusher.

“This year, I came in more confident and it shows more on the field. I have also improved on my reads as well as reading blocks,” Duncan said.

Part of why the Pipers doubled their win total this year was the continued development of Bona as the team wanted to have a balanced offense.

“From an offensive standpoint, he’s [Bona] improved. From pass concepts to schemes, Tim’s translated that to making good decisions on the field,” Rogosheske said.

Sherman’s also seen improvement from his quarterback.

“If you look back to last year, Tim had his favorites. This year, he’s grown more comfortable,” Sherman said.

While 4-6 is an improvement from previous years, the team has bigger aspirations for the future.

“It’s not about the championship this year, it’s about building up the program and leaving a legacy for the future,” Sherman said.

Touchette sees a program that’s in better shape than when he began his Hamline career.

“I came here to help change a program and ending on a high note is solidification that I’ve done my job,” Touchette said.