Hastings College football relives a comeback for the ages
HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The Hastings College football team is coming off one of the most epic comeback wins in program history, and it happened in the first game of the year here in 2023.
Entering the season opener at Peru State, HC head coach Matt Franzen had one thing top of mind.
“It was more, going in, about us,” Franzen said. “How are we going to respond the first game? What are we going to do well?”
Apparently, the answer was onside kicks.
“Coach Franzen came up to me and he said, ‘I have faith in you. You’ve been doing this well these last couple weeks, so let’s just try it and see what happens,’” said HC kicker Casper Feijen.
In Bronco country, they’re sitting at 100% success rate.
“I was still pretty resigned that we weren’t going to recover it because it just doesn’t happen, but then all of a sudden it did,” Franzen said.
Let’s set the stage.
“Those final four minutes, the whole game just came down to there,” HC quarterback Eli Nappe said.
After trailing 17-14 at the half, Hastings College stalled and allowed Peru State to open up a 31-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t think there was a single moment where anyone was really frustrated or down about the scoring,” said HC receiver Ethan Wilborn. “We just knew that we could’ve played better and nobody gave in, nobody got angry.”
“No one ever gave up,” running back Brett Simonsen added. “No one ever threw in the towel. It was like, ‘Well, we’re going to just keep playing until the end.”
The Broncos cut then cut the deficit to 10 with less than four minutes to play.
Enter Casper Feijen.
“If you were to tell me four years ago that I was going to be playing college football, let alone that this would’ve happened last Saturday, I would’ve never believed you,” Feijen said.
A native of Holland, Feijen’s career stalled after he tore his quad twice. In fact, this past Saturday was his first college football game, and it’s likely already a contender for the best performance of his career.
“First college football game, how is he going to come through -- but he had that clutch factor for sure,” Simonsen said.
After successfully converting Feijen’s first-ever onside kick attempt, the Broncos found the end zone just two plays later.
“I immediately had to go out there and kick a PAT,” Feijen said. “I was so hyped and screaming and yelling from that onside kick that I noticed, as I was waiting for the ball to get snapped, that I was almost passing out because I forgot to breathe.”
Hastings College then cut the deficit to three, and lined up for an onside kick again -- with the same result!
“To get two in a row has to be less than 1%,” Franzen said with a wry smile. “A mathematician could tell us.”
“I, at first, didn’t even really realize how special this was,” Feijen said.
And the player’s response?
“After that, I was like there’s no way these things happen and we don’t win this game,” Nappe said.
“That was like a miracle, basically,” Simonsen added. “That’s the craziest sporting event I’ve ever been a part of, ever will be a part of.”
“This was probably the craziest football game I’ve ever played in my life,” Wilborn concluded.
And of course, Feijen’s first career field goal is the one that sent the game into overtime.
“It’s written in the stars and we were going to win that night,” Feijen said.
In the end, it was the senior from Sutton who brought it home for the Broncos.
“Once we had the ball I felt like it was game,” Simonsen said. “We were going to go score a touchdown.”
“It’s a game that’ll go down in the record books,” Nappe said. “What a way to start the season.”
The Broncos are now 1-0 on the season and hit the road again Saturday, Sept. 2 to take on Dakota Wesleyan. Kickoff for the game is set for 11 a.m.
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