Cowboy linemen allowed only one sack all season
• By Robert Wanek Jr.
The Breckenridge football team was led into battle all season by ultra-efficient quarterback Cooper Yaggie. The Cowboys won six of those seven battles, on the way to their first section championship win since 2008. However, the war for Section 6A was ultimately won in the trenches, by Yaggie’s senior-laden line — The Hogs. This impressive group of true athletes led by Gavin Johnson, Jonah Christensen, Jared Aamold, Bryant Hasse, Gus Hasbargen, Ben Krump, and Dallen Ernst allowed only one sack all year long. Yes, you read that right — one quarterback sack in 7 games, 61 passing attempts, 28 quarters. As a result, Yaggie posted 14 passing touchdowns to 1 interception, while rushing for 400+ yards behind his beastly brothers.
“I think what made the line so good was that they were such a tight knit group who all loved each other,” Yaggie said. “They took it personal to keep me protected at all times. I loved every single one of them like a brother and I trusted that everyone on that line would give 100% to give me time while passing or a hole to run through. I’m glad I was able to quarterback behind a line that will go down as one of the best to ever play for Breck.”
Cooper held up his end of a preseason deal he made with his blockers — buying them a meal if they allowed a low number of sacks. It was fitting he rewarded his linemen off the field, since they piled up the pancakes on the field.
Johnson was named the Midwest White District Offensive Lineman of the Year. He and Connor Twidwell will be taking their talents to Minnesota State University Moorhead. Aamold brought some serious fire to the group, spinning the football in celebration after multiple fumble recoveries. After the huge loss of Hasse to injury with two games remaining, Ernst stepped up and used his towering frame to keep pass rushers at bay. Christensen was excellent in pass protection, allowing his quarterback ample time for several deep completions, resulting in a completion rate of 22.3 yards per clip. Hasbargen was a shotgun snapping aficionado, delivering the football with precision to his dangerous quarterback. Krump crushed opponents at the goal line on a number of touchdowns and 2-pt conversions. There was no weak link in the Breckenridge line.
“When I heard that I was voted offensive lineman of the year, that was pretty cool for me because we don’t get a whole lot of credit down in the trenches,” Johnson said. “I would just play and leave it all on the field and it’s cool to see people notice that. There’s no way I would have gotten that (award) without my other linemen. You can’t have only one or two good linemen and win games. They always had my back.”
Head coach Chad Fredericksen had plenty to say about the linemen that carried him to his first section title in 12 years and one season after finishing as runner-up.
“Tough, dependable, physical, durable, strong, big, competitive,” those were the words the veteran frontman used to describe his pile pushers.
“It didn’t matter who was rotating through, they all helped each other out. They made us tick,” Fredericksen said. “You don’t put up the offensive numbers we did without a great offensive line. You add Daniel (Erlandson) and Connor (Twidwell) to that group and you have something pretty special. It’s hard to imagine not having those guys next year.”
Daniel played fullback for a fearsome rushing attack led by Midwest White District Running Back of the Year Christian Nieto, Wide Receiver of the Year Jacob Vizenor, and James Mertes. Twidwell lined up at tight end, where he caught a pair of touchdowns and ran over opponents with his excellent downfield blocking. Erlandson was widely regarded as Minnesota’s top fullback. In seven games, the Cowboys rushed for 1,878 yards and 25 touchdowns.
“They’re the real dawgs and I wouldn’t trade them for any other line,” Nieto said. “They worked their tails off. None of us backs would have been able to do what we did without them. I’m gonna miss those hogs.”
Aamold, Christensen, and Johnson were all three year starters. That level of experience and earned toughness was crucial to the Cowboys winning the line of scrimmage.
“That made our lives as coaches super easy,” assistant coach Jordan Christensen said. “They always knew what their assignment was and had the physical skills to execute it. It’s not very often that you’ll find a group of linemen as good mentally as they are physically. Overall this group will be one of the best offensive lines to come through Breckenridge.”
In addition to coaching, Christensen also runs the strength program, a role that’s produced an obvious increase in the performance of Cowboy players across the board.
Breckenridge boasted a lethal return game as well. Johnson and Twidwell did damage in that department, leveling opponents to free Vizenor, Mertes, and Dylan Bernotas for return touchdowns. Against Staples-Motley, Twidwell’s block sent a would-be tackler three yards in the air, springing Bernotas for a punt-return score. While it was typically the A-Team of Alex Martel and Alex Tschakert upending returners, the Breckenridge big boys got dirty on special teams as well.
Most of the Cowboy line played both sides of the ball, where big plays came in bunches. Hasse tripped up Barnesville’s scrambling Adam Tonsfeldt on a fake punt. Erlandson and Aamold each recovered fumbles inside the 10-yard line just before halftime of the Ottertail Central and Barnesville games. Twidwell showed off his mitts, adding an interception to his multiple receiving scores. With size came great athleticism, a heralded combo for linemen.
Offensive linemen are often the unsung heroes, the hard hat and lunch pale crew, doing a thankless but vital job. This wasn’t the case with the 2020 Breckenridge Cowboys, as the The Hogs made their mark loud and clear, as a unit and individually.