WAGNER -- With about 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Platte-Geddes/Dakota Christian surrendered. On this night, Wagner's defense was too stingy.
Black Panthers' coach Tracy Hirt -- who coached his final game in Platte Monday night -- sent the junior varsity offense to the field after the Red Raiders scored their sixth touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter.
Mitch Breen's 9-yard touchdown run at 10:46 in the fourth finished the game's scoring to help Wagner to the Region 3 11B championship 44-7 over PGDC.
Wagner's offense -- which piled up 426 yards on the Black Panthers' normally-stout defense -- shined in all four quarters, but it was the Red Raider defense that kept its own offense on the field most of the night.
"We preach with the defense we want them to go three-and-out, just making sure those first three plays we're playing physical, we're playing fundamental football and doing our job," Wagner coach Jason Knebel said.
Of PGDC's 11 possessions, Wagner's defense forced four punts, two interceptions and one turnover on downs.
The only flex it showed was during the Black Panthers' first possession. PGDC quarterback Lee Niewenhuis connected with Tommy Holleman on a leaping 24-yard touchdown catch over Wagner's Solomon St. Pierre a little more than four minutes into the game.
"We got off to a bad start, but that's all right," said Wagner's Robert Kokesh, who had a team-high 13 tackles. "We got things back together. Just like anything else, you've got to keep your cool and go out there and play football."
Breen had eight carries on the next Wagner drive, but it was Andrew Krcil who ran it in on second-and-goal from the 8.
After PGDC went three-and-out, Breen helped Wagner take the lead when the senior running back sprinted down the left sideline and dove into the corner of the end zone, reaching out and stretching the ball inside the pylon.
Wagner's defense forced three-and-outs again on back-to-back Black Panther possessions, and the Red Raiders went up 22-7 when quarterback Brett Kuca hit Tait Johannsen for a 14-yard score down the middle of the field on first down.
Not content, Breen intercepted Niewenhuis for Wagner's first turnover of the game, eventually setting up a 1-yard touchdown run 19.2 seconds before halftime.
"If you play as a team, you can win any game," Kokesh said. "That's how our defense was so strong tonight.
"Everybody does their own job; we branch off from each other and it goes from there."
PGDC finished the game with 124 total yards of offense; 38 passing and 86 rushing. The Black Panthers held senior running back Thad Campbell to under 100 yards for the second time this season. Campbell had 61 yards Monday night, and in the regular-season finale -- which Wagner won 36-15 to claim the Southeastern South Dakota Conference title -- he was held to 67 yards.
"Their defense played well, but we were so off kilter because of their offense that we were just having trouble getting anything going," said Hirt, who previously announced this would be his final year coaching in Platte after the season concluded.
At halftime, with a 28-7 lead, Wagner's defense had held Campbell to 35 yards and didn't allow Niewenhuis to complete another pass after the touchdown to open the game. Niewenhuis finished the game 4-of-15 for 38 yards.
Krcil scored on a 4-yard run with 2:03 left in the third quarter and Breen's touchdown early in the fourth wrapped up the game.
Breen finished with 246 yards on 32 carries with three touchdowns, Krcil had 117 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns and Kuca was 3-of-6 passing for 40 yards and a score.
Behind Kokesh's 13 tackles was Steven Holzbauer, who had 10, and St. Pierre -- a junior -- had an interception during PGDC's first drive of the fourth to set up Breen's 9-yard run.
Hirt, who coached 31 years in Platte and won two state titles, said the loss was a tough way to end his career, but he was proud of his team's season efforts.
"We had a great year," he said. "A lot of people didn't think we'd do a lot. It's tough to lose in the region championship, but guess what? Not a lot of teams are in the region championship."
Though Hirt said he's 100 percent sure he's done coaching for PGDC, he didn't rule out coaching for another school.
"I can't say I'm done as a coach, I'm planning on retiring from Platte," he said. "But I don't know what else is out there.
"I've had a wonderful career in Platte. The kids have been great."
PGDC -- which lost in the 11B semifinals to Tri-Valley last season -- finished this season 7-3.
Wagner will play Winner in the 11B semifinals Saturday in Winner in a battle of 10-0 teams.