ST. GEORGE – Despite three rushing touchdowns from DeJon Coleman and five Central Washington turnovers, Dixie State could not overcome a late Wildcat rally as the Storm was handed a heartbreaking 34-28 loss in DSU’s season and GNAC conference finale Saturday afternoon in Ellensburg, Wash.
The game also marked the final time on the DSU sideline for head coach Scott Brumfield, who announced his retirement from coaching earlier this week.
“Our guys kept battling,” Brumfield said. “Central Washington is a proud program, it was their senior day and they had a lot to play for. We made a few mistakes on Central’s last drive, but our guys never gave up. That’s part of football, and it’s life lessons. Hopefully they can learn from it and become better football players and individuals.”
After DSU (3-7 overall, 2-4 in the GNAC) opened the game with a quick three-and-out, the Storm defense got the ball right back as sophomore defensive back Colton Olson stepped in front of a Justin Lane pass in CWU’s first possession to set the Dixie offense up at the Wildcat 46-yard line.
DSU looked as if it was going to quickly capitalize on the turnover as freshman QB Blake Barney connected for an apparent 47-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Nate Stephens. But the play was nullified on a holding call and the Storm drive stalled from there.
Central Washington (5-5, 3-3) got the ball back and marched 75 yards in 11 plays, but the Storm defense again came up with another big stop as DSU forced a Quincy Carter fumble, which was recovered by junior LB Josh Symonette at the Storm 9-yard line.
Dixie State again would go three-and-out as the Wildcat defense backed the Storm up to their own 2-yard line, and the CWU special teams did the rest as Bryan Kelly blocked a Corey Stens punt out of bounds at the 2-yard line to give the Wildcats a first-and-goal situation. CWU would cash it in one play later as Kyle Self scored on a 2-yard dive to give the ‘Cats a 7-0 lead.
DSU answered with a touchdown of its own on the Storm’s next possession as Coleman rambled 66 yards for his team-high eighth touchdown of the year to knot the score at 7-7.
CWU scored again on its ensuing possession as the Wildcats took advantage of a Cedrique Chaney 34-yard kickoff return, then Carter atoned for his earlier miscue as he scored from 10-yards out six plays later. However CWU missed the PAT try, which left the score at 13-7.
CWU would add a second-quarter field goal to extend the lead to nine at 16-7, but the Storm responded on their next drive as DSU covered 82 yards on nine-plays, including a key fourth-and-15 conversion as Barney found Stephens for a 26-yard completion to the Wildcat 2-yard line. Freshman RB Orlando Wallace then finished the drive a play later with a 2-yard run to cut the deficit to 16-14 with 6:22 to play in the half.
Central had a chance to put more points on the board just before halftime as the Wildcats drove to the Storm 3-yard line with under 30 seconds to play. But DSU’s defense forced its third turnover of the half as freshman Mike Mason hauled down a Lane pass in the end zone, which kept it a two-point game heading into the intermission.
CWU got the ball to start the second half, and the Storm took it right back as Mason stepped in front of another Lane pass at the Wildcat 43-yard line and returned it 40 yards to the CWU 3-yard line. Coleman then gave Dixie State its first lead of the game at 21-16 as he scored his second TD of the day from a yard out.
Leading 21-19 with three minutes left in the third quarter, DSU rattled off a nine-play, 80-yard drive, culminated with Coleman’s third touchdown of the day to push the Storm lead to 28-19 with 14:36 to play.
The Wildcats came right back with a touchdown on their next drive as Lane found Self from 3-yards out to pull to within two at 28-26 with exactly 12 minutes left on the clock. CWU then forced a Storm three-and-out, which was aided by a two costly offensive penalties. Central then went on a decisive 12-play, 75-yard drive that took 8:40 off the clock, which ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Christian Cummings that gave the Wildcats a 32-28. CWU then went for two and converted as Lane, on play-action, connected with Brian O’Connell in the front corner of the end zone to extend the lead to six points at 34-28 with 1:40 to go.
Dixie got the ball back and after a sack, Barney found Stephens for a miraculous 23-yard reception to set DSU up with a first down at the CWU 36-yard line. But that would be as close as DSU would get to the end zone as the Wildcat defense pressured Barney into a fumble and two incompletions which ended the Storm’s drive and season.
Dixie finished with 318 yards of offense, 214 on the ground, with Coleman accounting for 118 of those yards on 12 carries to go with his three scores. Barney added 67 yards rushing on 16 carries and had 104 yards in the air, while Stephens finished with two catches for 49 yards in his final collegiate game.
Senior linebacker Robert Metz led an inspired DSU defensive unit as he broke the DSU single-game record for total tackles with 19, including seven solo stops, to go with one sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and a pass break-up in his final game in a Dixie uniform. Mason finished with 12 tackles and one TFL to go with his two interceptions, and Olson and Isaiah Jones each made 10 stops. Meanwhile, the five turnovers the Storm forced was a season-high, eclipsing the previous mark of four set in DSU’s win at South Dakota Mines Oct. 31.
For Coach Brumfield, who has been on the DSU sideline throughout the program’s transition from junior college to NCAA Division II competition, the end was bittersweet, however the program is on the way up, thanks in large part to his tireless work and dedication over his tenure.
“It was hard,” Coach Brumfield said of his final game. “I look at the players and they’re all my kids. I’m happy with what I’ve been able to do here. I’ve coached some great kids and been around some great people and bettered my life. I’m ready now to take off my coaching hat and put on my dad hat.”
Stats: CWU 34, DSU 28
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