ST. GEORGE – Dixie State reached another milestone with its final football game of the season, a tight 16-14 win over Fort Lewis. The win gave the Trailblazers their first winning season, at 6-5, since becoming a four-year institution.
As a junior college program, Dixie dominated the football scene, usually finishing in the top 10 in the national rankings. Since the change, the football program has hit tough times, losing support along the way. That changed this season. Switching conferences to the more competitive RMAC, many thought that Dixie State would finish at or near the bottom. Picked in the preseason to finish ninth out of 11 teams, the Trailblazers beat six conference opponents and finished tied for fifth.
“I told our seniors and really everybody on the team that they were part of something special this year,” said head coach Shay McClure. “In the future, when this team is bringing home conference and national championships, these guys can say they were on the team that turned things around.”
Fort Lewis battled to get a different result and lined up late in the game for a game-winning, 49-yard field goal with only 1:11 showing on the clock.
“I admit, I was nervous,” said McClure. “We had watched him in warmups kick them in from 60 yards. But he had to kick them low. We called timeout to put that into their coaches’ heads. The kick ended up not going the distance.”
The game did not end there however as the Skyhawks utilized their timeouts and forced a Dixie State punt with 11 seconds left. Corey Stens lined up for probably his most important punt of the season.
“I told Corey to just get the punt away,” said McClure. “I didn’t care if it went 20 yards or 50 yards. I just did not want it to get blocked.”
The punt actually sailed and then rolled for a total of 58 yards, rolling out of bounds at the Fort Lewis 1-yard line with three seconds remaining.
“You could not have asked for a more perfect punt,” said McClure.
A Hail Mary pass by Fort Lewis fell incomplete to end the game.
In the early going, it looked to be a runaway for the Trailblazers. Fort Lewis received the football but on its first possession, DSU safety Colton Olson slammed into the Skyhawk running back and forced a fumble. It was recovered by linebacker Noe Perez at the Fort Lewis 36-yard line.
On Dixie State’s first play from scrimmage, running back DeJon Coleman took the handoff and ran untouched up the middle for a 36-yard score.
“Once again, my offensive line opened up a big hole,” said Coleman. “No one touched me and when I am able to build up some steam it is difficult to catch me.” With the Anthony Reyes extra point, the score was quickly 7-0 DSU.
Dixie State scored again at the beginning of the second quarter. Coleman again added to his record touchdown total with his second of the day, a 1-yard plunge to put the Trailblazers up 14-0. Dixie State had two big plays during the 15-play, 87-yard drive. Quarterback Josh Thompson found wide receiver Aub Reed on a 36-yard pass. And on third-and-1 at the Fort Lewis 11-yard line, Thompson’s pitch to Coleman was errant and rolled back to the 24. Instead of falling on the ball and facing a fourth-and-15, Coleman scooped up the ball, broke two tackles and ran the ball down to the 2-yard line. The score came with 11:35 remaining in the half.
On Fort Lewis’ next possession, the Dixie State defense forced a punt on the first series of downs. Orlando Wallace, who normally returns punts, lined upon the right side. He ran untouched and blocked the punt. The ball flew out of the back of the end zone before DSU could recover and Dixie State was awarded the safety.
“We had scouted them and saw that they did not block the outside man,” said Wallace. “I just took the correct angle and went in clean. They did not let me come in clean again after that.”
With 10:26 left in the second, Dixie State led 16-0. Fortunately for the Trailblazers, that would be all they needed for the victory.
Fort Lewis was able to get on the board with only seven seconds remaining in the first half. Skyhawk quarterback Bo Coleman drove his team 75 yards in 10 plays. Facing a fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line, Fort Lewis elected to go for the touchdown. Coleman optioned to the right and barreled into the end zone. He then ran for the two-point conversion to make it a one-possession game.
At halftime, both teams made adjustments defensively and the game became a chess match of field position as the teams traded punts several times. Fort Lewis would score next, shortly after the beginning of the fourth quarter. Coleman threw the ball to receiver Arealous Hughes. Cornerback Jaylen Moore had tight coverage, but the ball fell into both of their hands and Hughes was able to wrestle the ball away, break the tackle of another defender and get into the end zone.
“I just shook my head on that play,” said McClure. “Moore was initially beat on the play, but recovered. I thought he was going to get the interception, but the receiver made a good play then worked hard to get into the end zone.”
This time, however, DSU stopped the Skyhawks on their two-point conversion try to maintain the slim two-point margin. Again the defenses prevailed as neither team would get near the end zone, setting up the last moments of the game.
Fort Lewis outgained the Blazers 340-255. The difference came in the turnover battle that the Trailblazers won by taking care of the ball.
“Our front seven, particularly the defensive line, was the key to our win today,” said McClure. “They had a couple of breakdowns in the first half, but in the second, apart from the big scoring play, they kept their offense in check. They stopped the run and had pressure on their athletic quarterback all game.”
Individually for Dixie State, Coleman had a game-high 145 yards rushing, accounting for 60 percent of the offense. Defensively, Peter Brown led all players with 12 tackles and a sack. Keanu Foki and Perez each recorded two sacks.
Stens continually put the Skyhawks in terrible field position. He punted the ball 10 times for 419 yards. He placed four punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and probably should have had two more that turned into touchbacks.
Dixie State’s season is complete at 6-5, 6-4 in the RMAC. Fort Lewis also ended its season today. They finished 3-7 in the RMAC and 4-7 overall.
- Note: Utah Dixie Detachment 1270 Marine Corps League provided a color guard for Trailblazers game with Ft. Lewis College Saturday afternoon. Wanting to recognize the nation’s veterans this weekend, the college requested the League to assign a color guard for the opening ceremonies and national anthem. Marines Jack Stanfill, Bryan Butas, Billion Johnston, Larry Mineer and Henry Franz composed the color guard.
Stats: DSU 16, FLU 14
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