ST. GEORGE — A.J. Johnson and Griff Robles both scored fourth quarter touchdowns as Dixie State shocked highly-touted Central Washington 29-21 Saturday at Hansen Stadium.
After a couple of interceptions by starting quarterback Kaleo Nawahine, one of which was returned 100 yards for an interception, Dixie State coach Scott Brumfield brought in Robles. All the junior signal-caller did was rally his team from a 21-10 deficit by throwing for 244 yards and a touchdown and rushing for the clinching score in the game’s final minute.
“You know, even though Griff lost his starting job, he kept a great attitude and did all the things he needed to do to be ready for this game,” Brumfield said. “He is a winner. He won the game for us tonight.”
Behind Nawahine, the Red Storm had forged a 10-7 halftime lead. But early in the third quarter, Nawahine was picked off by Wildcats safety Kevin Puckett, who raced 100 yard for the go-ahead score.
Moments later, John Koopman intercepted a Nawahine pass, setting up a 22-yard Demetrius Sumler score and putting DSC in an 11-point hole.
That’s when Robles and the Dixie State defense stepped it up a notch.
On the very next drive, Robles found speedster Matt Porrazzo streaking up the sideline. The 56-yard TD strike cut the lead to 21-16 after a blocked extra point.
Central Washington used most of the rest of the third quarter on a long drive, but Dixie State’s defense grabbed the ball back by stuffing Sumler on a fourth-and-one from the Red Storm 29-yard line.
CWU played field position early in the fourth quarter and eventually forced DSC to start from its own 1-yard line with 8:36 left in the game and the score still 21-16. What happened next was perhaps the biggest moment in DSC football since the move to Division II.
“We’ve been in these kinds of positions before and kind of folded,” Brumfield said. “This time the guys battled. I’m so proud of them.”
Robles and company went on a 12-play, 99-yard drive that culminated with Johnson’s 1-yard plunge into the end zone for the lead. The score came with 4:23 left on the clock and followed a couple of clutch catches by Snow Canyon graduate Mitch Frei. He had a 20-yard grab on a third-and-seven play and a 19-yarder on fourth-and-four from the CWU 21-yard line. Zach Fox and Andre Aron also had big grabs on the drive.
Central Washington tried to respond, but was stuffed on three plays by the DSC defense. The Wildcats decided to punt the ball with 3:55 left, setting up another long drive by the Red Storm. Aron had another key catch on a third down, setting up Robles’s 2-yard scramble for the clincher.
CWU’s last-gasp desperation pass was intercepted in the end zone by Dixie State’s Nick Parrazzo to end the game.
It is the first time Dixie State has ever beaten perennial-powerhouse Central Washington, which now drops to 4-2 overall and 4-1 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
DSC, 3-3 and 3-2, put up the most offensive yardage on the Wildcats of any team in four years. The Red Storm had 478 passing yards and 585 yards of total offense.
Fox had 120 receiving yards, while Aron had 98 and Frei had 95.
DSC plays at Western Oregon next week. The Red Storm beat WOU 24-10 earlier this season.
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