ST. GEORGE – Dixie State let Chadron State stick around for most of the game Saturday at Legend Solar Field. Not until late in the fourth quarter did the Trailblazers pull away for the final two-score advantage. The Blazer defense kept CSU out of the end zone most of the night. The Eagles stayed close by scoring with their defense and special teams before finally succumbing, 38-24.
“Our defensive coaches came up with a great game plan today,” Dixie State head coach Shay McClure said. “Our defense executed well. This team likes to pass. We defend the pass well and have trouble with the run. So they ran the ball more than they wanted. Our defense got some big stops.”
In the first half, Dixie State dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. But two empty possessions on missed field goals and a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown kept the Eagles in the ballgame.
The Eagles got on the scoreboard first when they took their first possession and drove the ball 53 yards before the Dixie State D stiffened. Chadron settled for a 37-yard field goal from Will Morgan with 10:47 left on the clock.
The Trailblazers drove the ball into the Eagles red zone before their drive stalled. Anthony Reyes’ field goal attempt from 36 yards out went wide right.
Dixie State would quickly get the ball again. Quarterback Malik Watson guided the team 66 yards in eight plays. This time, Reyes kick from 31 yards out went through and with just under three minutes remaining in the first, the score was tied at 3-3.
DSU got its first lead on the next possession. The Blazers took over after an Eagle punt and drove 69 yards in nine plays to take a 10-3 lead with 11:55 remaining in the half.
A costly punt block with nine minutes remaining pulled the Eagles even. The ball was recovered by CSU running back Derek Jackson. He ran the ball 20 yards before he coughed it up, but CSU defensive back Cole Thurness recovered the ball in the DSU end zone for the touchdown. With 9:04 remaining in the first half the score was tied 10-10.
The Blazers again got into the red zone on their next possession. But again the field goal attempt went awry, this time wide left, and the Blazers came away empty on the possession.
After the teams traded possessions, Chadron State took over in their own territory at the 32-yard line. After getting a first down, Eagle quarterback Dalton Holst threw a pass to the right just before getting tackled. DSU defensive back Trayvon Watson outjumped the receiver and intercepted the pass. He then ran the ball back 35 yards to the 20-yard line. A CSU facemask penalty tacked on 10 more and Dixie State had a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line with 58 seconds remaining in the half.
“I felt the receiver behind me when I caught the interception,” Watson said. “I was thinking touchdown all the way. I made a good cut on the guy in front of me but that allowed the receiver to catch me from behind.”
Three plays later, Blazer fullback Landon Cook plunged in from the 1-yard line to give DSU a 17-10 halftime lead.
In the first half, Dixie State outgained the Eagles 253-119.
The beginning of the second half was all defense. Neither team allowed the other’s offense to get any traction. But a costly turnover by the Trailblazers allowed CSU to tie the game. A fumble popped right into Eagle defensive back Trey Mosley’s hands. With no one in front of him, he raced the 37 yards to the Dixie end zone untouched. With 3:50 remaining in the third, the score was tied 17-17.
The DSU offense came right back on its next play. Using play action, Watson faked the handoff, double pumped and then hit receiver DeJuan Dantzler on a quick slant. Dantzler eluded his man and ran 65 yards for the touchdown and Dixie State went ahead once more, 24-17.
“I can’t remember why I double-pumped,” Watson said. “But DeJuan got a step on his guy and once he got the ball, no one was going to catch him.”
After the teams traded punts, Chadron State inserted Matt Vinson at quarterback. The move seemed to ignite the Eagle offense and they completed their first extended drive. The 80 yard march was completed in eight plays and in just under four minutes. With the fourth quarter less than two minutes old, the score was again tied 24-24.
“That was the only time that they scored on our defense,” McClure said. “On that scoring drive, they brought in a new quarterback and our guys might have been a little tired. Chadron is good at getting into a rhythm offensively.”
On Dixie State’s next drive, the Blazers replicated CSU and took advantage of a tired defense. Eight straight carries from Jeffrey Coprich and Lika Palmer netted five first downs and 63 yards down to the Eagle 7-yard line. Watson ended the drive again on play action. He faked the handoff and then tossed it over the line to a wide-open Ernest Quiocho for the touchdown. With 10:15 remaining, the Blazers retook the lead 31-24.
Chadron State came out firing again. After getting positive yardage on seven straight plays, the Eagles were facing a second-and-6 at the Dixie State 36-yard line. Vinson dropped back, then went to his left. Just before he was tackled, he released the ball. Dixie State defensive back Alex Lilliard was in position, however, and intercepted the ball at the DSU 13-yard line.
“We were in man coverage,” said Lilliard. “My guy ran a post corner. When he looked for the ball I looked also. And it was right there. I barely got my hands up to catch it.”
On the ensuing drive, Dixie State again looked to the rushing game to run clock. On a third-and-1 at the DSU 34, quarterback Blake Barney was held for no gain. But a CSU defender was called for a personal foul that extended the drive.
“It got kind of chippy,” McClure said. “Both sides were doing talking. We have been telling our guys all year not to retaliate and get caught up in silly personal fouls. Instead of offsetting personal fouls, we got a first down. Instead of punting on fourth down in our territory, the drive stays alive and we score a touchdown. That was a crucial penalty at a key time in the game.”
Later, facing a third-and-8 on the CSU 49, Watson found Josiah Blandin on a crossing route. Blandin had a step on his man, caught the pass and ran 18 yards to get a first down.
Three plays later, on fourth-and-4, Watson again found his big receiver. This time though Blandin raced to the end zone and scored on the 25-yard touchdown, giving the Blazers a two-touchdown advantage 38-24.
“Josiah (Blandin) is an NFL receiver at a Division II school,” said Malik Watson. “He is a tough cover for any defensive back. And like Dejuan (Dantzler), he has deceptive speed.”
The Eagles would turn the ball over on downs their next possession and DSU knelt out the clock.
Dixie State outgained the Eagles 516-288 yards for the game. Coprich led the team with 124 yards on 23 carries. Lika Palmer gained 86 yards on 16 carries. Malik Watson threw for 268 yards, completing 15 of 25 passes. Blandin and Orlando Wallace led the team with four receptions apiece. Blandin led the team with 98 yards receiving. Along with their interceptions, Trayvon Watson and Lilliard also led the team in tackles with nine and eight, respectively.
Dixie State improves to 3-3 overall and 3-2 in the RMAC. The Trailblazers will host Colorado Mesa next Saturday at 6 p.m. Chadron State falls to 3-3 and 3-2 in conference play.
Stats: DSU 38, CSU 24
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