The Dixie State football team closed the 2017 season in thrilling fashion on Saturday, rallying from a 13-0 halftime deficit for a 23-13 victory over Fort Lewis at Ray Dennison Memorial Field in Durango, Colorado.
The Trailblazers (5-6, 5-5 RMAC) managed just 72 yards of total offense in the first half before exploding for 250 yards and 23 unanswered points in the second half. Meanwhile, the DSU defense stymied Fort Lewis in the second half, holding the Skyhawks to just 30 yards of total offense through the final two quarters.
Dixie State set the tone for the comeback on the opening drive of the third quarter, marching 75 yards in eight plays, capped by a 41-yard touchdown strike from redshirt sophomore quarterback Blake Barney to senior receiver Josiah Blandin, to cut the lead to 13-6 with 10:49 remaining in the period.
The Trailblazers looked to tie the game quickly after the scoring drive and recovered a loose ball on the ensuing kickoff after the kick was held up in the wind, but a DSU interception gave the ball back to the Skyhawks two plays later.
The teams traded possessions the next seven minutes until the DSU defense forced a Fort Lewis punt with just less than three minutes remaining in the frame. But the punt never happened, as the snap to the FLC punter on the next play sailed high and the Skyhawks were forced to down the ball at the FLC 4-yard line. Barney cashed in with a 4-yard touchdown scamper on the next play to tie the game at 13-13 with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter.
After forcing an FLC three-and-out on the next possession, Dixie State took its first lead of the game on the ensuing drive, marching 56 yards in five plays to set up another touchdown. Barney scored his second touchdown on the sixth play of the drive, making multiple FLC defenders miss on his way to a 20-yard scoring run and a 20-13 advantage for the Trailblazers. Sophomore running back Sei-J Lauago rushed for 40 yards on the drive, including a 30-yard sprint on the first play of the possession.
The Trailblazers closed the scoring on their next possession, marching to the FLC 24-yard line behind a steady rushing attack of Barney and senior running back Jeffrey Coprich. The drive eventually stalled at the FLC 23-yard line, but redshirt freshman kicker A.J. Yergensen matched a career-long mark and nailed a 40-yard field goal to push the lead to the eventual final tally of 23-13 with 4:46 remaining in the game.
Dixie State sealed the victory on the sixth play of the ensuing Fort Lewis possession when junior linebacker Jordan Nichols made a tip-drill interception and returned it to the FLC 37-yard line.
The Trailblazers finished with 322 yards of total offense (172 rushing, 150 passing). Barney completed 11-of-17 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 64 yards and two more touchdowns. Lauago finished with 69 yards rushing on 15 carries and ends the season with 803 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Junior receiver Orlando Wallace finished with a team-high seven catches for 69 yards.
Defensively, Dixie State limited the Skyhawks to 272 yards of total offense, shutting out the Skyhawks in the second half while allowing just 30 yards in the final two quarters. Nichols led the charge with a career-high 11 tackles (two for loss) and his first career interception. Junior defensive lineman Remington Kelly matched a career high with nine tackles (two for loss) and sack, while fellow junior defensive lineman Sebastian DeMartini also logged a career-high mark with nine tackles.
The Trailblazers finish their season with a 5-6 overall record and a 5-5 mark in RMAC play, marking the second-consecutive season of five wins or more and the second-most wins in a single season in the program’s NCAA Division II era.
Keric Seegmiller is Assistant Coordinator of Media Relations at Dixie State University and the Voice of Trailblazer Athletics. Contact him at [email protected].