Dominant 2nd half key as Blazers beat Fort Lewis in finale

File photo of Dixie State University vs. Chadron State College, Football, St. George, UT, Oct. 7, 2017, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

DURANGO, Colo. – The Dixie State Trailblazers overcame a dismal first half and turned the tables on the Fort Lewis Skyhawks to pull out a 23-13 win in their final game of the season.

“It was a rough first half,” Dixie State head coach Shay McClure said. “But we were down 13-0. We made some adjustments on some of the stuff they were doing. And we also scrapped some of our game plan. We thought we could get outside on them. After halftime, we decided to keep our runs inside and to get Blake (Barney) some more opportunities running the ball as well.”

Blake Barney passed for a TD and ran for two more in the second half as DSU outscored FLC 23-0 in the second half.

Neither team could score in the first quarter. Fort Lewis did get three points on the board to begin the second, however. While Dixie State did not turn the ball over, the offense repeatedly stalled in the first half. The Skyhawks would score on their possessions in the second quarter, but the Trailblazer defense kept them out of the end zone on two of the three scores, and quite possibly on the third. It appeared that the Skyhawk touchdown reception midway through the second quarter was caught out of bounds.

Fort Lewis took a 13-0 lead into the locker rooms. The Skyhawks had outgained Dixie State 142-82 in the first half.

“The wind was a definite factor today for both teams,” McClure said. “In the punting game, Cory (Stens) did a great job kicking line drives against the wind and kicking high floaters with the wind. The wind also determined our play calling on offense.”

Dixie State’s Blake Barney (5), file photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

The adjustments made at halftime paid immediate dividends for DSU. On the opening drive of the second half, quarterback Barney drove the team 75 yards in nine plays to finally get on the scoreboard. Barney connected on all three of his passes after completing 2 of 6 in the first half. The last pass went for 41 yards and a touchdown to receiver Josiah Blandin. However, the PAT went awry after a high snap and Dixie State trailed 13-6 with 10:47 on the clock in the third quarter.

“I was running a post route,” Blandin said. “We were going against the wind, so I was surprised that Blake was able to throw it that far. I saw the pass coming and the wind was playing with it. I was able to position myself and get my defender on my hip. I made the catch in the end zone as he went to the ground.”

On the ensuing kickoff, Dixie State pulled one out of their bag of tricks. Kicker A.J. Yergensen did a pooch kick that was recovered by Dixie State’s Brad Duran at the Fort Lewis 40-yard line. But, two plays later the Blazers had their first turnover as Fort Lewis intercepted a Barney pass.

The two teams traded punts and Fort Lewis had the ball at its 20-yard line late in the third quarter. The Dixie State defense forced a punt after three plays. However, the snap went over the punter’s head and the Blazers took over on downs at the Fort Lewis 4-yard line. Barney kept the ball on the next play and scored the equalizer with 3:49 remaining in the third. Yergensen’s kick tied the score, 13-13.

The momentum continued for Dixie State. On the Blazers’ next possession, the offensive line continually opened huge holes for the rushing attack. On the sixth play of the drive, Barney kept the ball on the read-option around the left side, then cut back up the middle for a 20 yard touchdown run. With the fourth quarter barely one minute old, Dixie State claimed the lead, 20-13.

On its next possession, Dixie State drove the ball 57 yards to get Yergensen into field goal range. The kick was good from 40 yards to put the Trailblazers up 23-13 with 5:46 remaining.

Jordan Nichols

Dixie State would not threaten again, but from that point forward the defense held Fort Lewis to just 8 total yards to close out the game and the win. One Skyhawk drive ended on an interception by Jordan Nichols.

“I was watching the quarterback and saw him make the throw,” Nichols said. “My boy (DSU linebacker Bryce Willette) tipped it and it fell right into my hands.”

For the game, Dixie State outgained the Skyhawks 322-272 yards. Individually for Dixie State, Barney completed 11 of 17 passes for 150 yards. He also had 71 yards rushing. Sei-J Lauago led the team with 76 yards rushing. Barney found five different receivers, but the only one with multiple catches was Orlando Wallace, who pulled in seven for 69 yards.

Defensively, Nichols led the team with 11 tackles. Defensive linemen Remington Kelly and Sebastian DeMartini had nine apiece. Nichols and Kelly both had two tackles for loss. Nichols also had the Blazers’ sole interception.

“Nichols was all over the field,” McClure said. “He played great. We had really good interior play from DeMartini and Amati Savusa.”

Dixie State finishes the season 5-6 overall and 5-5 in the RMAC.

Stats: DSU 23, FLC 13

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