Game changer: Interceptions prove a consistent weapon for Blue Hawks
Halfway through the second quarter of Saturday's conference rivalry game between Dickinson State and Mayville State, Comets quarterback Creighton Pfau threw a fourth-down pass intended for Trent Momon.
The home team trailed 15-7 at the time, the ball was on the Dickinson State 28, and the Comets needed 20 yards for a first down. Mayville State decided to go for the play. A touchdown would have kept pace with the Blue Hawks, but instead of the ball finding Momon, it found Dickinson State junior Jay Liggins.
Following the defensive back's interception, the Blue Hawks went on a four-play drive to score a touchdown.
"Jay getting that interception right before halftime, he had a pick in the end zone. I think that's the second or third time this year he had an interception in the end zone," Dickinson State head coach Pete Stanton said. "He got the interception right before we had the big score."
All told, three Blue Hawks combined for five interceptions in the 52-7 win over Mayville State.
Defensive back Cain Boschee had three of those interceptions. His first came during the Comets first play of their third possession.
While the Comets went on to score their only touchdown on their next drive, the interception set the tone for the afternoon.
"It showed that the defense was there to play," Boschee said. "We were better than how we played two weeks ago and we were able to respond better."
Boschee's third touchdown was a pick-six. He caught the ball intended for Chris Pope on the Comets 40-yard line and ran it back for a touchdown, bringing the score to 45-7.
Last season, Boschee earned nine interceptions, the second-most amongst NAIA players. The Montana native said he goes out wanting to get his hands on the ball every play.
"It's the game plan," Boschee said. "You have that mentality to go out there that you're going to make the play on this series. It's going to come to you. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."
Liggins, who now has three interceptions on the season, had the same mindset.
"If the quarterback throws to my guy, I like to make him pay for it every time," he said.
Even when a pick doesn't lead to an offensive touchdown, it redirects energy and momentum in the game.
Zeb Doe, a freshman linebacker from Killdeer, intercepted the ball in the fourth quarter on what would be Mayville State's final offensive play of the game.
"It didn't change the way our defense was playing because they came out hard the second half," Doe said. "For the secondary team, just for the younger guys including myself, it changed the game. It gets everyone excited."
The Blue Hawks have long been a team with the ability to intercept at least once a game, but it's nothing coaches preach in practice. It's simply the mentality and ability of the players on the field.
"I think we have our guys up front are really good," Liggins said. "They're really good at getting at the quarterback. And our backers are always making big plays so teams feel that they need to test the secondary and I'm very confident in our guys that we always seem to make plays where they need to be. It just comes with the coaching and trusting each other, knowing we have each other's back."