ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Blue Hawks’ comeback bid against Montana Tech falls a touchdown short

BUTTE, Mont. -- It was like something out a movie. Down 28-21 with just over a minute left, and a fourth down and 16 to go with the season on the line. Dickinson State senior quarterback Kaler Ray hiked the ball, dropped back and threw a streakin...

Montana Tech junior quarterback Quinn McQueary (8) is stopped on a fourth-down run by Dickinson State defenders Jay Liggins (23), Drew Johnson (51) and Tino Mafi (30) on Saturday during the first round of the NAIA Playoffs at Alumni Coliseum. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)
Montana Tech junior quarterback Quinn McQueary (8) is stopped on a fourth-down run by Dickinson State defenders Jay Liggins (23), Drew Johnson (51) and Tino Mafi (30) on Saturday during the first round of the NAIA Playoffs at Alumni Coliseum. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)

BUTTE, Mont. - It was like something out a movie.

Down 28-21 with just over a minute left, and a fourth down and 16 to go with the season on the line.

Dickinson State senior quarterback Kaler Ray hiked the ball, dropped back and threw a streaking pass across the field to wide receiver Seth Ewoniuk. He hauled it in and got hit hard by a Montana Tech defender.

When the replay flashed on the big screen, it looked like Ewoniuk got only 15 of those yards, but the refs spotted the ball and signaled a first down; the Blue Hawk sideline erupted.

But for No. 14 DSU, playing against the sixth-ranked Orediggers in the first round of the NAIA playoffs on Saturday at Alumni Coliseum, that's where the script ended.

ADVERTISEMENT

Ray sailed four straight incompletions down the field, each one becoming a little more desperate, and as quickly as it came, the magic was gone.

The Orediggers, led all game by quarterback Quinn McQueary, took the field for a celebratory kneel down, making the 28-21 final official.

For DSU (9-3), it was so, so close. But ultimately, its comeback from down 21-0 against heavily favored Montana Tech fell (10-1) just short.

"We came into this game knowing we had the opportunity to shock some people," said senior Rob Sterling, whose first-half interception was the only turnover of the game. "Our seniors, we fought. We fought. Everyone saw it. It just didn't come our way."

In a game decided by so many close plays, it was Montana Tech which most often came out on the favorable end.

On their way to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, the Orediggers converted four different third downs on their first two possessions, stringing together scoring drives of 79 and 68 yards before the Blue Hawks had even converted a first down.

McQueary, a former Montana State player, was near perfect to begin the game, picking apart the Blue Hawk defense for 160 first-half passing yards. He threw the first touchdown, and ran in the second.

The Orediggers converted seven of 10 third downs in the first half, including three from 10 yards or longer, and entered the break in complete control. After they added another touchdown later in the second quarter, Ray connected with running back Jed Fike on a 43-yard wheel route to finally put the Blue Hawks on the board.

ADVERTISEMENT

It wasn't until Fike's second touchdown, a 67-yard third-quarter dash that made it 21-14, that the atmosphere of the game changed.

But on the ensuing drive, agony came, twice, which eventually turned into a Montana Tech score that did the Blue Hawks in.

Pinned inside their own 20-yard line on a third-and-7 play, McQueary scrambled, bought time, and lofted a pinpoint pass to a receiver along the sidelines, who simultaneously secured the ball, dragged his toes and got hit by a DSU defensive back. He held on - first down.

Then, later on a fourth and 7 from the DSU 23-yard line, McQueary again floated a pass that needed to be every bit as perfect as it was. It was a throw to the back of the end zone, which Cain Boschee came within centimeters of swatting away.

Instead of a deflection and a turnover on downs, the ball nestled into the hands of Tech receiver Mitchell Keeton. It was a touchdown and a 14-point lead. Boschee - frustrated, bewildered, heartbroken - stood there shaking his head as Orediggers swarmed Keeton.

"It's a game of inches. That was the turning point. Back-to-back plays - the kid makes a great catch and gets his foot in bounds on third down, then the kid made a great play in the endzone," Dickinson State head coach Pete Stanton said. "We got good pressure, but the quarterback spilled out of there. What do you do? It was a turning point."

Still, the Blue Hawks were not done. Ray didn't allow it.

He broke free a few drives later on a fourth-and-1 play for a 54-yard touchdown to make it 28-21.

ADVERTISEMENT

Stifled by a big front line and an athletic defensive backfield in the first half, the four-year captain still found ways to move the ball. He finished 6 of 24 passing for 78 yards, plus 90 yards rushing.

"We just told ourselves to believe. Every single play, after every series. We were just saying, 'Believe.' There wasn't a guy on this team expecting to lose. We're surprised right now that we lost," said Ray. "We were down 21-0 and no one was freaking out on the sideline. That's the family you want to go to war with. We stayed calm - too little, too late, I suppose."

With the offense finally churning, the defense - which at a point looked outmatched - came up with two crucial forced punts in the fourth quarter.

On one possession, the offense was driving near midfield, but the drive stalled when a Tech defender did just enough to knock the ball out of Jamion Lindsey's hands on a deep pass. Had the senior caught the pass, it would have been first and goal.

Again, so close.

The next drive, set up by a tackle for a loss by NSAA Defensive MVP Noey Tauave, was the final one. Senior Tray Boone, in his final collegiate moments, cranked out two first downs on four straight runs, but on a second-down play was hit and dropped for a loss of two yards. He stayed sprawled out on the ground, "playing possum," explained Boone, and bought the Blue Hawks an injury timeout.

That brought up third and 5, where Ray, avoiding a sack, spiked the ball and was called for intentional grounding.

That brought up fourth and 16 and Ray and Ewoniuk's brief heroics. But in the end, it was too big a mountain to climb.

Ray's final attempt was too far downfield for Lindsey to catch up to. Realizing that, the Tech defensive backs began celebrating as soon as the ball left Ray's hand.

"We left it all on the field. We had the momentum, we came up short. Nothing else to say about it really," Boone said. "It's not how you plan it. It's not the way you want to end your senior year. But we left it all out on the field, we finished as a team."

Montana Tech 28, Dickinson State 21

MT 14 7 7 0 - 28

DSU 0 7 7 7 - 21

First Quarter

MT - Andrew Loudenback 3 pass from Quinn McQueary (Derrick Holt kick)

MT - McQueary 7 run (Holt kick)

Second Quarter

MT - Zach Bunney 13 run (Holt kick)

DSU - Jed Fike 43 pass from Kaler Ray (Cody Johnson kick)

Third Quarter

DSU - Fike 67 run (Johnson kick)

MT - Mitchell Keeton 23 pass from McQueary (Holt kick)

Fourth Quarter

DSU - Ray 51 run (Johnson kick)

TEAM STATISTICS DSU MT

First downs 21 28

Rushes-yards 39-314 44-189

Passing yards 78 241

Comp.-Att.-Int. 6-24-0 21-35-1

Total yards 392 430

Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0

Penalties-yards 6-60 4-31

Punts-Avg. 7-34.9 4-44.8

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: DSU, Fike 14-143 1 TD, Ray 9-90 1 TD, Boone 14-78. MT, Braden Feisthamel 22-128, Zach Bunney 6-28 1 TD. Zach Winfield 6-17.

PASSING: DSU, Ray 6-24-0 78 yards, 1 TD. MT, McQueary 21-35-1 241 yards, 2 TDs.

RECEIVING: DSU, Seth Ewoniuk 2-16, Austin Brown 2-13, Fike 1-43, Lindsey 1-6. MT, Kolby Kansala 5-62, Zach Bunney 5-48, Mitchell Keeton 4-65 1 TD.

DEFENSIVE STATISTICS

TACKLES: DSU, Tommy Sease 13, Rob Nalewaja 8, Jay Liggins 8, Drew Johnson 8, Rob Sterling 7.

Related Topics: BLUE HAWKS
What To Read Next
Brantley III sets second all-time record in shot put, Wrzesinski breaks school and North Star record in 60 meter hurdles
Entering the game the Midgets and Blue Jays were tied in the WDA standings, and owing to a clutch performance Dickinson came away with a crowd pleasing win.
Engwitch and Speelmon take home belt buckles in victory at memorial home tourney
Before a packed crowd at home, Dickinson State dominated the Comets going 45% from the floor, grabbing 48 boards and double-digits in assists