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The Antelope

Football outlasts Northeastern State in home opener

Defensive lineman Tell Spies (92) celebrates with teammates Quillan Felton (4) and Delonte Dickey (17) after a sack. Photo by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff

After a week one defeat at the hands of Central Oklahoma, the Lopers bounced back in their home opener on Saturday, winning 31-17 over Northeastern State.

It was an uneasy feeling throughout the game, with Loper faithful expecting a very different kind of result after the Riverhawks had been blown out by Fort Hays last week, 56-0.

Even with a Northeastern State team that is struggling, coach Ryan Held said that any win in the MIAA should be celebrated.

“I knew that Northeastern State would be better,” Held said. “I knew they had a good coaching staff and would come in here ready to play. I don’t care who we’re playing, I want to make sure we enjoy victories.”

Things started quickly for the Lopers on their first offensive possession, taking two plays to march down the field, covering 54 yards, with quarterback TJ Davis punching in a 19 yard touchdown run to cap off the drive.

The Riverhawks then answered with a 12-play, six minute drive to tie the game 7-7. The Lopers then had a pair of drives stall in the first half, but never had to punt.

“We left a couple drives out there in the first half that I would have loved to have,” Davis said. “I’m going to take that as a quarterback. I have to wear that.”

Gabe Heins made a 27-yard field goal early in the second quarter, and with just over four minutes left in the first half, Davis completed a 42-yard touchdown pass to graduate transfer Severyn Foster to give the Lopers a 17-7 lead.

The Lopers carried that lead into the second half, and added onto it off the second rushing touchdown from Davis late in the third quarter, giving the Lopers a 24-7 lead.

Just when fans thought the Lopers would run away with it, the Riverhawks again answered with a long drive, cutting the lead to ten.

After the second punt of the night from the Lopers, Northeastern State again put together a drive that ended in a 39-yard field goal, making it 24-17 with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

UNK knew they needed a drive to put the game away.

“We needed that, that was an offseason kind of drive,” Held said. “We had to find a way because they had a little momentum and our guys were very business-like and were able to put it out of reach.”

The Lopers put together a 14-play drive that took eight-and-a-half minutes off the clock and ended with a one-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore Jamaal Joseph.

“That was one of those drives that I’m used to,” Davis said. “That breaks a defense down, especially with our tempo, getting the plays quickly and controlling the clock.”

The defense capped off the 31-17 win with an interception from fifth-year Tre O’Guinn.

While it wasn’t the best day for the defense, giving up 266 yards, they were able to get the stop when it mattered at the end.

“We kind of struggled in the second half with tackling and executing,” said fifth-year defensive linemen Tell Spies. “We knew we had to put it away there at the end and that’s what defensive players live for, to be in the situation to put a team away.”

Davis led the way for the Lopers, going 10-22 with 195 yards and one passing touchdown. He also ran 19 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns. O’Guinn was the leading tackler for the Lopers with nine, five of them solo.

The Lopers improve to 1-1 on the season, but the task doesn’t get any easier with a tough Missouri Southern team that almost beat perennial powerhouse Northwest Missouri week one and is coming off a win over Washburn last week.

“I’ll tell you this, Missouri Southern is a good football team,” Held said. “We know they have to come to our place, so we just need to regroup and start all over.”

Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. on Saturday Sept. 16 at Foster Field.

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Jon Willis
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