COLUMBIA, Ky. – In the closing seconds, with the game on the line, up 34-29 with 16 seconds left to play, the Southern Oregon Raiders continued to look like a team of destiny.
The Raiders got into the backfield, sacked opposing quarterback Dylan Beasley, who put together a great second half, and Noah Johnson scooped the football off the turf and with it, a win for SOU.
The Raiders took a 14-0 lead, looking like they were going to run away with another playoff game, but the fourth-ranked Lindsey Wilson Blue Raiders were as good as advertised. They battled back from a 21-10 deficit at halftime, inching their way closer in the second half.
Eventually, the Blue Raiders punched the ball into the end zone with just over six minutes left in the game, to put them up 29-28. That was the first time SOU trailed since October 14 against Eastern Oregon. On the subsequent possession, the Raiders were forced to punt, but the defense held strong, to get quarterback Tanner Trosin and the offense the ball back with 2:15 remaining.
They didn’t waste the opportunity. The offense, which sputtered for much of the second half, got going. Trosin hit Bronsen Ader over the middle to pick up a huge chunk. Later on, he hit receiver Jordan Suell along the sideline as the clock continued to wind. With less than a minute left in the game, with a first and goal from the six-yard line, running back Rey Vega found pay dirt for the second time on the day.
Southern Oregon’s two-point conversion attempt was no good, keeping the score at 34-29 with 46 seconds left. Quickly, the Lindsey Raider offense went to work. A long pass got them to around midfield. A long quarterback run from Beasley set them up with first and 10 from the 21-yard line with two timeouts. That’s when Johnson and Co. closed it out.
On first down, Beasley dropped back, a host of Raiders took him down and the ball came loose. Johnson recovered and the Raiders took a knee, ensuring they would go back to the NAIA semifinals for the third time in four years. They reached the NAIA championship game in 2014 and 2015.
They will travel on the road again to play either No. 1 Saint Francis, No. 2 Reinhardt, or No. 3 Morningside next Saturday with a trip to the national championship on the line.