Week 1 was a wash. Week 2 is now the real season opener for the Fort Lewis College football team. It’s also the home opener.
With a 7-0 lead and after more than five hours worth of weather delays, FLC saw its road tilt last Saturday at New Mexico Highlands eventually canceled in the second quarter. Thursday, the RMAC awarded the Skyhawks a victory for that game, citing conference bylaws regarding the cancellation of a game in progress. Now, the 1-0 Skyhawks will look to complete a full game at home against a mighty foe.
Dixie State University (0-1) will visit Ray Dennison Memorial Field at noon Saturday. New to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in 2018, the Trailblazers will depart in 2020 for Division I in the Western Athletic Conference. This will be the final meeting between Dixie State and Fort Lewis at the Division II level.
“Dixie is switching to become an (Football Championships Subdivision) program next season, and they have a lot of talent,” said FLC head coach Brandon Crosby. “They are a sound team, well-coached and very athletic. They can run around. It’s going to be a good test for us to see where we’re at.”
Last week, ninth-ranked Colorado State University-Pueblo put a hurting on the Trailblazers in a 36-7 home win. The ThunderWolves are one of two top-25 teams in the RMAC, as Colorado School of Mines is ranked No. 17. Colorado Mesa University and Chadron State are also receiving votes in the most recent coaches poll.
The Dixie State defense couldn’t slow the ThunderWolves, which raced out to a 20-0 lead by halftime. CSU-Pueblo rushed for 244 yards and passed for another 335, while the Traiblazers were held to 59 rushing yards and 151 passing yards.
Dixie State quarterback Keaton Mott was limited to 10-of-21 passing for 112 yards and a touchdown pass to Jalen Powell, who hauled in eight passed for 65 yards. Conner Miller – two catches, seven yards – was the only other Dixie State player to catch more than one pass. Kody Wilstead checked into the game and was 7-of-12 passing for only 39 yards and an interception.
The CSU-Pueblo defense held Dixie running back Sei-J Lauago to 29 rushing yards on 10 carries.
The ThunderWolves connected on big plays, as quarterback Jordan Kitna had 261 yards on only nine completions, including a 70-yard bomb to Dionte Skykes, who torched Dixie State for 172 yards on only four catches. Backup QB Gunnar Lamphere also had a 50-yard completion in the game.
D.J. Penick was able to run for 105 yards on 13 carries, while Marcus Lindsay, younger brother of Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay, ran for 51 yards and a TD on 10 carries. Kitna, son of former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna, rushed for two TDs from his QB position, too.
“Pueblo did a number on them, but it was on a lot of big plays,” Crosby said.
Dixie State will come into Durango hungry for a win to erase the sour taste from a week ago. Meanwhile, the Skyhawks will try to establish an identity on offense after a limited number of plays at Highlands. Jeff Hansen ran for a 4-yard TD, but it didn’t come from a sustained FLC drive, as linebacker Darrian Stickney had a 51-yard interception return to get the Skyhawks down to the Cowboys’ 4-yard line. Jake Lowry is again expected to start at QB for FLC, which will need supreme protection from the offensive line to succeed in the passing game.
“We need to get an idea of what we look like offensively, and we didn’t get a chance to do that with a canceled game,” Crosby said. “We will try to keep things simple and see what our identity is as an offense and what we can be successful with.”
Crosby said the playbook was barely opened a week ago. While that was a problem for FLC, it also didn’t give the Trailblazers much game film to break down. The Skyhawks will go into the game still as a relative unknown after they rebuilt the roster in the offseason.
FLC will hope to show off that new-look team to its home fans Saturday after it went only 1-4 at home last year. Luckily, weather shouldn’t be a factor, as the forecast currently calls for sunshine and a high of 82 degrees.
“It’s really our first game, and we’re excited to play and, hopefully, get four quarters of a game and take advantage of the opportunity,” Crosby said. “Our guys know the talent of Dixie, and it will be a good challenge and test for us. Recruiting-wise, if we can go toe-to-toe with a team going D-I, I think it shows we’re moving in the right direction. That said, it’s just another opponent in a long season ahead of us. We are trying to get better each day and work on what we’re building here.”