OREGON – Just when they needed it most, the Dixon Dukes went on a time-consuming drive and capped it off with a touchdown.
Despite a strong effort from a feisty Oregon squad, the Dukes improved to 2-0 with a 29-20 win in a Big Northern Conference game Friday night at Landers-Loomis Field.
“It was definitely a fun football game tonight,” Dixon senior running back/linebacker Aiden Wiseman said. “We just all came together as a team in the second half.”
After the Hawks (1-1) cut the deficit to 22-20 with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Jack Washburn to Avery Lewis with 10:38 left in the game, they went for a two-point conversion and the tie. But Cullen Shaner knocked down the pass to help the Dukes cling to the slim lead.
Dixon then went on the decisive drive. After recovering an onside kick, the Dukes drove 54 yards in 10 plays, with Wiseman carrying the ball eight times for 44 yards, including a 20-yard run on fourth-and-1 and a 2-yard run on fourth-and-inches to keep the drive alive.
The Dukes switched it up to end the drive, as Tyler Shaner connected with younger brother Cullen on a 12-yard touchdown pass with 4:39 to play, and Caleb Carlson’s extra-point kick made it a nine-point margin.
“That was kind of our game plan. We knew we had to attack Z [defender] with something, because they were coming hard, hard, hard to stop the run. So we attacked it with a slant and it worked out well,” Cullen Shaner said about the clinching score. “The line was amazing in the second half, and Aiden ran hard as always. It was good after halftime.”
Before the final Dixon touchdown, Oregon had the answer every time it looked like the Dukes would pull away.
After Dixon returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown, it was called back for an illegal block, and Oregon’s defense forced a turnover on downs. On the Hawks’ third-down play, Cort Jacobson intercepted a pass, taking the ball away from the Oregon receiver; Wiseman ran for 21 yards in three plays, capping it with a 2-yard touchdown run and a 22-7 lead.
But Griffin Marlatt got behind the Dixon defense on Oregon’s first play of the next possession, and Washburn hit him in stride for a 76-yard touchdown strike to cut the deficit to 22-14 with 5:58 left in the third quarter.
“That just kind of shows the resilience of our team,” Marlatt said. “We were right there, we wanted to win this ballgame, and unfortunately it didn’t come out the way we wanted it. But we were right there with them. This is huge for the team.”
The Hawks forced a turnover on downs, then went on another scoring drive to get within two, but the Dukes didn’t let them get anything else.
Both teams showed their balance on offense. Wiseman ran 25 times for 142 yards and a touchdown, and Tyler Shaner threw for 140 yards and three scores. Cullen Shaner caught three passes for 49 yards and two TDs, Tyson Dambman had three receptions for 28 yards, and Eli Davidson, Gabe Rowley and Collin Scott also caught passes for the Dukes.
“It was kind of us just seeing what they were going to do defensively, see if they were going to go five in the box or six, and then air it out if they had six,” Cullen Shaner said about the offensive game plan. “Whenever we went trips [three receivers on the same side], they would bring a safety over, so run or pass depended on that as well. But then late game, we were running it very well, so we just kept going.”
“Ty is a great quarterback; when he’s back there he can run, he can pass, he can do everything. Cullen made some great plays, Collin made some great plays, Eli was making great plays on defense,” Wiseman said. “We made adjustments at halftime, and I said to the guys, ‘All right, we’ve just got to come together and push the ball.’ We did that in the second half.”
Oregon ran the ball just enough to keep the defense honest, but Washburn did the most damage with 248 yards passing and two touchdowns. Marlatt had three catches for 88 yards and a score, Josh Crandall caught three passes for 48 yards, and Austin Egyed (3 catches, 20 yards), Hunter Bartel (2 catches for 20 yards), Logan Weems (2 catches, 34 yards), Lewis and Quinten Berry also caught passes for the Hawks.
“It always good to have a balanced offense. Really the middle linebackers are the most important, and the safety in the middle of the field. If you can suck those middle linebackers up, you have room over the top, and that really helps with the slants and seams over the middle,” Washburn said. “And it’s always good to be throwing to all different guys.
“It’s good to be able to be with my class again, because we have more chemistry than I did with some of the seniors last year, just being a sophomore and never playing with them before. So we’ve got five or six guys we’ve got good chemistry with, and we know where they like the ball and how they catch the ball. The whole rotation really does help.”
The first half was a struggle for both offenses, with both teams losing fumbles. Oregon had a defensive score, as Marlatt intercepted a pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown to cut the Dixon lead to 8-7 in the final minute of the first quarter. The defense helped out the offense three plays after a fumble inside the 5 on a third-down conversion.
“The pick was definitely something that we needed right there,” Marlatt said. “We’d kind of been practicing the slants in practice, and the first slant, I read it, the quarterback threw it right over top of him and missed him. I knew on the second slant that I had a good chance to pick it off, and I came up, saw the ball, made a play on it, and took it to the house.”
Tyler Shaner bounced back, as the Dukes drove 68 yards in 10 plays after Oregon’s second fumble on the tackle of a long screen pass down the sideline. Two first downs came on Oregon penalties, and Dixon looked as if it would face a fourth down inside the Oregon 10-yard line. But the Hawks accepted a holding penalty on the third-down play, and Shaner connected with Rowley for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 1:19 left in the first half.
Tyler Shaner connected on a long sideline route with Cullen Shaner for the first score of the game, a 33-yard strike on fourth-and-8. An Oregon offsides penalty on the PAT moved the ball inside the 2, and the Shaners hooked up for the two-point conversion pass for an 8-0 lead with 5:35 left in the first quarter.
Then in the second half, the Dukes came out pounding the ball up the middle with Wiseman and sprinkling in the occasional pass, and took control of the game.
“The first half, we just kind of had to work on a few things a little bit. That zone play was not working how we wanted it to, and at halftime we made some adjustments on the white board and came out thinking, ‘All right, it’s time to settle down and we’re going to drive the ball,’ and that’s what we did. We just ran zone, zone right and zone left, and that’s all we really did to become successful,” Wiseman said. “I just wish we could’ve capitalized a little bit more in the red zone. We kind of struggled with that a little bit, but I think we’re going to go into practice next week and just work on that. You’re going to see a new red-zone team next week.”