Dixon holds off Plano’s upset bid in Class 4A opener

Tyson Dambman comes up with big TD catch, crucial interception

Dixon’s Aiden Wiseman fights for yards in a first round playoff game against Plano Friday, Oct. 27, 2023 in Dixon.

DIXON – No. 3 seed Dixon defeated No. 14 Plano 10-7 Friday night at AC Bowers Field in a Class 4A first-round playoff game. The win snapped a four-game losing streak in the postseason for the Dukes.

The first half was scoreless for both teams as the defenses took center stage. The Reapers (5-5) threatened to score on the opening drive of the game when they marched 79 yards to the Dixon 1, but the Dukes (9-1) forced a fumble and junior linebacker Eli Davidson recovered at the 3-yard line with 4:59 left in the first quarter.

The first points came with 3:26 left in the third quarter. Sophomore kicker Caleb Carlson booted a 17-yard field goal to give Dixon a 3-0 lead after Plano stopped senior running back Aiden Wiseman short near the goal line on three straight carries.

“It was huge by him. That was just a great kick by him,” Wiseman said. “That really put our team over the edge. We were all excited after that, and we really needed that at that moment.”

The Dukes got the ball back two minutes later when junior Tyson Dambman intercepted a pass at the Dixon 40. They scored on the ensuing drive.

“I felt the momentum shift a lot there, and it was just amazing for our team to have that,” Wiseman said about Dambman’s interception. “This is our first playoff win since 2017. That’s just a huge uplift, and I think we’re just going to keep mounting them from here.”

Davidson rushed for 9 yards on a crucial fourth-and-2, moving the Dukes to the Plano 18. A couple of plays later, with 10:11 remaining in the fourth quarter, Dixon senior quarterback Tyler Shaner fired a 19-yard touchdown strike to Dambman over the middle, stretching the Dukes’ lead to 10-0.

“When we saw [Tyson] come down with that, it was like, all right, it’s go time,” Davidson said. “The offense, we’d been a little stale throughout the game. We were putting good drives together, but we couldn’t quite finish them. And we saw him come down with that and were like, ‘All right. It’s go time. Let’s do it.’ And we called the right plays. Coaches trusted us and we trusted them, and we went and scored.”

Plano senior running back Waleed Johnson willed his team back into the game, scoring on a 15-yard cutback run with 7:19 remaining to pull the Reapers within 10-7. Earlier on the same drive, he converted a crucial fourth-and-2 with a 23-yard run down the right sideline. But Plano was stymied on its final two possessions.

Dixon took about five minutes off the clock on its next drive, aided by three huge Davidson third-down conversions. Shaner went to Davidson for a gain of 13 yards to the Dixon 34, then again for a gain of 2 on a third-and-2 near midfield, and once more for a gain of 12 on a third-and-8 to move into Reapers’ territory with about three minutes left.

“That’s huge from him. He had a great night tonight. He balled out tonight,” Wiseman said about Davidson. “And those [third-down conversions] are just huge for our team to keep our momentum forward and just keep going forward the entire game.”

Plano’s Waleed Johnson picks up yards against Dixon Friday, Oct. 27, 2023 in Dixon.

Plano had one last chance to win the game with 1:35 remaining after Dixon fumbled on a run play and the Reapers recovered at their own 40. But they fumbled that chance away with 49 seconds left. The Dukes took a knee on the next two plays to run out the clock.

Wiseman rushed for 136 yards on 27 carries, Davidson caught six passes for 57 yards and rushed two times for 20 yards, and Tyler Shaner went 9-for-13 passing for 81 yards and a touchdown. Junior defensive lineman Aidan Hoggard had a sack and a fumble recovery for the Dukes.

“Aiden’s phenomenal. That’s all you can say. The dude runs hard,” Davidson said. “I play linebacker. I would not want to play linebacker on the other team. He’s not fun to tackle. He’s coming at you every time. The dude’s a beast. And the offensive line gave him a good push, and he just found those holes. That’s really all you can say. The dude’s a good football player.”

Wiseman was quick to deflect credit to the offensive line.

“I owe everything to [the offensive line]. They worked their butts off all night,” he said. “We had rough spots, not them, just all of us, and we just pushed through it and came out on top. I just want to give a shoutout to them. They just worked their tails off every play.”

Johnson rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, with many of those yards coming after contact. Senior wide receiver Nick Serio had a 27-yard reception for the Reapers.

Dixon awaits the winner of Saturday’s matchup between No. 11 St. Laurence and No. 6 Chicago Vocational.

Dixon’s Eli Davidson looks for running room in a first round playoff game against Plano Friday, Oct. 27, 2023 in Dixon.