DODGE CITY, Kan. – Despite being shutout for the first three quarters, the Snow College Badgers rallied for 15 unanswered points in the fourth to claim a 15-6 victory over Dodge City at a windy Memorial Stadium.
The Badgers and Conquistadors had only met one time prior to this game. The two teams faced off in the 2015 Salt City Bowl where the Badgers had a huge fourth quarter to turn a 14-14 tie at halftime into a 38-14 rout.
There would be no offensive explosions in this one though as both teams defenses came into the contest allowing fewer than 20 points per game.
Dodge City started with the football and went three-and-out giving Snow an opportunity to strike first. The Badgers went on a long drive that got them inside the red zone but, as it has all season long inside the 20, the Conqs defense stiffened up and forced a turnover on downs on a 4th-and-2 run.
The two teams exchanged turnovers on the next two possessions as Stone Wilson fumbled the ball away five plays into the next drive, only for Badgers quarterback Donovan Smith to throw an interception to Dwight Nunoo three plays after that.
The Conqs used the momentum from that interception to get into the red zone for the first time. On fourth down, Conqs quarterback Trey Jefferson connected with Kam Thomas in the back of the end zone to put Dodge City up 6-0. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Thomas moved the PAT attempt to the 17-yard line and Angel Dominguez banged in off the upright so the lead stayed at just six with a little over four minutes left in the opening quarter.
Smith threw another interception on the following Snow drive and Dodge City looked like they would extend the lead to two possessions when Jefferson connected with receiver Keith Liggins for what looked like a 48-yard touchdown but an illegal blindside block penalty negated the play and Jalen Smith fumbled it back to the Badgers on the next play.
After another promising Snow drive ended in a turnover on downs, Trey Jefferson was intercepted by Bryan Cuthberson which set up an opportunity for Snow to get on the board but after their drive stalled inside the ten, Casey Keesler’s field goal hooked wide left to keep Snow scoreless after one half as the Conqs led 6-0 at the break.
Neither team did anything of note in the third quarter. The only drive that didn’t end in a punt was a 17 play Snow drive that ended on an incomplete pass on 4th down just inside the Conqs 40-yard line. It wasn’t all that stressful of a situation though, as the Badgers were in a 4th-and-20 situation.
Snow had possession at the start of the fourth quarter and soon faced a 4th-and-12 just past midfield. Smith found Shandon King for 17 yards on the play and that’s when the switch flipped for the Badger offense. Dodge City took a pass interference penalty later in the drive which set up 1st-and-goal for the visitors who punched it in two plays later on a Smith to Jared Wilson 4-yard pitch and catch plus a made extra point to take the lead 7-6 with under 12 minutes to play.
Dodge’s next possession resulted in a loss of seven yards as they punted it back to Snow. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Dodge City took another pass interference penalty which set the Badgers up inside the 25-yard line. After a personal foul on third down kept the drive going, AJ Tillman found the end zone from one yard out to extended the lead to 13-7. Looking to make it a two score game, Badgers head coach Zac Erekson decided to go for two to make it a two possession game.
It looked like the Conqs would keep the deficit at seven after Smith’s pass fell incomplete but another pass interference penalty gave Snow another shot which running back Spencer Lambert took advantage of to make it 15-6 with just over six minutes left in the game.
Dodge got a drive going following the Snow touchdown but Jefferson had a pass tipped and was intercepted by again by Cuthberson which sealed the Conqs fate as Snow managed to run out the clock and secure the 15-6 victory.
The penalties were the main story for the Conqs as they finished the game with 15 penalties for 134 yards.
“Some of the guys got down. As coaches we try to bring them back but those penalties hurt us a whole lot…I’m not blaming anything on the refs. We had some bad calls, we had some good calls…but we’ll learn from this,” assistant coach Anathan Gibson said following the game.
The defense stepped up in a big way for the Conqs in the contest, pitching three shutout quarters in the game but they spent 16 minutes more on the field that the Badger defense. Still, they allowed just 96 passing yards and forced two turnovers.
“We had these guys buy in…and we can relate to every guy on this defensive side of the ball. I’m telling you right now, this defensive front and also the secondary and linebackers, we’re a special group,” Gibson said.
The Conqs return to Memorial Stadium on Saturday where they take on rival Garden City in their homecoming game at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on Z98 with pregame coverage beginning at 6:30.
Anathan Gibson Interview