Lindsey Wilson Football advances to national title game

No. 3-ranked Lindsey Wilson football scored 31 unanswered points to beat No. 4-ranked Keiser (FL) 38-14 on Saturday in the NAIA Football Championship Series National Semifinals at Blue Raider Stadium.

Lindsey Wilson (10-0) advances to the program’s first-ever national championship game to face No. 6-ranked Northwestern (IA) — who upset No. 1-ranked and defending national champions Morningside (IA) today 44-41. The national championship game is slated for 6pmCT on Monday, May 10, in Grambling, Louisiana.

The Lindsey Wilson defense held the Seahawks (9-1) scoreless over the last three quarters while surrendering just 222 yards over the final 45 minutes. The defensive run came on the heels of Keiser taking a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter while posting 168 first-quarter yards.

While the defense did its job, the Blue Raider offense continued its stellar run through the playoffs, racking up 537 yards of total offense, including 250 yards on the ground. Lindsey Wilson is averaging 478 yards in the FCS, against three top-15 teams.

Cameron Dukes led the Blue Raider offense with 287 passing yards and four touchdowns en route to earning the game’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player. Marcellus Campbell picked up defensive player of the game honors for his team-high tying nine tackles and three pass breakups.

Keiser opened the game with an impressive 8-play, 80-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. Eli Mathews orchestrated the drive that ultimately led to a three-yard touchdown toss to Jaylen Arnold. Matthews finished the game 27-of-44 through the air for 262 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

Not to be outdone, the Blue Raider offense was just as impressive in their initial drive of the game. Dukes led a 73-second drive that culminated with a 31-yard touchdown strike to Noel Patterson to tie the game at 7-7. Patterson finished the contest with season-highs in catches (9) and receiving yards (96).

The Seahawks quickly responded to reclaim the touchdown lead with another 80 drive, this one covering 13 plays and over six minutes. Keiser methodically marched down the field and Javontres Autry capped the drive with a seven-yard run up the middle for the 14-7 advantage with 4:51 left in the first quarter.

That would be the last time the Seahawks would dent the scoreboard.

In the back-to-forth offensive battle that was the first quarter, Lindsey Wilson got the last laugh. Dukes connected with Terrill Cole on a six-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14-14. The game-tying drive covered 75 yards in nine plays and ended with Cole’s single-season program-record 12th touchdown catch of the season. Cole finished the day with seven grabs for 142 receiving yards while adding a second touchdown later in the game.

On the next Keiser possession, the Blue Raider defense stopped the Seahawks forcing the first of four punts on the day.

Lindsey Wilson took its first lead of the game 10 plays later as Ian Sauter connected on a 28-yard field goal for the 17-14 lead five minutes into the second quarter. Sauter’s field goal is his third this season in as many attempts.

On the next Keiser drive, the Blue Raider defense once again turned the Seahawks away, this time on downs. Over the final nine Keiser drives, the Lindsey Wilson defense forced four punts, three turn over on downs, and one interception, with the final drive ending the first half.

Keiser’s defense took its cue from their Lindsey Wilson counterparts in the second quarter. The Blue Raiders were forced to punt on consecutive drives, keeping the game at 17-14 late in the second quarter.

But the Blue Raiders closed the opening half with a fury, scoring with six seconds on the clock to take a 24-14 advantage into the locker room.

Dukes found a diving Jaleel Warren in the back-corner of the end zone to finish off an eight-play, 64-yard drive and give the Blue Raiders some breathing room at the break. The touchdown is Warren’s fifth of the season and the third in the last two weeks.

With the lead in hand, Lindsey Wilson turned to the ground game, led by the Blue Raider offensive line. Throughout much of the second half, the LWC offensive line managed to get a two-to-four-yard push enabling the Blue Raider running backs to run downhill.

Lindsey Wilson ran for 179 yards after the halftime break.

Dukes and Cole extended the Lindsey Wilson lead to 31-14 with 5:49 left in the third on another acrobatic catch by Cole from 36 yards out. Kobe Belcher added to the Blue Raider fun midway through the fourth quarter with a 1-yard plunge to extend the lead to 38-14.

The two drives covered 99 and 97 yards, respectively and ate up over 12 minutes off the clock. For the quick-scoring Lindsey Wilson offense, it marks the fifth and sixth touchdown drives of the season of 90 yards or more.

Belcher (62 yards), Dukes (56), Jaylen Boyd (71), and Darius Clark (58) all exceeded 50 yards rushing on the afternoon.

Ty Tevis matched Campbell’s nine tackles on the afternoon to help lead the defense while Cashawn Beasely recorded the only takeaway on the day with a third-quarter interception. Michael Leslie chipped in seven tackles in a balanced afternoon for the Blue Raider defense while TJ James, Luke Bowman, and David Hylick all added six.

Lindsey Wilson picks up its 50th win in Blue Raider Stadium history with today’s win, including its 14th straight. The Blue Raiders are now 50-15 all-time at home.

Lindsey Wilson and Northwestern meet for the first time next Monday with a national championship on the line. Kickoff for the national title game is scheduled for 6pmCT on Monday, May 10.

About Zac Oakes 5393 Articles
Zac Oakes is the News and Sports Director for and Laker Country WJRS 104.9 FM.