ASHLAND, ORE.- The Blue Hawks took on the Southern Oregon Raiders in the first round of the NAIA Championship Series. The Blue Hawks entered the contest 9-1, DSU qualified for the playoffs by way of winning the North Star Athletic Association. The Raiders, Frontier Conference champions, entered the matchup undefeated.
The Raiders have never lost in the first round of the NAIA playoffs, in six previous appearances, and they came out strong looking to continue that streak. Less than two minutes into the contest, the potent Raider offense struck. The SOU offense scored again on their second drive, taking a quick 14-0 lead. The Blue Hawks were able to get on the scoreboard in the first quarter with a Cody Johnson field goal.
Into the second quarter, the Blue Hawks continued to struggle. With two offensive touchdowns and a pick-six for the Raiders they saw their lead grow to 31-3. The Blue Hawks were able to respond and get to the end zone when Hayden Gibson connected with Tyger Frye for a touchdown. But, before halftime the Raiders were able to tack on another touchdown, taking a 38-10 lead into the intermission.
Coming out of halftime, the Blue Hawks were able to find their stride on offense. Gibson connected with Randy Ivey for a touchdown. With a Raider turnover picked up by senior Steven Koch put DSU in good field position. The Blue Hawks took advantage of the opportunity with Gibson finding Jay Liggins in the end zone, cutting the Raiders' lead to 38-24. But, in the final stretch of the game SOU's attack was two much scoring seventeen unanswered points, closing out the game 55-24.
Gibson threw for 202 yards, tallying three touchdowns but, he accounted for three interceptions. Gibson connected with Chase Anderson four times for 80 yards in the game, making Anderson the leading receiver for the game. Deonte Dixon led the Blue Hawks' ground attack with 105 yards on 14 carries. Senior, Thomas Sease led the defense with ten total tackles.
The loss finishes the Blue Hawks' season with a 9-2 record.