In a season full of extraordinary victories, few are as special as what was witnessed by fans at the Neta and Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl, Saturday afternoon, on senior day.
The No. 1 ThunderWolves defeated the New Mexico Highlands University Cowboys
(7-3, 6-2 RMAC), 31-17, clinching at least a share of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title.
The victory extended the T-Wolves regular winning streak to 25 straight games, the longest such streak in RMAC history.
The Cowboys, who are led by the No. 2 offensive player in Division II (400 yards per game), junior quarterback, Emmanuel Lewis, entered the fourth quarter, trailing 3-10.
The Cowboys tied the game in the fourth quarter, following a four-yard pass from Lewis to senior wide receiver, Kevon Williams.
The Cowboys took a 17-10 lead two drives later, with 10:11 remaining in the game, following a seven-yard touchdown rush by junior running back, Lavelle Peterson.
The very next drive, the T-Wolves responded on a 39-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback, Ross Dausin, to sophomore running back, J.B. Mathews, on a third-and-seven.
“(We had to) just come back even harder, we’re not usually down like that all the time,” Mathews said. “We got to bring back and throw the first punch.”
The touchdown was the first points the T-Wolves scored since midway through the second quarter, as the Cowboys were able to limit the T-Wolf offense to 147 total yards and ten points through three quarters.
“(The Cowboys were able to) spread the gaps, just fill in when they needed to,” Mathews said. “The offensive line did a great job we just had to adjust on a few mental mistakes.”
The T-Wolves took its final lead, 24-17, following a Cowboy three-and-out, with 2:06 remaining in the game, on a Mathews two-yard touchdown rush.
“It’s called ‘stick to it’, put your nose to the grinding stone and great things will happen,” T-Wolves head coach John Wristen said.
Mathews finished the game with 26 rushes for 68 yards and two touchdowns, along with five receptions for 83 yards and one touchdown.
The T-Wolves added one final score on a 40-yard touchdown rush by freshman running back, Cameron McDondle, to extend its lead to 31-17.
“Our offense was able to make enough plays to win the ball game,” Wristen said. “It wasn’t pretty, but we were able to figure it out at the very end.”
Although Lewis was able to accumulate 363 yards from scrimmage, the T-Wolves limited him to one touchdown pass and forced four interceptions.
“We just kept pushing. Our coach told us not to get into their game,” senior cornerback Mark Sterling said. “Just keep playing, keep playing Pack D, that’s what we kept doing.”
Sterling, who was one of the seniors honored on senior day, finished the game with one solo and two assisted tackles, and an interception in the third quarter in the end zone.
“Our defense was outstanding,” Wristen said.
The T-Wolves can secure the outright RMAC title next week, with a win in Gunnison, Colo. against the Western State Colorado University Mountaineers (1-9, 1-7 RMAC). It would be the ThunderWolves second straight RMAC title.