ANOTHER COMEBACK GIVES GRIZZLIES NATIONAL TITLE (Published 12-8-2003)
By FRED MANN
The Wichita Eagle
ST. GEORGE, Utah – What’s a four-point halftime deficit for a team used to trailing by 25 and 28 points?
Butler County had to feel giddy with joy being down only 10-6 to host Dixie State in the national championship game on Saturday, right?
“Honestly, it felt like we were down by 41 the way our guys were playing,” Grizzlies coach Troy Morrell said.
True, the Grizzlies had fumbled four times, losing two. And they missed another opportunity by throwing an interception in the end zone.
But after another halftime transformation in a season full of them, the Grizzlies started the third quarter with a 14-play drive that lasted eight minutes and turned the game around. When it was over, they had wrested the NJCAA championship from the Rebels, 14-10.
It was Butler’s fourth national championship and third since 1998. The top-ranked Grizzlies finished 12-0. No. 2 Dixie State was 10-2.
The Grizzly defense keyed the victory, holding the Rebel offense to 140 yards. It didn’t allow an offensive touchdown, got a late safety, and intercepted Rebel quarterback Adam Madsen twice in the final two minutes.
Butler’s defense pressured Madsen into throwing errors throughout the second half and sacked him four times in the game.
“Our coaches said their o-line was good, but we could beat ‘em because we’re fast,” Grizzlies linebacker Lee Foliaki. “We do a lot of movement and blitzing. We worked on it all week.”
Dixie’s only points came off a turnover by tailback Joseph Harris. Harris, who rushed for 143 yards on 31 carries, fumbled four times and lost three.
His first came at the Butler 20 and set up a 22-yard Dixie field goal with 6:23 left in the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, Rebel defensive back Brandon Sanchez stripped the ball out of Harris’ hands on a short gain to the Grizzly 32, and ran it in for a touchdown.
Harris was replaced by backup Terry Petrie, who scored the Grizzlies’ only touchdown in the half on a one-yard run. Colt Cody missed the extra point.
Butler had a chance for another touchdown earlier in the quarter, but quarterback Chad Wilmott was intercepted in the end zone on a pass from the Rebel 11.
“We weren’t hanging onto the football, we weren’t doing all those little things that we’re known for – not making mistakes and beating ourselves,” Morrell said. “That’s what we were doing in the first half – beating ourselve s.”
Harris said he took a shot on his forefinger on his first fumble, and had his eye gouged on another one.
“It did affect me for the next couple of drives,” Harris said, “but it started wearing off and after awhile it just wasn’t a factor.”
Wilmott was only 2 of 11 for seven passing yards in the half, and the Grizzly offense was held to 119 yards.
“It was a terribly physical game,” Morrell said. “It was men against men, and, shoot, some of our guys don’t even hold a razor yet.”
But Butler opened the third quarter with a 14-play, 61-yard scoring drive that used up more than eight minutes and put them ahead 12-10.
Harris carried 10 times for 36 yards on the drive, and didn’t put the ball on the ground.
Wilmott connected on two third-down passes to wide receiver Jimmie Beard, including a 15-yarder on third-and-11, to keep the drive alive.
He also ran for 13 yards on a third-and-3.
Wilmott scored from the 2 after fading back to throw, then outracing the Rebel defense to the left corner of the end zone.
“We just pulled it together, and it was just awesome,” Wilmott said.
He said he finally relaxed in the second half and started finding his receivers. He finished with 78 passing yards, including a 26-yard throw to wide receiver Sean Hammons.
“I think I put too much pressure on myself. At halftime, everybody was telling me to just relax and settle down and play my game. I think I did that in the second half,” Wilmott said.
Butler nearly scored another touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Harris fumbled at the 1 on a third-down carry from the 7.
“That was my fault,” he said. “I thought somebody said it was fourth down. I thought I had it, but I tried to reach out for it and I lost the ball.”
Butler’s defense added the final points with 6:02 left when defensive back David Irons tackled Rebel punter Jake Hendy in the end zone.
“I was getting in there every time. I just said, ‘One more time and I’m going to get him,’ ” Irons said, “and I got him.”
Butler County (12-0) 0 6 6 2 – 14
Dixie State (10-2) 3 7 0 0 – 10
DSC – Cal Boehm 22 FG
DSC – Brandon Sanchez 32 fumble recovery (Boehm kick)
BCCC – Terry Petrie 1 run (kick failed)
BCCC – Chad Wilmott 2 run (kick failed)
BCCC – Safety (Punter tackled in end zone)
Rushing – BCCC, Harris 31-143, Petrie 13-54, Wilmott 5-23, Rinkenbaugh, 2-5. DSC, Anger 22-67, Leany 1-5, Udy 2-2, Hendy 1-(-8).
Passing – BCCC, Wilmott 9-21-78-1. DSC, Madsen 8-29-89-2, Southwick 0-1-0-1.
Receiving – BCCC, Beard 3-30, Smith 2-11, Rinkenbaugh 2-3, Hammons 1-26, Harris 1-8. DSC, Brown 4-45, Nickel 2-15, Filipe 1-29.