Dwight nets key victory to secure playoff berth
Dwight is on a roll that has landed the Trojans into the playoffs.
The Trojans picked up their fifth straight win and earned an automatic playoff berth with a 22-7 over host Paxton-Buckley-Loda on Friday.
Coach Luke Standiford’s squad faced an uphill battle on the road against the PBL Panthers — a conference opponent it had never beaten.
The Dwight-Gardner-South Wilmington co-op had a simple equation all year: Logan Graham + more than 100 yards rushing = victory. On this night, he would finish with 185 on 34 carries, including two touchdowns.
“Our line has been incredible all year,” Graham said after the game. “We’ve had injuries and the next man has stepped up. They’ve been great.”
That blocking has opened up 1,291 yards for the senior this year.
The first half was a defensive struggle for the Trojans with Graham limited to a mere 33 yards over five possessions. The sole score came on a 25-yard field goal by JC Santos with seven seconds left in the first quarter.
PBL was able to move the ball on its first possession of the second half as senior tailback TJ Jones strung together several runs. The Trojans, keying on Jones, lost track of quarterback Gavin Coplea on a read option and gave up a 29-yard touchdown run at 7:58 in the third. The conversion kick put the score at 7-3.
The seniors leadership of Dwight knew that it didn’t need to panic.
“We knew we could on them,” DTHS head coach Luke Standiford said. “We went to wildcat and knew we had something special. Our guards were able to kick them out and there was room to run.”
Holding the ball for over six minutes, the Trojans went 80 yards in 13 plays, capped by a 4-yard Graham run with 46 seconds left in the third. Santos’s PAT kick into the wind was no good but Dwight was up 9-7.
“We’ve had a lot of success running trap all year but they were bringing everybody up the middle. We started going off-tackle after halftime and it was there,” Standiford said after the game. “They ran a completely different defense than we had seen on film.”
The defense forced a punt and Graham went back to work carrying the ball on seven of eight plays. The last was a 40-yard bull run to the right at 6:14 in the fourth to break things open. Santos converted to stretch the lead to 16-7.
PBL, in catch-up mode, dropped four passes to give the ball back deep in Panther territory. Graham moved the ball inside the 10 and sophomore Carson Crouch iced the game with an 8-yard run to finish the scoring with 2:39 left.
“It’s back to what got us here. Three days in pads and one in shells,” Standiford said. “We just have to see who it is.”