Lions Clear the Slate
Eighteen turned out to be the number of choice for the Trinity Bible College football team when it faced Dakota College, in Bottineau Saturday, and came away with possibly a season-changing victory, 18-14.
The Lions had endured an 18-game losing streak, and ironically gave a young 18-year old freshman quarterback his first-ever start in college, he also happens to wear the number 18, and finally needed their reliable sophomore offensive workhorse to score the 18th and final points to wipe away a year’s worth of frustration, and for the moment instill hope for the very near future.
Head Coach Dustin Morgan found the right chemistry in Bottineau and in doing so he saw a personal 14-game losing streak come to an end, and the start of a streak that he and the team hopes to extend Saturday in Kansas, when they take on Haskell Indian Nation University in Lawrence.
Justin Smith got his first start at quarterback for the Lions and quickly got his feet indoctrinated with a 17-yard run around left end. He also completed two passes; one going for 20 yards, but an errant pass in the flat was picked off and run back for a 32-yard TD as Dakota took an early 7-0 lead.
“That throw wasn’t all Justin’s fault,” said Morgan. “We miscommunicated on the play, and we have slightly changed the system because of that play.”
The Lumberjacks seemed to be dominated inside by the Lions’ offensive line and Morgan took advantage by bringing in is workhorse QB Clint Linthicum, who used his running-back instincts to rumble for 69 yards on 20 carries, but none more important to the team than the last five yards.
“We have three QBs that can do different things for our offense. One can throw, one can run and the other is a playmaker,” said Morgan. “We can use them at any time. It’s going to be fun coaching these three the rest of the season.”
Case in point, Linthicum struggled a bit passing the ball, with the exception of a couple long balls, one that went 45 yards for a touchdown to Brandon Welch, which cut the score to 7-6. So, in entered the “Elliott Package.”
Jason Elliott took the reins in the fourth quarter for a few plays. He handed off to Linthicum for a few yards, and then he used his play-making abilities to scoot 5-yards for a TD to make the score a more manageable 14-12 game.
The Linthicum show took over again late in the fourth quarter.
The Lions recovered a Lumberjack fumble at their own 26-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Linthicum found Seth Peterson for 33 yards and a first down. Four-straight runs by the sophomore QB netted 24 more yards and now the ball rested on the Jacks 20-yard line, known as the “Red Zone” and 4:10 left in the game.
One had to wonder what was going on in Morgan’s mind as his team neared what could be a crowning moment.
“Bottineau broke our hearts twice last year,” said the mindful coach. “It was a reminder of everything that happened last year. We lost in the last minute to them on a disputed catch, and then had a 20-point switch in the score over the last four minutes of the second game.”
Linthicum, Welch and Peterson all made that go away in the next 2:24 of game time. Then the hounding Lions defense did the rest.
Linthicum saw Peterson go for two yards, threw 15-yards to Welch for a huge first down at the eight, and two Linthicum runs later resulted in paydirt and a celebration that was a sight to be seen.
Morgan, relieved to know that he was one kickoff and defensive stand from realizing the end of a long journey, jumped for joy four times and spun around 180 degrees into the arms of his players. That was more excitement than this writer has ever seen by a college coach.
The kickoff caused some angst for the coaching staff. The 40-yard squib kick only went 20 yards and the Jacks had great field position at the 50.
A defense that ultimately held Dakota to 15 yards passing and 120 yards rushing; gave up a short five-yard pass, forced an incompletion, and then finished off the day with two sacks for minus 15-yards.
With his first win as a college head coach in his back pocket, Morgan ran on to the field and hit his knees in celebration and was greeted with a water drenching courtesy of Linthicum and another unidentified player.
“It was an emotional day. An emotional journey,” said the head coach. “I just had to give that day to Him,” he said of God. “Then I turned and ran into the stands to hug and kiss my wife, who has been there every step of the way with me. It’s been a tough go for all of us.”
That’s not all the team was able to celebrate. According to Morgan, nearly 100 people, whom love their football, where waiting at the college’s field house when the team arrived home.
“They were clapping and cheering for us. Many of the players said it was one of their greatest moments in sports.”
Here is to many more, as the Lions continue their journey to becoming a winning program.