Coyotes Sting Hornets in Second Round of Playoffs
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Coyotes Sting Hornets in Second Round of Playoffs

The No. 3 South Dakota Coyotes football team faced off against the Sacramento State Hornets on Saturday in the second round of the FCS Playoffs. 

On the first three drives of the game, neither team was able to get the offense going as they combined for three punts in the first three drives. 

On the Coyotes second drive of the game, they drove down the field for a 14-play drive which ended in a 37-yard field goal coming from sophomore kicker Will Leyland with eight minutes left in the first quarter.

On the ensuing Hornets possession, the Coyote defense continued to stand strong as junior defensive back Josiah Ganues picked off Hornets’ junior quarterback Kaiden Bennett after it was tipped in the air. This interception put the Coyotes in Hornets’ territory on their 33-yard line.

The turnover turned into a touchdown for the Coyotes as sophomore quarterback Aidan Bouman found sophomore wide receiver Javion Phelps for an 18-yard touchdown. This was Phelps first touchdown of the season. This touchdown put the Coyotes up 10-0 with 14:55 left in the second quarter. 

On the Hornets’ next possession, Bennett went for his first rush attempt and fumbled the ball. The ball was recovered by redshirt freshman defensive lineman Mi’Quise Grace who returned it 56-yards for a touchdown, putting the Coyotes up 17-0 with 14:17 in the second quarter.

On the next Hornets’ drive,  Bennett was injured on the first play of the drive. This brought in junior quarterback and former South Dakota Coyote, Carson Camp in his return to the DakotaDome.

Camp led the Hornets down the field on his first drive. With the Hornets on the Coyote 2-yard line, senior running back Marcus Fulcher dove into the endzone for a rushing touchdown. This put the Coyotes ahead 17-7 with 9:31 left in the quarter. 

After the score from Sacramento State, the Coyotes responded with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Bouman to junior tight end JJ Galbreath. The Coyotes led 24-7 with 8:38 left in the second quarter.

After a Hornets’ punt,  the Coyotes started their next offensive drive on their own 25-yard line as junior running back Travis Theis was fighting for extra yards, Hornets’ senior cornerback Dillon Juniel forced the ball out and recovered it for the Coyotes first turnover of the game.  

The Hornets capitalized on the turnover by a touchdown on another 2-yard rushing touchdown by Fulcher with 0:14 left in the first half. The Hornets cut the lead to 24-14.

Both teams struggled at the start of the second half as the two teams combined for four straight punts.  

The first score of the second half came with 20 seconds left in the third quarter as Theis punched in a 3-yard touchdown.

On the next possession, the Hornets drove into the red zone where South Dakota was able to stop the drive on their own 10-yard line. Sacramento State settled for a 28-yard field goal from junior kicker Zach Schreiner.

After back-to-back punts, USD responded with a field goal of their own as Leyland stayed perfect on the season hitting a 34-yard field goal. The Coyotes led 34-17 with just 5:06 left in the game.

The Hornets scored on the ensuing possession as Camp threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to his junior wide receiver Jared Gipson with 1:37 left in the match. This cut the Coyotes lead down to 34-24. The Coyotes kneeled the rest of the time out, giving them the win and making it to their first FCS Playoffs quarterfinals. 

For the Hornets’, Camp finished the day 14 for 23 passing with 168 yards and a touchdown. Camp also carried the ball nine times for 39 yards.

Fulcher led the Hornets with 14 carries tallying for 63 yards and two touchdowns on the day. 

Junior wide receiver Anderson Grover had the most reception yards for the Hornets as he caught three passes for 79 yards.  

On the defensive side, junior safety Gavin Davis-Smith led them with 10 total tackles. 

For the Coyotes, Bouman finished 11 for 16 passing for 174 yards and two touchdowns.

Leading the Coyotes’ rushing attack was redshirt freshman running back Charles Pierre Jr. led the way with 13 carries for 123 yards. Theis finished with 15 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown and redshirt sophomore running back Nate Thomas finished with seven carries for 22 yards. 

Defensively for South Dakota, junior defensive back Dennis Shorter led the team with 10 tackles and three pass breakups. 

Grace finished the day with 1.5 sacks and the fumble recovery. 

The Coyotes move on to play in their first quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs in program history. 

The Coyotes opponent will be the North Dakota State Bison (who defeated No. 6 Montana State 35-34) whom the Coyotes defeated earlier this season, 24-19, in Fargo.

Photo Credit: Sydney Kolln | The Volante