This NUIC Upstate showdown in the 2nd round of the playoffs featured conference rivals in the Stockton Blackhawks and Aquin Bulldogs. In week 8, these two faced off in a conference championship match-up where the Blackhawks edged the Bulldogs 16-14. When it comes to the playoffs, these two schools have only met twice before today, with Aquin holding a 2-0 record, and the previous two playoff games also took place in the 2nd round. Today was going to see who would advance to the quarterfinals, but also was a highly anticipated game that could go either way.
This game broke down to be a story of two halves, as in the first half the Blackhawks took advantage of the ground game to give them favorable field position throughout the 1st two quarters, but the game would remain scoreless after the 1st quarter. With Stockton starting the last drive of the half at their own 25 yard line with 4:55 remaining before the half, they continued pounding the ball behind the legs of Colin Dvorak. Chewing 4 minutes off the clock, the Blackhawks would take the lead with 57 seconds remaining before the half after Dvorak plunged into the end zone from 4 yards out. The 2 point try was no good, and Stockton took a 6-0 lead into the half.
Stockton out gained Aquin 188 yards to 18 yards in the 1st half, but in the 2nd half Coach Barr and staff would make some adjustments and settle in. Receiving the ball to start the half, Aquin would go to work behind the arm of backup QB Cooper Arndt. Starting at their own 32 yard line, Arndt found Zac Cummins for a 12 yard pickup to midfield. Then he would connect with Ty Stykel for 25 yards, moving into Blackhawk territory. After a couple Cole Luedeking runs and a 3 yard reception, Arndt would find Ty Stykel on a crossing route into the end zone for a 17 yard TD pass after Stykel hung onto the ball after being delivered a big hit. The Cummins PAT kick was good, and Aquin was out in front 7-6 with 8:32 to play in the 3rd quarter.
Late in the 3rd quarter Aquin would regain possession at the 50 yard line, and the drive would continue at the start of the 4th quarter, with Aquin still holding onto their 7-6 lead. Behind some short passes to Bryce Carlson and Ty Stykel, and behind runs from Luedeking and Arndt, the Dawgs continued to drive down the field. They marched down to the Blackhawk 5 yard line where Arndt would once again find Ty Stykel on a 3 yard out pass that he would turn up and score on. Another Cummins PAT kick was good as Aquin extended their lead to 14-6 with 8:49 left in the game.
Stockton would start the ensuing drive at their own 30 yard line, and began to find some openings on the ground with Dvorak and Brian Booth getting the bulk of the carries. They continued to drive down the field, while also chewing time off the clock, and after putting a 70 yard drive in just over 7:20 of time, QB Luke Huschitt would dive in from 1 yard out. Down by 2 points with a 1:20 remaining in the game, Coach Snyder had a no brain decision, he had to go for two. A 3 yard dive up the middle by Elijah Rowe on the conversion would be good as Stockton tied the game at 14 all.
Getting pinned at their own 20 yard line with 1:16 remaining, it looked like this game would be going to overtime. However, Aquin's Arndt would drop back to pass and connected with Bryce Carlson on a swing pass to the right side of the field. Carlson would dart up field, cut towards the sideline, and out raced the closest Stockton defender to the end zone on an 80 yard TD pass with 59 seconds remaining in the game. The Cummins kick was good as Aquin took the lead 21-14.
Stockton would go into desperation mode, and would throw an interception to Aquin's Jackson Holder with 39 seconds left to seal the victory.
In a game of two halves, Aquin would put up 212 yards in the 2nd half while holding Stockton to 110 yards to come away with the win. For the game, Stockton out gained the Bulldogs 298 yards to 230 yards, but it is Aquin who will move on to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row. They will play host to #1 ranked and #1 seed Lena-Winslow in Freeport next Saturday. Le-Win advanced after beating Milledgeville 49-16.
For the game, Aquin was led by Cooper Arndt who went 11-19 passing for 178 yards with 3 TD and 1 INT. He also had 8 carries for 31 yards. Bryce Carlson finished the day with 5 receptions for 114 yards and 1 TD, while Ty Stykel had 4 receptions for 49 yards and 2 TD. Cole Luedeking pitched in with 8 carries for 21 yards and 1 reception for 3 yards. Jackson Holder would lead the defense, as he had 21 tackles to go with his game ending interception to seal the victory.
For Stockton, Colin Dvorak led the charge with 41 carries for 182 yards and 1 TD. Brian Booth finished the day with 11 carries for 26 yards, and Elijah Rowe added 19 yards on 8 carries. Luke Huschitt was 4-8 passing for 68 yards and 3 INT. He scored 1 TD on 3 carries for 3 yards.