North Dakota State College of Science’s one loss of the season was a 47-11 beatdown against Itasca Community College in their second game of the year. The Wildcats got another shot at the Vikings in the MCAC Semifinals and showed how far they’ve come this season by taking Itasca down to the wire.
The game was so evenly matched, overtime was needed to determine a winner in Wahpeton. The Vikings edged the Cats with a 25-yard score on the first play of their overtime possession to move on to the MCAC Championship with a 40-34 win on Sunday, Nov. 3.
“I think you saw today that both teams improved. I’m just really proud of our guys,” NDSCS coach Eric Issendorf said. “I’m proud of the way we played. The guys knew what was in front of them and I thought they stepped up. We had our opportunities, we just didn’t capitalize.”
The Vikings thought they had the game won when a pick six put them up by eight with 1:25 left in regulation. While their sideline was chanting, “We’re going to the ’ship,” Science was prepping for their next drive with backup quarterback Trashawn McMillan coming in to give his team a shot.
McMillan’s first two passes were short darts to Cordell Pimienta near the sideline so he could get out of bounds and stop the clock. McMillan called his own number for the lone run of the series and went to Demetrius Coleman on his next two passes. The first was caught and the second was dropped, but drew a targeting call to set NDSCS up at the Itasca 19-yard line.
McMillan launched a bullet across the middle for a leaping Jonathan Griffin, who hauled in the pass and took the hit in the endzone for the clutch touchdown with eight seconds left.
Science used a bootleg earlier in the game on a two-point conversion and found a wide-open Daveon Williams for the points and went back to it again. The Vikings were ready this time around and McMillan had to shake a defender while rolling toward the sideline. McMillan jumped while throwing the lob where Williams was waiting in the back
of the endzone to tie it up.
“Trashawn has held steady. He just kept competing and working hard,” Issendorf said. “He stepped up when he needed to, which is a testament to him working hard and staying focused.”
Science got the ball first in overtime and were forced to kick a 44-yard field goal, which fell short of its mark.
The special teams units stole the show in the first few minutes of the game. Itasca returned a blocked punt for six and on their ensuing extra point, NDSCS got a block of their own. Nate Clark scooped it and ran it the length of the field to make it a 6-2 game.
Clark wasn’t the only defensive player making his impact felt in the tight playoff battle. Isaiah Henderson, Reggie Morrow, Nate Seward and Tavion Wells each had an interception in the loss.
The Wildcat offensive line looked as good as it has all season, paving lanes for Desean Phillips to go untouched into the second level. Phillips, who is leading the country in rushing yards, had a pair of rushing scores on the day. T.J. Owens also had a touchdown on a QB sneak.
“(The offensive line have) been doing a great job all year of getting better, staying strong and carrying the load,” Issendorf said.
It was the final game for the sophomores on the team, who were Issendorf’s first recruiting class.
“It’s going to be (really hard to say goodbye),” Issendorf said. “We’re going to fight hard to get them out to where they’d like to go and get them an opportunity somewhere to play at the next level. That’s the next phase is out-recruting them and trying to in-recruit new guys.”
The Wildcats end their season with a record of 8-2.