TGU falls to Skyhawks 58-46
BISMARCK – Blake Emmel fumbled on his first touch and visiting TGU took the ball in for a 14-point lead less than two minutes into a 9-man semifinal Nov. 8.
Emmel’s next touch went for 35 yards and the Shiloh Christian power running game took over from there in a 58-46 win, propelling the Skyhawks to a Dakota Bowl matchup with defending champion Cavalier.
“I just kind of lost (the ball),” Emmel said. “It made me pretty angry and made for some momentum for me to get (after) it harder for the rest of the game.”
The 6-foot, 190-pounder rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. He caught the team’s only reception for a 23-yard score. On the ground, Emmel trailed classmate, A.J. Dale, who racked up 221 yards on 15 carries.
TGU gave up 517 rushing yards as a third Shiloh senior rusher, Seth Losos, picked up 70 yards on 13 runs.
“No. 1, their linemen outplayed us and you can’t get to the state championship without being more physical than your opponent,” TGU coach Scott Thorson said. “Most games, 46 points will win you the football game.”
TGU’s lightning start opened with a 32-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Eli Luna to senior Colter Thorp. Seconds later, Thorp scooped up Emmel’s mishap and rumbled 43 yards to paydirt. Luna trucked a defender for the 2-point conversion and TGU (10-2) had a two-score lead.
Emmel’s big second carry helped set up his own 2-yard TD. TGU punted on its next possession and Emmel quickly found the end zone on a 60-yard blast up the middle to tie the game.
The Titans capped an 8-play, 80-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown catch by sophomore Cole Bethke. The 22-14 advantage was the Titans’ last lead. Stopping the Skyhawks’ speedy and strong rushers proved difficult.
“He tried a lot of stuff,” said Luna, who also plays safety “to get the edge, but they were more physical than us.”
Shiloh answered with four straight touchdowns. The fourth was a 78-yard run by Dale to give the Skyhawks’ a 42-22 lead. TGU restored a bit of hope as Luna returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards. A conversion followed, but TGU’s defense couldn’t slow Shiloh (11-0).
The Skyhawks again went up big, taking a 58-30 lead before TGU closed the final gap in the fourth quarter. The Titans finished with just 44 yards rushing, 42 by way of Luna.
The shifty quarterback finished 12 of 27 through the air for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Luna also scored his final TGU touchdown with a 1-yard rush late. Thorp caught his final score soon after on a 36-yard reception.
“He’s an amazing athlete,” Luna said. “I put the ball up and he went and got it. I didn’t do much. It was all him.”
Said Thorp: “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love these guys. They’re my brothers.”
Luna finished his prolific, two-time all-state career with a senior season of more than 1,800 passing yards and more than 1,600 rushing.
“It’s not very often you get to play in nine playoff games,” Luna said. “That’s a dream for most. I’ve been lucky to have these teammates get us there.”
As sophomores, they fell to Divide County in the semifinals. Last year, Westhope-Newburg was the culprit in the quarterfinals.
“They didn’t quit,” Thorson said. “At times they were being outplayed. That’s all I preach is we never quit, no matter what the circumstance is.”
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