The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV football uses comeback to beat Pittsburg State with late touchdown

GVL / Macayla Cramer

Walking into another top 10 NCAA Division II playoff battle, the Grand Valley State University Lakers’ football team stared into the eyes of defeat before they stole a win from their opponent.

The No. 2 ranked Lakers took down the No. 5 ranked Pittsburg State University Gorillas 24-21 with the help of a late fourth-quarter comeback, taking the lead with just 35 seconds remaining.

It was the first time that the Lakers played behind since a 57-49 double overtime win at home in the second week of the season against Colorado State University-Pueblo.

After being outgained throughout the entire contest, the Lakers found a way to win with the help of three interceptions and a fumble recovery.

The Lakers head coach, Scott Wooster, admired the way that his team responded to adversity against the Gorillas.

“So proud. There’s something about this football team that I’ve never been around. 37 years in the sport, 24 years coaching- been around some awesome teams, awesome human beings, awesome dudes- but there’s something about this football team that’s special,” Wooster said. 

After both teams traded punts to begin the game, a 36-yard completion from Pittsburg State quarterback Chad Dodson to wide receiver Kolbe Katsis got things started for the Gorillas. It was then immediately followed by an 11-yard completion to Katsis that allowed running back Antwan Squire to take it in from one yard out. Nearly five minutes and 87 yards later, the Lakers’ defense was on their heels.

GVSU went three and out on the ensuing drive and the game was looking bleak for the Lakers as Dodson returned to the field. That was until GVSU defensive end and the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Defensive Player of the Year, Christian McCarroll, batted a ball high into the air that was intercepted by sophomore linebacker Anthony Cardamone.

It gave GVSU the ball at the Gorillas’ 47-yard line. Moments later, GLIAC Offensive Player of the Year, GVSU’s QB Cade Peterson, threw a 39-yard pass to Kyle Nott that set up a short touchdown run by running back Tariq Reid.

Both teams eventually traded scores, ending the first half at 14-14 before Pittsburg State took a 21-14 lead late in the third quarter.

Dodson chucked a deep shot to his favorite target, Gorillas’ tight end Devon Garrison, who reeled in a 30-yard score with less than five minutes remaining in the third. Garrison was targeted 13 times, catching five balls for 75 yards and a score. He was the game’s leading receiver.

The Lakers would continue to struggle offensively, settling for a field goal in the fourth quarter, until safety Ian Kennelly made what might have been the play of the game.

Kennelly, who had just been beaten by Garrison moments earlier for a touchdown, picked off Dodson to give the Lakers the ball back with 3:21 remaining.

“They tried to throw it at him (Kennelly) again, and he (Kennelly) just goes and takes the football. Winners win, man. Winners win, and we’ve got a lot of those guys,” Wooster said.

Kennelly’s interception allowed Peterson and the Lakers to slowly and methodically march down the field, which included a fourth down conversion, to take the lead in the game’s waning moments.

Lakers’ Avery Moore scored the game-winning touchdown on a power run to the right from five yards out with just 35 seconds left.

Peterson said the Lakers trusted their past experience on the game’s final drive.

“You just have to trust your preparation,” Peterson said. “We’ve been there before against a high-quality opponent in (Colorado School of) Mines. The cool thing about playoff football is that it doesn’t matter how you get it done, if you get it done.”

Dodson and the Gorillas failed to get into field goal range as a sack from the Lakers’ Colton Hyble sealed the game on an attempted Hail Mary from the Pittsburg State 49-yard line.

Pittsburg State and GVSU both sit in the NCAA Division II Super Region 3, which has five of the top seven teams in the nation. It is arguably the toughest region in the nation year in and year out, making it that much harder to win and advance.

Following the loss, the Gorillas’ third-year head coach, Brian Wright, struggled with the NCAA’s reasoning for the structure of the playoffs and its regions.

“I don’t understand it. You know, 18 out of the last 24 national championship football games has had at least one program from these two conferences (GLIAC and MIAA) in it so not sure why you meet up that early,” Wright said.

GVSU now moves on to the NCAA quarterfinals, their regional final, to play the No. 1 seeded Harding University Bisons. It will be the Lakers’ first road game of the playoffs and will be played in Searcy, Arkansas at 1 p.m.

If GVSU comes out on top, they will return home for the NCAA semifinal game to play either No. 4 seed Slippery Rock University or No. 3 seed Kutztown University.

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About the Contributor
Nelson Hubbell, Sports Editor
Nelson Hubbell is the Sports Editor for the Lanthorn for the 2023-2024 school year. A senior at Grand Valley State University, before his time with the Lanthorn, he was a staff writer for The Collegiate Live, Grand Rapids Community College's student publication where he was a student for two years. He worked for a restaurant for four and a half years in Holland, Mich. called Hops at 84 East, a place he holds close to his heart. During his time there he was a manager for roughly two years. He loves camping, hiking and being outside in general. He is super passionate about football, basketball, baseball and hockey and loves all things sports and competition. Nelson will be pursuing a career in sportscasting as a play-by-play broadcaster and or as an analyst after his time at GVSU. Graduating Winter 2024 Major: Multimedia Journalism