DIXON – The Dukes had their chances, but the mistakes were too much to overcome.
Dixon (1-2) turned the ball over five times Friday night, in their 24-14 loss to the visiting Yorkville Foxes (3-0), but were within three points late in the game.
Dixon head coach Dave Smith praised his team’s effort, calling it the best he’s seen in his time at the high school, for four quarters and against a quality opponent.
“They stayed with the game plan,” he said of his players. “They believed. But the biggest thing is they played together. There were a lot of chances where we could have just folded the tent early in the game ... but we just kept plugging away.”
Dixon quarterback JD Gieson connected with sophomore receiver Kyle LeBlanc for a 47-yard touchdown pass with 5:49 left in the fourth quarter to make the game 17-14, less than 3 minutes after Yorkville put itself up 17-7.
But a 65-yard drive by the Foxes, capped off with a 6-yard touchdown run by running back Mike Kurtz, ended the scoring for the night with Yorkville ahead 24-14 and 1:41 left in the game.
Kurtz, a junior, rushed 41 times for 200 yards, scoring two touchdowns. The Foxes tallied 281 yards of total offense, with just 25 yards passing.
The Dukes fumbled four times, one of which came via a muffed punt, and lost all four to go along with a Gieson interception in the end zone. Twice the Dukes turned the ball over while driving into Yorkville territory with momentum on their side.
“We struggled to get [momentum] back again,” Smith said. “We were in that [game] right until the end.”
After trailing 10-0 at half, the Dukes scored late in the third quarter, when Gieson ran the ball in from the 4. On the ensuing kickoff, Cody Mighell recovered a short kickoff at the Yorkville 40-yard line and the Dukes looked like they had a chance to take the lead.
Mighell replaced LeBlanc at the last-minute before the kickoff team took the field, because the sophomore receiver was cramping and needed to come out, Smith said.
But on the Dukes’ possession, junior Quinton Douglas fumbled at the end of a 22-yard reception and the Foxes recovered, ending another promising Dukes drive without points.
Despite giving up 24 points and more than 200 yards rushing, the Dukes defense played well, stopping Kurtz and the Foxes’ rushing attack for multiple negative runs. However, it was the nine runs of 10 yards or more, often after a runner was able to get to the edge, that hurt.
“The teamwork was there tonight,” Smith said. “The aggression was there tonight. But the mistakes were there tonight. So we have to get rid of the mistakes and with youth, sometimes you press so hard you make the mistake [yourself].”
The Dukes have just five seniors on their roster.