LASALLE – Dixon earned its first Northern Illinois Big 12 West win since 2011 on Friday night.
Cody Mighell scored the winning touchdown on a 10-yard run with 8:47 remaining as Dixon edged LaSalle-Peru 13-10 to spoil the Cavaliers’ homecoming at Fellows Stadium
“I’m so happy for our kids,” Dukes coach Dave Smith said. “These kids have never stopped believing.”
Mighell’s winning score almost didn’t happen because of a holding penalty that erased a long pass play from JD Gieson to Kyle LeBlanc. Instead of being deep in LP territory, the ball came back to Dixon’s 36 early in the fourth quarter.
The Dukes (2-4, 1-1 NIB-12 West) responded to the adversity, marching 64 yards in the next eight plays. There was a 13-yard run by the bruising 202-pound Mighell, then an 8-yard strike from Gieson to LeBlanc for a first down.
Later in the drive, on fourth-and-9 from the LP 42, Gieson hit LeBlanc for 21 yards. Mighell did the rest, going 11 yards before taking it the final 10. Mighell added the point after to make it 13-10.
“Words can’t express how I feel,” said Mighell, who rushed for 77 yards on 17 carries and was a standout on defense. “It felt good, especially getting that touchdown and making the difference in the game. Our defense was amazing.”
Dixon, which was without standout Matt Coffey, who has an ankle injury, got on the scoreboard first with a 12-play, 71-yard drive on its second possession. Highlights included a 15-yard run by Quinton Douglas and 15- and 14-yard passes from Gieson to Ryan Webb.
Those plays set the stage for a 24-yard TD toss from Gieson to LeBlanc, who wrestled the ball away from an LP defender for the touchdown. The point-after kick failed, but Dixon led 6-0 with 4:51 left in the first quarter.
“This feels really good after that [56-0] loss on homecoming [to Geneseo],” said LeBlanc, who had seven catches for 73 yards. “This is really big for us. I’m glad we didn’t back down, because we used to do that last year. I’m glad we’ve matured.”
Interceptions set up the Cavaliers’ 10 points in the final moments of the first half.
The first set LP up at the Dixon 38 with 1:46 left in the half. A 33-yard pass on third-and-10 set up Taylor Thompson’s 5-yard TD run, and Jon Sydlowski’s point after gave the Cavs (1-5, 0-2) a 7-6 edge at the 1:22 mark.
On the Dukes’ next play from scrimmage, a Gieson pass bounded off LeBlanc and was picked off. LP took over at midfield.
A 32-yard pass play put the Cavs at the Dixon 11 before LP settled for a 29-yard field goal by Sydlowski as time expired.
Star of the game: Cody Mighell, Dixon, 77 rushing, TD
Key performers: JD Gieson, Dixon, 122 passing, TD; Kyle LeBlanc, Dixon, 73 receiving, TD; Colby Sassano, LP, 145 passing
Up next: Ottawa at Dixon, 7:30 p.m. Friday