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Football

Diminutive backs Christiansen, Cox key Dukes’ defeat of Cogs

Quick and the small

DIXON – A speedy, 5-foot-nothing offensive firecracker went off Saturday afternoon at Dixon High School, propelling the Dukes to a berth in the Class 4A quarterfinals with an historic 35-21 victory over Genoa-Kingston.

Tyler Christiansen really had himself a game. The 5-foot-6 junior caught three passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns (a third was called back by a penalty), and Dixon led virtually the whole game en route to a program-record 10th win on the season.

“We’ve been trying to get Tyler involved because he’s so fast,” said quarterback Noah Wilcox, who threw for 267 yards on 17 of 23 passing. “He can just get the ball and run, and he did that today.”

The Dukes’ other undersized weapon – the record-setting 5-foot-5 Arthur Cox – scored two touchdowns and had 127 yards from scrimmage on the day, but it was the two big plays from Christiansen that hurt the Cogs the most.

“They’ve got a lot of talented guys, and you saw that today,” Genoa-Kingston coach Chad Wilmarth said. “Wilcox is a great quarterback, and obviously they have a great offensive line. We had a tough time getting to [Wilcox].”

Christiansen, a lightning-quick weapon whether he’s lined up in the backfield or split wide, has been lost in the shuffle at times this season for the Dukes, who boast a litany of talented skill players on offense.

But that wasn’t the case this week. On Dixon’s first play from scrimmage, he caught a swing pass toward the left sideline, got the edge and turned the corner, outrunning everybody for a 77-yard score just 20 seconds into the game.

Christiansen then repeated himself, taking another swing pass 47 yards down the right sideline for his second score of the game, stretching Dixon’s lead to 28-7 midway through the third.

The Cogs (8-3), who lost to Dixon 46-14 in Week 7, attempted to slow the Dixon offense simply by keeping it off the field. It worked to some degree early, as Genoa-Kingston ran 20 of the game’s first 30 offensive plays, but six procedure penalties and two failed fourth-down conversions hindered the strategy greatly.

“We had an issue against Richmond-Burton, and I thought we addressed it,” Wilmarth said of the penalties. “[The officials] were saying the quarterback was starting his cadence before he got under [center]. If you’re going to have a man in motion, you’ve got to be under for one second before you take off, and that was the issue.”

Despite the problems, Payton Phillips was able to rack up 96 rushing yards, including two touchdowns, on 17 carries. Quarterback Griffin Hansen completed his first six passes and ended 6 of 8 for the game with 90 yards and one touchdown to Jayson Szczepanski.

With 89 rushing yards against the Cogs, Cox became the first player in Dixon history to record back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons, and is now 52 yards away from breaking his own school record for single-season rushing yards. He also climbed to 20th on the state’s all-time rushing list (with 4,846), according to the records page on the IHSA website. His 73 touchdowns have him tied for 17th. If the Dukes play as many as three more games, he could climb several spots higher on each list.

Dixon advances to the quarterfinals for the second time in team history. The Dukes will play Chicago Raby next week with a berth in the semifinals on the line.

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