CHICAGO – Speed. Athleticism. Big. Physical. Quick.
That’s what the Dixon Dukes ran into Saturday evening during their 4A quarterfinal game against the Al Raby School for Community and Environment of Chicago.
The Dukes were left in awe at just how different and unique the Raiders’ attack was, and it proved to be the season-ending buzzsaw in a 38-13 loss at Hanson Stadium.
Raby (11-1) showed Dixon (10-2) just what it was capable of on its first successful snap from scrimmage – so did Raiders senior running back DQ Smith. The 5-foot-6,
170-pounder found a hole along the left side of the Dukes defense and breezed his way for 86 yards for the game’s first score just 2:10 in.
It was all catch-up from there. Dixon came up empty on the ensuing drive and was stopped at the Raiders’ 22.
“They’re big. They’re physical,” Dixon senior quarterback Noah Wilcox said. “They just gave it to us. They had a lot of blitzes and did well making tackles on the first contact. They’re just a good team. They’re capable to win anything in the playoffs.”
The defensive breakdowns continued for the Dukes just a few minutes later. Smith once again came up with plenty of green turf in his sights and almost had an 83-yard touchdown. However, the score was called back due to a pair of Raiders penalties. Despite coming up empty, the Raiders knew who to key in on with blocks and where.
“[Dixon has] been playing on grass, and we wanted to get on them quick,” Raby coach D’Angelo Dereef said. “They got the ball first. They didn’t score and we got the ball back, and then we said we were going to control the tempo.”
Smith added his second of what would be a game-high four touchdowns just 36 seconds into the second quarter, this time from 11 yards out for a 14-0 Raiders lead. Smith amassed 231 yards on 15 first-half carries, and finished with 295 yards.
Dixon’s running game, largely based around 5-foot-5, 155-pound Arthur Cox, was kept in check for all but two of his 14 carries. Besides a pair of second-quarter touchdown runs of 59 and 46 yards, the Dukes senior was held to 21 yards otherwise.
Cox’s second score took quite a bit of work: He was bottled up in the middle, but found a way to cut, shift, and slide around toward the left end. He raced along the left sideline only after he became vertical.
“It’s real difficult trying to stop the big plays,” Cox said. “When you give up big plays, the momentum goes to their side. Just back-and-forth, back-and-forth, and they just kept the momentum.”
Smith had a 33-yard touchdown sandwiched between both of Cox’s scores in what turned out to be a very busy second quarter for both offenses. Regardless of who was making the large runs on either team, it was a delight for Dereef to see, having once been a small running back in his playing days.
Raby had seen a running back similar to Cox’s shifty style in a Week 4 win against Solorio Academy, and they used it to their advantage in stopping Cox.
“15 [Cox], give him credit,” Dereef said. “That was a battle of diminutive running backs. I was a diminutive running back, and I had a great time watching both of them.”
Raby increased its lead to 36-13 by halftime. Smith added a 60-yard TD run, and the Raiders also scored on a 45-yard pass play from Tyshun Turnipseed to Monte Tillman.
“The first half, defensively, we came out and we were slacking,” Finn Brandon said. “We didn’t come out and play our best ball. It’s a rough loss.
“They’ve got speed and athleticism. We just couldn’t shut it down.”
The Dukes rotated their defensive line around to stay fresh in a much better second half, and other than a mistake of a backward pass which was downed for a safety, Raby didn’t score for the rest of the game.
But neither did Dixon.
“They have great athleticism and great speed,” Dukes coach Dave Smith said. “Great athletes, great teams make mistakes, and these were mistakes that we haven’t made all year. It was tough to see that, but one game doesn’t change my mind about this team.”
Raby pressured Wilcox often, and the result was an unusual finish of 21-for-37 passing.
“When you get down by a couple of scores, you have to put points up right away,” Wilcox said. “You can’t get in a big hole like that. We just tried to stick to our game plan. We tried not to go too fancy. We just stalled out a little bit.”
Dixon ends the season reaching a level in the playoffs they had reached only once before – another quarterfinal appearance in 2006. The Dukes won their first eight games, which is a program record, and also scored more points than they had ever scored in a season.
“It was a pleasure to coach these kids,” Smith said. “I feel truly blessed. Unless you’re a state champ, you lose your last game. We’re not there yet. We’re working hard toward it. We’re climbing.”
Class 4A quarterfinals
Chicago Raby 38, Dixon 13
Star of the game: DQ Smith, Raby, 29 carries, 295 yards, 4 TDs
Key performers: Tyshun Turnipseed, Raby, 130 passing yards, 68 rushing yards; Jared Harrison, Dixon, 11 catches, 79 yards; Noah Wilcox, Dixon, 21-for-36 passing, 174 yards; Arthur Cox, Dixon, 14 rushes, 116 yards, 2 TDs, 3 catches, 57 yards receiving