Rangers clinch playoff spot with victory over Southern Oregon

Alva / Athletics / Football
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Rangers clinch playoff spot with victory over Southern Oregon

BigUSports.com Staff Report

ALVA, Okla. — Northwestern Oklahoma State’s Rocky Lee became the hero for a defense that struggled Saturday afternoon, as the No. 16 Rangers held Southern Oregon in the last minute, 31-26.

The victory clinches a playoff spot for the Rangers (8-2, 5-0) in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Championship Series. The 16-team playoff series will be formally announced, with pairings, in Kansas City tomorrow afternoon.

Both squads traded mistakes in the final quarter, with the Rangers holding the five-point margin. The late game drama heated up with just less than six minutes remaining when sure handed receiver Korey Williams fumbled the ball on what was a potential touchdown catch and run.

On the next possession for the Raiders, it was the same story as Norman Young knocked the ball out Vance Beach hands. Norman, a freshman nose guard out of Concord, N.C., would recover the fumble, setting up what seemed to be the Rangers game clinching drive.

However, Northwestern’s senior running back Nate Guillory was unable to break away from the Raiders defensive on the ensuing possession, and the Rangers were forced three and out, punting the ball away with 1:27 remaining in the contest.

Despite the struggles on the drive by Guillory, he finished the game with 159 yards and two touchdowns in his final game at Ranger Field.

As the Raiders offense took the field for the final possession, Ranger fans were on edge knowing the offense would have to pass if they were to reach the end zone in the short amount of time. The Raiders offense finished the game with 332 yards through the air.

Freshman Chris Young looked poised as the Raiders took the field, leading them 44-yards down to the Northwestern 39-yard line, in just his second game this season.

However, on fourth and five, Lee made a diving play on a pass intended for Isaiah Waston, knocking down the pass to clinch the victory, and the playoff spot.

The Raiders looked to have the number of NWOSU early in the contest, scoring on their first possession. Later in the first quarter, the bad snap by the Rangers special teams led to a safety, extending the visitors lead to 9-0.

Northwestern answered on the following drive as Williams found Mike Frame in the back of the end zone from 3-yards out. The Rangers then tacked on a field goal at the end of the half, heading into the locker with a 10-9 lead.

Guillory had one of his long runs on the Rangers first possession of the second half, breaking loose for a 68-yard run and a score with 11:06 remaining.

Following a Raider touchdown, the Rangers would answer again in the third, as Guillory would find the end zone yet again from two-yards out. Kammel answered yet again, cutting the Rangers lead to just a point, 24-23.

Finally, in the fourth quarter, Ranger running back Jared Jackson found open field, finding pay dirt for a 34-yard score.

The Raiders would add a field goal to round out the scoring mid-way through the fourth.

Williams finished his final home game in a Rangers uniform with nine catches and 143 yards receiving, and three rushes for 42 yards to go along with his three-yard touchdown pass. 

The two offenses were nearly even in total yardage, with a slight edge going to the Raiders, 408 to 402.

Champ’s Sports and Spirits in Alva will be hosting a playoff selection watch party beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. For those unable to attend, the event will be broadcast live from Champ’s on KPAK 97.5 The Line in Alva, and streamed live on the station’s website, www.975theline.com. The broadcast will feature interviews from Northwestern players and coaches.

Victory Sports Network will also be broadcasting from Kansas City with the official NAIA selection show, which can be view at www.livestream.com/victorysports, beginning at 1:30.