Storybook season ends in disappointment for Thunderbirds

Photo courtesy Weber State Athletics

CEDAR CITY – A historic season for the Southern Utah University football team came to a close on Saturday night inside Eccles Coliseum as the Thunderbirds fell to the Wildcats of Weber State 30-13 in the second round of the FCS Playoffs.

SUU started the game well, forging a 10-0 lead and played WSU to an even 13-13 tie at intermission. But it was all Stefan Cantwell and Weber State in the second half.

Weber QB Cantwell passed for 299 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards and a score to spark Weber State.

The Thunderbirds opened the game with seven early points when Jay Green Jr. ran into the end zone from 16 yards away on a fourth-and-2 play.

Before the end of the first quarter, the Thunderbirds added another field goal to lead 10-0 after 15 minutes of play.

In the second quarter, the Wildcats scored 13 unanswered points to jump ahead 13-10. In the closing seconds of the opening half, the T-Birds added another Manny Berz field goal, this one from 24 yards out, to tie the contest up at 13-13.

Photo courtesy SUU Athletics

The final half was all Weber State, as the Wildcats scored 17 unanswered points in the final 30 minutes to top the T-Birds 30-13.

“Weber State came out and played a great game and beat us thoroughly on offense, defense and special teams after that first quarter and that’s one thing we were worried about,” SUU head coach Demario Warren said. “We worried about two things in the game – we worried about if we could start fast and stay sharp after the bye and the second part was if we could keep the stamina and the urgency up if we did get off to a good start.”

Warren added that the amazing group of seniors he had will be missed, and he’s very grateful for the time they gave Southern Utah.

“They finished the game with class, they fought to the very end and they did everything we’ve taught them to do,” Warren said. “I’m excited to see what this senior group will do after college. It’s a tight group of kids, they’re emotional in there and I couldn’t be prouder to be their head coach.

Patrick Tyler finished the game with 129 yards through the air and 28 yards on the ground. Alex Croyle pulled in four passes for 32 yards and Green Jr. carried the ball 13 times for 55 yards and one touchdown.

Former Desert Hills High School star Mike Needham finished with 11 tackles for the Thunderbirds on the evening.

“Every time I talk to a senior, I get a little emotional, but I’m just so proud of the season that we had,” Needham said. “We didn’t reach two out of our five goals, but we reached three of them and I couldn’t be more proud of this team and what we accomplished this year. Each year, we keep getting better and better, so I’m excited about the future and I’m just happy that us seniors were able to do a little bit to keep momentum going for the future.”

The Thunderbirds (9-3) played in front of a record-breaking crowd on Saturday night as 11,811 fans packed Eccles Coliseum for the second round playoff action.

Former Dixie High star Drew Batchelor had 98 receiving yards and aTD for Weber State.

The win sends the Wildcats (11-2) to Harrisonburg, Virginia, next Saturday for a matchup with defending champion and top-seeded James Madison (12-0). It will be Weber State’s third trip to the quarterfinals. Weber State heads east with its first 11-win season under its belt.

Stats: SUU_WSU_12_2_FB_Gamebook

Email: sports@stgnews.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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