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GUNNISON, CO — The South Dakota School of Mines football team withstood a late rally by Western State Colorado University as the Hardrockers closed out the season on a high note defeating the Mountaineers, 35-16, Saturday afternoon during the final Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference game for both teams in Gunnison, Colo.
The Hardrockers scored two 65-plus rushing touchdowns in the first half and added a defensive touchdown in the third period before the Mountaineers came alive in the fourth quarter.
The home team scored 14 unanswered points in the early goings of the final frame and had a lot of momentum behind them. The Hardrockers were able to regroup and scored a receiving TD to take the wind out of Western’s sails, and then added a fifth score in the waning moments to earn the season finale victory.
The Hardrockers first score came with 8:45 left in the first quarter when Kevin Thompson broke a big one, busting through the middle of the SD Mines offensive line and raced 69 yards in for the touchdown. Enis Sefa added the point after to take the first-quarter lead, 7-0.
The Mountaineers were gifted two points to open the second quarter when the Hardrockers mishandled a punt attempt was recovered by the ‘Rockers in their own end zone, but a short time later SD Mines running back Dorian Cowart also broke open a long TD run, rushing 80 yards and in for the score with 11:47 before half. Sefa tacked on the extra point.
The ‘Rockers added to the lead toward the end of the third quarter when Western State running back Rico Tipton fumble the ball on the end of run. SD Mines linebacker Blake Stone scooped it up and ran it back 66 yards and in for the TD, giving the ‘Rockers a 21-2 advantage. Sefa provided the extra point.
After two quick scores by Western State to open the fourth quarter, Cowart helped bust up the momentum swing when quarterback Jake Sullivan hit the running back on a screen pass which he took in for a 10-yard touchdown reception at the 9:00 mark of the fourth quarter, capping off an eight-play 69-yard drive. Sefa added the PAT.
After the Hardrocker defense shut down Western’s offense again, SD Mines was successful on an eight-play 72-yard surge when Sullivan hit Jeremy Gonzales from 10 yards out to score with 3:42 left in the game. Sefa added the extra point and the ‘Rockers closed out the game with the 35-16 win.
The Hardrockers finished the game with 414 total yards. The visitors racked up 290 yards on the ground and another 124 through the air. Western State tallied 298 total yards, collecting 93 on the ground and 205 receiving.
Sullivan ended Saturday’s game completing 15-28 passes for 124 yards and two touchdown passes. He rushed for another 80 yards on 14 attempts.
Cowart led the way on the ground with 110 rushing yards on nine carries and a score while Thompson tallied 98 yards on 17 carries and a score.
Seven different Hardrockers caught passes in Saturday’s game with Cowart hauling in five catches for 38 yards and a score, Jermaine Williams grabbing three passes for 34 yards and Carson Hunt had two receptions for 26 yards.
The SD Mines defense was led by seniors EJ DeVeaux and Troy Kurtz who each had nine tackles while fellow senior Stone tallied eight. Harrison Beemiller came up with two interceptions in the game which he returned for 66 yards and Michael Retland notched a sack on the day.
The win closes out the season for SD Mines as the Hardrockers finish with a 5-6 overall record and 4-6 mark in the RMAC play.
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It’s the Sights of the Game, presented by Black Hills Regional Eye Institute.