NAU claims Grand Canyon Trophy with victory over Southern Utah

It could be late February, but football is back in Northern Arizona and the season couldn’t have started better for Chris Ball’s lumberjack.

Like something you dream about in the backyard growing up, NAU won thanks to a game-winning touchdown when the horn sounded to beat Southern Utah 34-33 on Saturday afternoon in Flagstaff.

On the final game from the two-yard line, quarterback Keondre Wudtee threw a pass to run Coleman Owen back, who pedaled back into the end zone to secure the thrilling win. Owen, a former Sports360AZ Valle Luna Athlete of the Week who made a difference at Higley High School, dropped out of the last game.

“They rolled down a security and it got blown up, but I just sat in the hole and Keondre put it where I could get it,” Owen said. β€œIt was very emotional after the game. It was fantastic.”

(Q4 |: 02) | NAU 34 – SUU 33

THE PASSPORT. THE CATCH. πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ @ K_wudteeQB ➑️ @Colemanowen_
WIN LUMBERJACKS # NAUStrong CH #CHOP pic.twitter.com/eQxlVELdxx

– NAU Football (@NAU_Football) February 27, 2021

NAU’s final drive was eight games, 51 yards in 53 seconds, and the game-winning result was achieved with two seconds remaining. The ride was also propelled from a huge defensive stance just moments before, as the defense stood high on a fourth and a short stance to get the ball back on the offensive with two time outs and little time to attack.

After a slow attacking first half, things began to change when former Chaparral Firebird Kamdan Hightower intercepted a pass for Pick Six to record the first NAU touchdown of the season. The piece gave the loggers some life and they settled down.

For someone playing in their first college game, Hightower was delighted all day.

“He’s a really smart footballer and he understands our defense,” Ball said of Hightower. β€œI spoke to him before the game because I thought he was a little nervous. He says, ‘Coach, I’m not nervous. I’ve been waiting for this all my life. ‘He showed up and he shows up every day to practice and he’s just another great kid. “

(Q2 | 10:16) | NAU 9 – SUU 13

Look at this man. PICK SIX 😀 @HightowerKamdan #NAUStrong βš’οΈπŸŒ²πŸ’ͺ #CHOP pic.twitter.com/Ffz0sdBGSY

– NAU Football (@NAU_Football) February 27, 2021

After picking six, the two teams traded more points and went to the locker rooms, with Southern Utah leading 20-15.

The second half turned into a shootout. Both teams exchanged touchdown results, including when Wudtee found Stacy Chukwumezie for 55 yards on the sidelines for the first lumberjack lead of the night.

(Q3 | 14:27) | NAU 21 – SUU 20

LET YOU KNOW. @K_wudteeQB πŸ’ͺ
TOUCHDOWN ‘JACKS @CantGuardChuk πŸ₯Ά # NAUStrong βš’οΈπŸŒ²πŸ’ͺ #CHOP pic.twitter.com/5u4zqIJHPj

– NAU Football (@NAU_Football) February 27, 2021

Wudtee would finish 17-25 for 252 yards and two touchdowns, and the Lumberjacks would prevail in a wild at Flagstaff. After a tremendously long off-season, seeing results after everything they’ve been through in the past 12 months has been a welcome reward for the program.

“It was emotional from the start and the beginning of the day was emotional,” said Ball. “When you start thinking about all the people who have worked to make this happen, it’s amazing that our players are able to put to play a game and have some normalcy. It is absolutely amazing. They talk about service and life changing and people changing lives. It took this whole sports department, our AD, our exercise room, the strength staff, and the coaching team to get to this point. After everything we’ve been through, getting out and playing a game … it’s a blessing. I told the boys not to take this lightly. We missed it. “

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