Finlandia’s rally comes up short

Lions close gap but lose 27-22

Brad Beaudette photo Finlandia's Dillion Dueckstaedt scores a touchdown on a 29-yard reception against Lawrence Saturday at McAfee Field. Finlandia’s late rally fell short in a 27-22 defeat.

HANCOCK — If there is such a thing as a moral victory, the Finlandia University football team may have gotten one Saturday afternoon. 

About to be counted out midway through the third quarter, the Lions bounced off the mat at McAfee Field.

With Lawrence University holding an 18-0 lead, thanks largely to 15 points in the final two minutes of the opening half, the Lions responded with such a force that it was the Vikings who were hanging on the ropes.

“This is a team that’s never going to quit,” Lions’ skipper Tim Driscoll said after his team dropped a 27-22 decision. “They showed it last week when we were way down (at Concordia).

“In this one, we had a chance in the final minutes because our offense and defense picked up. But I know we’re not going to give up.”

Freshman quarterback De’Lontae Johnson and junior defensive back Jaavaid Love played big roles for the locals, who are 0-2 on the young season.

Johnson picked up 93 yards rushing and passed for 177 more yards.

“He (Johnson) started off slowly today,” Driscoll noted.

“But he really came on strong in the second half and made some big plays.”

Love had stellar afternoon, making 10 tackles, recording a sack and intercepting two passes.

“Jaavaid has been a key player ever since he came here,” Driscoll commented. “He just seems to have a nose for the football.”

Baraga High product Dillion Hueckstaedt also had a productive day. He had a team-leading 13 tackles and also caught 2 passes for 29 yards and a score.

His 29-yard TD reception late in the fourth quarter reduced the FU deficit to 25-15.

And when fullback Justin Woolever scored from a yard away with 3:17 remaining for a 25-22 reading, the Finlandia hopes were high. Love’s second interception set up the score.

After holding the Vikings and forcing a punt, the Lions were pinned inside the 2-yard line. Their final shot at victory evaporated when a holding call in the end zone gave LU a safety.

The Wisconsin team was able to run out the clock after an onside kick failed.

There was little scoring for most of the first. A 34-yard field goal by Ryan Butterfield early in the second quarter gave LU a 3-0 lead.

It remained that way until an 18-yard scoring run by Lawrence quarterback Phillip Santiago and a 2-point conversion made it 11-0.

The visitors added another score with just just 17 seconds left in the half, Santiago tossing a 15-yard TD pass to Wasonu Allen for an 18-0 halftime lead.

“That sequence near the end of the first half did hurt us,” Driscoll said. “But the kids never got down; they kept playing hard.”

The Lions got on the board in the third quarter when Johnson flipped a 5-yard scoring pass to Josh Eve. The score was set up by a 53-yard connection between Johnson and Eve, who had a big day with five catches for 108 yards.

Santiago got that one back early in the fourth quarter on a one-yard run to up the count to 25-7.

The Lions will now be idle until a Sept. 30 home game versus Lewis-Clark College.

“We’ll use the time off to heal some injuries,” Driscoll said. “When you’ve got a short (23 players suited up Saturday) roster, you need that time off.”

Lawrence 0 18 7 2 – 27

Finlandia 0 0 7 15 – 22

First quarter

No scoring

Second quarter

LU – Ryan Butterfield 34 FG

LU – Phillip Santiago 18 run (D’Andre Allen pass from Santiago)

LU – Wasonu Allen 15 pass from Santiago (Butterfield kick)

Third quarter

FU – Josh Eve 5 pass from De’Lontae Johnson (Avery Huibretgse kick)

LU – Santiago 1 run (Butterfield kick)

Fourth quarter

FU – Dillon Hueckstaedt 29 pass from Johnson (Eve pass from Johnson)

FU – Justin Woolever 1 run (Huibretsge kick)

LU – Team safety