Northern Arizona Ends Spring Season On High Note

For the first time since 2017, Northern Arizona finished the season with a winning record. The Lumberjacks capped off their shortened spring campaign by defeating Idaho 19-9 on Saturday afternoon in Flagstaff. 

Kicker Luis Aguilar cashed in on four field goals and the NAU defense was stout to cap off an anything but normal season with a 3-2 overall record.

It was the first time since 2016 that the program held an opponent to under 10 points, and the first time since 2011 that an opposing offense didn’t score a touchdown against Northern Arizona. 

“The motto this week was, ‘back-to-back,'” said head coach Chris Ball. “We hadn’t won back-to-back games since 2017. With all of the adversity this year and things we’ve had to go through to play and all of the people that it took, to come out of this thing with a winning record, it’s an accomplishment for our football team. It was huge for our program and it gives us momentum going into the summer and into next season.”

Similar to how they did for much of the year, NAU trailed in the first quarter. Nevertheless, they settled in and never looked back. Down 9-3 right before halftime, the Lumberjacks pinned Idaho down near its own goal line. 

Ball managed his timeouts well, forcing the Vandals to punt in their own end zone with little time left on the clock. NAU ensued to get a piece of the punt, and the ball fluttered. The Lumberjacks were put in good field position with the big play on special teams. 

Quarterback Keondre Wudtee and the offense proceeded to cash in on the opportunity. Wudtee dropped in a pass to a wide open Coleman Owen from one-yard out for the lone touchdown of the game. 

From there, the Lumberjacks would add on to their lead in the second half with points from Aguilar, and the defense rounded out the effort. 

One of the game-sealing defensive plays was from senior linebacker Harrison Beemiller, who came up with a huge sack on fourth down to give NAU the ball back with a little over seven minutes left.

Then as the Lumberjacks looked to ice the game away on a third down with the clock dwindling down, Wudtee had a quarterback rollout that he kept for himself to gain the first down and put icing on the cake. 

Among other notable stars in Saturday’s win, wide receiver Hendrix Johnson had a game, hauling in four receptions for 121 yards, including a 60-yard reception. He was a thorn in the side of the Vandals secondary all day. 

“When we have the coaches that we do and the team that we do, it’s not that hard to be in the right position and make the plays that I did today,” Johnson said. “We have a great receiving core and it didn’t matter who was going to make the plays this week because we got the guys to do it…I’m thankful that I was the guy in this situation, but it’s different (players) every single week.”

The victory for NAU was the first win against Idaho since 1981, and it allowed NAU to finish tied for third in the final Big Sky standings. 

It was a season unlike any other in Flagstaff, but the efforts out of this year’s team proved that the future is bright. 

“I really think it sets the tone for next season,” said senior defensive back Morgan Vest. “It shows the direction that this team is going and it shows how much we’ve grown and how much we’ve changed…to battle through the adversity and all of the changes that happened this season, it really shows the character of this team and what this team is made of.”

Next Reads