Bulldogs Clinch Share Of League Title

Bulldogs Clinch Share Of League Title
Quarterback Matt Lancaster

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Junior quarterback Matt Lancaster stretched every inch of his body to reach the goal line in the closing seconds, and his effort gave Butler a 19-16 come-from-behind victory over Jacksonville and a share of the Pioneer Football League championship.  The dramatic win at the Butler Bowl on Saturday (Nov. 3) boosted the Bulldogs to 8-2 on the year and 7-0 in the PFL.

Butler's win, combined with Drake's first loss at Dayton, gave the Bulldogs a one-game lead on the league with one game to play.  The Bulldogs will end the season at Drake on Saturday, Nov. 10, with a guarantee of no worse than a tie for the league title.

With Butler trailing, 16-13, Lancaster capped a final 14-play, 95-yard drive for the Bulldogs with a one-yard touchdown plunge on a fourth-down play.  He stretched the ball through a mass of bodies at the goal line and broke the plane with just 0:02 left on the clock.  Those two seconds were all that Butler led in the hard-fought, rain-soaked game.

"It was wild," Lancaster said of the closing minutes.  "It was just another one of those drives.  We've had that the last couple of games, and it just shows how much heart we have as an offense and as a team and the confidence we have in ourselves and the coaches have in us."

"I'm glad I got in in the last seconds of the game," added the Butler signal caller.

The game-winning drive finished a comeback against a team Butler had never beaten.  Jacksonville (6-3, 4-2 PFL), owning a 7-0 record against the Bulldogs, jumped to a 10-0 lead and carried a 13-7 advantage to the locker room at halftime.  

Butler did tie the game at 13-13 on a three-yard Lancaster to Zack Wolfe touchdown pass with just over nine minutes left in the third quarter, but the visiting Dolphins regained the advantage on a 23-yard field goal by Dylan Lynch four minutes later.  It was the third field goal of the game for Lynch.

The final drive started at the Butler five-yard line with 2:55 left in the game, following a Jacksonville punt.  Lancaster passed for four first downs to fuel the march, and Jacksonville committed two key pass interference penalties.

Butler reached the Jacksonville two-yard line with under 40 seconds remaining.  A Lancaster pass and two runs by tailback Don Stewart only advanced the ball one yard with seven seconds remaining.  There, on fourth down, Lancaster called his own number and and delivered the game-winner.

Butler defensive back Sean Grady batted down a final desperation pass attempt by Jacksonville, and the Bulldogs celebrated their seventh consecutive victory.

"I tip my hat to 98 guys in the locker room.  It was another 60 minute game and we had to play all 60 of it," said Butler head coach Jeff Voris.  "All three phases had points in the game where they made key stops or stands or plays to get us to that point with the touchdown late.  It was a great team win."

Lancaster completed 23 of 43 passes with one interception for 260 yards and two touchdowns to fuel Butler's offense.  Wide receiver Derek O'Connor, who came up with several clutch catches in the second half, led Butler's receivers with seven receptions for 99 yards, while sophomore JT Mesch came up with six catches for 67 yards.  Junior Dylan Johnson, who finished with three catches for 41 yards, had a 12-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.

Stewart, who replaced injured Trae Heeter in the game, finished with 28 yards on 13 carries.  Heeter, the leading rusher in the PFL, had 20 yards on seven carries.

Safety Jayme Szafranski paced Butler's defense with nine tackles, while senior Jordan Ridley, playing his final game in the Butler Bowl, finished with eight stops.  Grady had a pass interception, in addition to his game-ending play.

Prior to the game, Butler paid tribute to seven seniors, Ridley, Jace Tennant, Matt Storey, Bobby McDonald, David Thomas, Brett Thomaston and Paul Sciortino.  After the game, the seven celebrated their second PFL title in four years.