The frustration of losing a game in the final minute a week ago turned into the elation of winning one the same way for the Dayton Flyers on Saturday.
Senior linebacker Jack Crain intercepted a pass on a Southeast Missouri two-point conversion try with under a minute to play, icing a 25-23 win for the Flyers over the visiting Redhawks in Dayton’s home opener at Welcome Stadium.
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It was the second interception in the final three minutes for the Flyers. Andrew Lutgens stopped a Southeast Missouri drive with under three minutes to play when he picked off a pass with Dayton nursing a 25-17 lead.
The Flyers offense couldn’t convert the turnover into points and SEMO got it back with 1:47 left to play.
The Redhawks drove 87 yards in nine plays using only a minute off the clock. SEMO quarterback Jesse Hosket hit Kristain Wilkerson in the back of the end zone to make it a 25-23 game and set up Crain’s big play.
“I was man-to-man on that guy and I gave up the touchdown,” Crain said after the game. “I was just trying to make a play to help out the team and I saw him rolling out and I thought he was going to keep it. I was reading his eyes the whole time and was able to make a play.”
Dayton was giving up 40-50 pounds up front on both sides of the ball to a SEMO team that averaged over 300-pounds in the trenches.
Senior running back Tucker Yinger found enough room to run for 141 yards on 24 carries, and Kyle Kaparos threw a pair of touchdown passes in his second career start.
Kaparos hit J.P Forcucci on a 15-yard pass to give Dayton a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Flyers led 13-7 at halftime.
SEMO took their first lead of the game on a 68-yard pass from Jesse Hosket to Trevon Billington midway through the third quarter.
Kaparos responded with a 9-yard strike to Ryan Skibinski early in the fourth quarter and the Flyers never trailed again.
Freshman kicker Patrick Sandler, who missed two of three field goal tries last week, hit four out of five kicks to tie a Dayton single-game record. His 38-yard field goal with three minutes left gave the home team an eight-point cushion down the stretch.
“They are a good football team and physically one of the best we’ll play against,” Flyers coach Rick Chamberlin said. “I really admired the way our team bounced back. They didn’t give in, they had poise no matter what was happening to us.”
Dayton (1-1) is back home next Saturday to host Duqesne (1-1).