Marcus Lampkin, a third-string running back for Azusa Pacific, was told last week that he might play in Saturday night’s NAIA quarterfinal football game against Sioux Falls.
The shifty 5-foot-5 sophomore took a look at the soaked Cougar Stadium home field and figured that his bigger backfield teammates, Ben Buys and Alex Peltier, might be better served in the inclement weather.
However, Lampkin gave Azusa Pacific the offensive boost it needed with a game-high 106 yards and the Cougars got another stellar performance from their defense in a convincing 24-3 victory over top-seeded and previously undefeated Sioux Falls, pushing them into the semifinals for the first time in five years. Azusa’s opponent will be announced today.
Holding onto a 10-3 lead, Azusa (11-2) turned to Lampkin in the third quarter and the tailback gained 38 yards in his first four carries. But his biggest play would come later in the period as he took a handoff from quarterback Sean Davis on a counter trap play.
Lampkin, who didn’t play in Azusa’s first-round win over Northwestern Oklahoma State, made a move to the outside and outran the Sioux Falls defense for a 40-yard back-breaking touchdown.
“A week ago, we didn’t play him because we didn’t think the conditions favored it,” Azusa Coach Peter Shinnick said. “This week we said that this guy has got to touch the ball.”
Lampkin said he wasn’t sure when he would be called on during the game.
“It’s a player’s job to earn it on the field,” Lampkin said. “I just wanted to work hard in practice so they could see I was ready if they needed me.”
A 17-3 lead only fueled the aggressive, active Azusa defense. The Cougars have gone nine quarters without giving up a touchdown, holding Sioux Falls (11-1) to minus-13 yards in the third quarter and nine total yards in the second half.
Quarterback Joe Wright was sacked five times and completed only 13 of 29 attempts for 93 yards. Tailback Michael Dvoracek, who went into the game with 1,465 yards and 15 touchdowns, was held to 61 yards in 20 carries.
“All year, we just rely on each other,” defensive lineman Peder Moore said. “As a defense, we feel we have to defend this turf.”
With chilly 50-degree temperatures and a steady rain falling throughout, the weather seemed to favor Sioux Falls. Instead, its high-powered offense that averaged 44 points was hampered by the conditions and the speed of the Azusa defense.
“We obviously would have liked a dry track, but my guys really don’t care at this point,” Shinnick said. “We’ve played in a lot of different places, in a lot of different conditions. They just want to keep playing.”