San Diego ends NAU’s season with lopsided playoff win

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The San Diego Toreros have changed the perception of the Pioneer Football League.

Much to the dismay of the larger Big Sky Conference.

San Diego rolled over Northern Arizona 41-10 at the Walkup Skydome in the first round of the FCS playoffs Saturday night.

PFL teams were handled in their first three playoff appearances beginning in 2013, but the Toreros (10-2) broke through at Cal Poly in the first round a year ago and then did again against another Big Sky squad, setting up a second-round game at No. 2 seed North Dakota State (10-1) next Saturday. Last year, NDSU eliminated the Toreros 45-7 in the second round.

San Diego, coached by 74-year-old Dale Lindsey, dominated Northern Arizona. The Toreros scored on three straight possessions in the first half to jump ahead 17-0, held a 439-238 edge in yards with a 16-minute, 6-second advantage in time of possession, and didn’t allow a third-down conversion until the game’s final two minutes. The Lumberjacks (7-5) also turned the ball over three times, which led to 10 Toreros’ points.

San Diego junior quarterback Anthony Lawrence passed for 228 yards and three touchdowns, including two to tight end Ross Dwelley. Incredibly, he’s thrown for 33 scores with only two interceptions this season.

Freshman running back Emilio Martinez had 20 carries for 117 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown in the third quarter. It was set up by one of defensive end Jonathan Petersen’s two sacks, which forced NAU quarterback Case Cookus to turn the ball over on a fumble deep in Lumberjacks territory.

Cookus, the All-Big Sky first-team quarterback, was held in check as he passed for 178 yards and a touchdown with one interception.