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Evan Lappen photo

After four hotly contested quarterfinals, the quest for the Pete Dawkins Trophy is down to four teams. Cal beat Kutztown 19-10 and will face Indiana, 24-12 winners over UCLA. Life edged St. Mary’s 7-5 and will meet conference foe Lindenwood, 12-0 winners over Arkansas State.

The first quarterfinal between the Golden Bears started with a flurry of knock-ons and early mistakes, but Cal struck first when Zack Tavenner picked up a loose ball near a ruck and raced 40 meters untouched. The conversion was no good.

Alex Faison-Donahoe knocked on the restart, giving the ball back to Cal. Anthony Salaber made a half break which led to a series of offloads and an Aidan Flynn score. This time the kick was made, putting Cal up 12-5.

Faison-Donahoe hauled in the next kickoff, and Dmontae Noble made a huge line break, putting KU on the offensive. The ball was spun wide before Cal was ready, and Aaron Gray won the foot race to the try line. Kutztown won the next restart and seemed destined to score when the wing knocked it on, ending the half with Cal up 12-5.

Noble made the game’s next huge play, too. Cal made a break up the left touch line, but David Snead made a try-saving tackle from the sweeper position, and KU turned the ball over in the breakdown. Cal was called for a penalty along the way, and Noble quick tapped and ran in from 40 meters out. He scored in the corner, though, and the conversion was missed – 12-10.

Cal responded with 90 seconds left when Tavenner shook off a Kutztown tackler and scurried half the field for his second score of the game. He centered it, the conversion was made, and Cal took a commanding 19-10 lead with just 30 seconds to play. Time ran out on Kutztown, and Cal advanced.

Indiana won the opening restart and Dacoda Worth caught on over-the-shoulder offload for the opening score. Alex Dorrier frilled the tough conversion, putting the Hoosiers up 7-0.

The next kickoff didn’t go 10 meters, giving UCLA  free kick. The Bruins swung the ball patiently from one touch line to the other several times before Jordan Robertson broke a tackle in the midfield and fed Yanick Mendes for a try. The conversion was slotted, knotting the game at 7-7.

Indiana had the favor returned when UCLA’s kick didn’t go 10. Teddy Terezis touched the ball multiple times en route to putting the Hoosiers deep in the attacking end, but a desperate pass was thrown to Mendes accidentally, turning the ball over. Indiana won it back in short order, and this time Terezis crossed the whitewash for IU’s second try. The conversion attempt failed, and Indiana led 12-7, which is how the half would end.

Indiana kicked off to UCLA to start the second half. The Hoosiers made a tackle inside the Bruins’ 22 and poured numbers into the breakdown. Worth snagged the ball and passed to Tyler Sousley for the score, putting the Hoosiers 19-7.

The lead was extended by Jake Garwood who picked and jammed across the line after a series of penalties against the Bruins. The kick was missed, but the score pushed Indiana up 24-7 with not enough time for UCLA to come back. The Bruins did score at the death, but it would be inconsequential.

Life kicked deep to start the game, and strong defensive structure forced the Gales into a turnover inside its 22. Life bailed St. Mary’s out by returning the favor. St. Mary’s managed to methodically work the ball down the field, but a massive hit by Donovan Norphlet forced a knock on.

The arm wrestle continued for the rest of the half, with each team trading big defensive efforts and turnovers. The score would remain 0-0 going into the break.

The stalemate was broken by St. Mary’s early in the second half when Brian Mutanga picked up from the base of a ruck deep inside Life’s defensive end and was turned over. The Gaels were eventually able to work the ball to Holden Yungert in space on the wing for a try. It was unconverted.

Life struck back immediately through the van Schalkwyk brothers. Duncan and Zander both flyhacked the ball up the field until one of them eventually scooped it up and scored. Duncan slotted the kick, putting Life up 7-5.

St. Mary’s got the ball back and had it at the death, but deep in its own end, and the Gaels were never able to mount an attack before taking the ball out of bounds.

Like Life and St. Mary’s, Arkansas State and Lindenwood played a gritty game with little quarter given. The first break in the game came after an interesting no-call.

Despite the assistant referee raising his flag to signal that Lindenwood had carried the ball into touch, the Lions were permitted to play on. Later in that possession, scrumhalf Cristian Rodriguez dove over the try line off a point blank penalty play. Michael Baska converted the try, putting the lions up 7-0. That’s how the half would end.

At the start of the second stanza, the Red Wolves lost a player to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle. Arkansas State managed to get through the two minutes without conceding a score, but the period took some air out of the Red Wolves.

With A-State back at full strength, Chris Schoeman slid in for the game’s second try following a crucial penalty, putting the game out of reach.