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Big fourth quarter propels No. 20 Trojans past Warriors

Waldorf Warriors LogoBy: Waldorf Sports Information Director

FOREST CITY – Twenty-one fourth-quarter points lifted Dakota State University to a 37-13 win over the Waldorf University football team during Saturday’s Dacotah Bank/North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) matchup.

The Trojans (5-1, 2-0) entered the game ranked No. 20 in the latest National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) poll and led by just three points through three quarters before the strong finish.

“We played very hard, played emotionally and with some tenacity,” Waldorf coach Kent Anderson said. “In the end, we just didn’t have enough bullets in the gun to match them.”

Dakota State came into the day ranked eighth in the country in total offense, averaging 488.4 yards per game. The Trojans rolled up 457 yards on offense, accounting for 264 yards on the ground. They rushed for two touchdowns and added a TD pass to pull away in the fourth quarter.

“They stayed patient, and they did the things they’re supposed to do at the end,” Anderson said. “They’re the 20th-ranked team in the nation, and we’re a young team. We just didn’t have enough in the tank.”

The Warriors (1-5, 0-2) turned in 335 yards of offense and were led by senior quarterback Isaac Sanchez, who completed 18-of-34 passes for 144 yards, two TDs and an interception. Sanchez started in place of redshirt freshman Hilton Joseph, who will return next weekend.

“I thought Isaac stepped in and did a good job,” Anderson said.

Waldorf rushed for 191 yards. Redshirt freshman Maliek Stephens ran for 81 yards on 13 carries. Freshman Darryel Bethune added 60 yards on 14 attempts, while redshirt freshman Michael Payton finished with a 27-yard run.

Sophomore Khalil Walker led the Warriors with 49 yards while catching five passes. Senior LaRyan Fletcher provided 34 yards and a TD on four receptions, senior LaMont Johnson contributed 32 yards on five catches and redshirt freshman Cameron Newsome corralled a 23-yard reception. Sophomore Cale Crowder hauled in a 1-yard TD pass.

Dakota State quarterback Jacob Giles went 14-of-31, passing for 165 yards and two TDs. Backup quarterback Jared Richardson also delivered a 28-yard TD pass for the Trojans.

The ground game proved to be a driving force for Dakota State. Hagan Hines powered forward for 140 yards and a TD on 14 carries. Robert Johnson rushed for 129 yards and a TD on 24 attempts. Johnson also grabbed an 11-yard TD pass.

Preston Nordling was the top target for the Trojans, finishing with 109 yards and a TD on eight receptions. Trever Listman pulled down a 28-yard TD catch, and Alex Babcock caught a 26-yard pass.

Waldorf senior Jeffrey Heflin recorded a team-high 13 tackles. Heflin came away with a sack and also forced a fumble. Senior Trent Jones collected 11 tackles, freshman Martel Emerson contributed six tackles while senior Rigo Verdin ended the game with five tackles, including a sack. Freshman Marcel Lindner forced a fumble, redshirt freshman Robert Mosley recovered a fumble and sophomore Dubem Awuzie came away with his fourth interception of the season.

Cole Potter led Dakota State with 10 tackles and recovered a fumble, while Alvin Reels, Jr. added eight tackles. Thomas Romack made seven stops, which included two sacks as he forced and recovered a fumble. Michael Cleveland and Darion Office turned in five tackles each. Dereck DeVries closed out the game with five tackles. The Trojans forced three turnovers with Andrew Hesse intercepting a pass, and Curt Boeke and Karson Lindblad jarring loose fumbles.

Dakota State put together a seven-play, 40-yard drive on its first possession, which resulted in Giles finding Johnson on an 11-yard scoring strike. Nic Behrens, who converted on 4-of-5 point-after attempts, split the uprights to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead with 9 minutes, 59 seconds to play in the opening quarter.

Waldorf answered on its third possession as Sanchez connected with Fletcher on a 13-yard TD pass. The PAT came up short as Dakota State held a one-point advantage with 1:02 left in the first quarter.

In a defensive second quarter, Behrens booted through a 32-yard field goal to push the Trojans to a 10-6 lead with 4:38 remaining in the second quarter.

Dakota State threatened in the closing minutes of the first half, but a first-down pass from Giles was intercepted by Awuzie at Waldorf’s 20-yardline with 45 seconds left on the clock and the Warriors would head to the locker room down by just four points.

Giles launched a 55-yard TD pass to Nordling on the opening possession of the third quarter to give the Trojans a 16-6 lead.

On Waldorf’s first possession of the third quarter, the Warriors faced a fourth-and-four situation on their own 28-yardline. They rolled the dice as Payton broke loose for a 27-yard run on a fake punt.

“It gave us some momentum, and we thought we’d have the opportunity when the opportunity presented itself,” Anderson said.

The fake punt kept the drive alive. Six plays later, Crowder caught a 1-yard TD pass from Sanchez. Senior German Ponce connected on the PAT to trim Dakota State’s lead to 16-13 with 8:58 left in the third.

“We converted it into a touchdown, and I really thought right there, we had a big chance,” Anderson said. “We did have two more chances after that, but we just couldn’t capitalize and turned the ball over.”

Waldorf marched all the way to Dakota State’s 18-yardline four possessions later, but Sanchez was sacked by Romack while searching for a receiver who ran the wrong route. The sack led to a fumble that was recovered by Potter.

Heading to the fourth quarter, the Warriors and Trojans remained separated by just three points.

A four-yard TD run from Johnson capped a nine-play, 71-yard drive as Dakota State extended its advantage to 23-13 with 8:27 left in the fourth quarter.

Waldorf was forced to go for it on fourth down and turned the ball over on downs at its own 30-yardline.

“I knew we needed two possessions and we didn’t get it, so it gave them a short field to put it out of reach,” Anderson said.

Countering for the Trojans, Hines busted a 26-yard TD run to boost Dakota State to a 30-13 lead with 6:09 remaining in the game.

With time running out, Richardson boosted Dakota State to a 24-point advantage as he threw a 28-yard TD pass to Listman with 1:26 to play.

Tightly-contested through three quarters, it was a competitive matchup until the Trojans broke open the game in the final 15 minutes.

“The game was closer than the score,” Anderson said.

It was a hard-fought effort for the Warriors, who have a roster of predominantly underclassmen.

“I told the kids, ‘This is how you have to prepare every week to play at that level. You have to come out ready to play,'” Anderson said. “I thought we were ready to play, I thought we hung in there and we were standing toe-to-toe with them.”

Waldorf committed three turnovers. The Warriors lost two fumbles and had a pass intercepted in the end zone during their final possession of the game. They endured adversity down the stretch, but never folded.

“We had some opportunities to gain momentum, and then we gave it right back to them,” Anderson said. “It’s tough for a young team, but a great way to gain experience and confidence.”

Waldorf faces its third ranked opponent in five outings next Saturday as the Warriors host No. 15 Dickinson State University (4-1, 2-0) for homecoming in a 1 p.m. kickoff at Bolstorff Field.

“They’re really good,” Anderson said. “They’re really big and physical. It will be a huge challenge for us, and we’ll have to have the same type of preparation.”