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Comets hold off Warriors in Dacotah Bank/NSAA matchup

Waldorf Warriors LogoBy: Waldorf Sports Information Director

MAYVILLE, North Dakota – Mayville State University withstood a late fourth-quarter rally by the Waldorf University football team to escape with a 35-28 win during Saturday’s Dacotah Bank/North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) matchup.

Miscues swung momentum as an interception in the red zone and a lost fumble deep in Waldorf’s own territory derailed the Warriors (1-7, 0-4) in the loss.

“It was inopportune mistakes,” Waldorf coach Kent Anderson said. “It was crucial, critical mistakes with everything from interceptions to drops to penalties and holding calls on first down. It’s the same things that have plagued us all season.”

The Comets (3-3, 1-1) generated 382 yards of total offense. Waldorf finished with 325 yards on offense and was limited to 55 yards on the ground.

Senior quarterback Isaac Sanchez completed 17-of-26 passes for 158 yards for the Warriors. Redshirt freshman Hilton Joseph went 9-of-11, passing for 112 yards and two touchdowns while coming on in the second half.

Waldorf freshman Samuel Huntley provided 92 yards and a TD on seven receptions. JuniorJa’Ron Kellem turned in 73 yards and a TD while hauling in five catches. Senior LaMont Johnson added 43 yards on six receptions, and redshirt freshman Cameron Newsome contributed a 26-yard reception.

Redshirt freshman Maliek Stephens led the Warrior ground game, rushing for 30 yards and a TD on 17 carries.

Waldorf received a defensive TD from Dubem Awuzie, who returned an interception 55 yards to pay dirt. The sophomore defensive back from San Jose, California has five interceptions on the season and entered the game ranked No. 4 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in the statistical category.

Mayville State quarterback Andrew Blake delivered a 26-of-43 passing performance, guiding the Comets with 271 yards and four TDs through the air.

A balanced attack powered Mayville State as Dondrei Hubbard ran for a game-high 102 yards and a TD on 13 attempts. Superior Reed rushed for 36 yards on 11 carries.

Khari Kimbrough was Blake’s top target as he finished with 105 yards and three TDs on nine receptions. Dantrel Horne added 58 yards and a TD while pulling down five passes. Chris Mayes closed out the game with 43 yards on three receptions, and Hubbard contributed 31 yards on three catches.

Junior Sione Aonga led Waldorf’s defense with 11 tackles, including a sack. Senior Trent Jones recorded nine tackles and half a sack. Freshman Jeremiah Jackson collected eight tackles, while junior Wisley Jean and sophomore Jacob Louisius made five stops apiece. Sophomore Josh Sauren tallied four tackles, and freshman Martel Emerson blocked a punt.

The Warriors struck during the game’s opening drive when a pass from Blake was intercepted by Awuzie and returned 55 yards to the end zone. Senior German Ponce, who converted on all four of his point-after attempts, split the uprights to give Waldorf a 7-0 lead just 2 minutes, 18 seconds into the contest.

The Comets answered on the ensuing possession. Blake found Horne on a 23-yard TD pass and Eddie Guerrero, who was 5-for-5 on PATs, knocked through the extra point to tie the game with 7:29 left in the first quarter.

Stephens lifted the Warriors to a 14-7 lead as he fought into the end zone on a 1-yard carry to cap a 10-play, 65-yard drive on the following possession.

Mayville State knotted the score at 14-all after Kimbrough caught a 19-yard TD pass from Blake with 5:59 remaining in the second quarter.

Waldorf marched to Mayville State’s 3-yardline, but a pass from Sanchez was picked off by Cooper Leaboux in the end zone.

The Warriors forced the Comets to punt on the ensuing possession. After putting together the stop, Waldorf lost a fumble on its own 14-yardline. Jamartae Brown forced the fumble, and Allen Edgerson made the recovery.

Mayville State cashed in on the turnover with Blake hitting Kimbrough on a 7-yard scoring strike, sending the Comets to a 21-14 advantage with 2:26 to go in the second quarter.

Coming away with another interception courtesy of Damion Sanders on the following possession, Mayville State would head to halftime in front by seven points. The deficit remained unchanged until the fourth quarter.

“It didn’t have that feel,” Anderson said. “It felt like on our sidelines that we were down by three touchdowns.”

Hubbard rumbled forward for a 5-yard TD run as the Comets opened the fourth quarter with a seven-play, 49-yard drive to build a 28-14 lead with 13:31 left to play.

Waldorf turned the ball over on downs at midfield on its next possession. Blake fired a 17-yard TD pass to Kimbrough, boosting Mayville State to a 35-14 advantage with 6:13 remaining in the game.

Down three scores, the Warriors were far from finished. They responded to pull within 14 points as Joseph hit Huntley on a 5-yard TD pass during the ensuing possession.

Continuing to show fight, Waldorf’s defense came through. Emerson blocked a punt, and redshirt freshman Moises Jauregui pounced on the loose ball to give the Warriors favorable field position on their own 42-yardline.

Joseph delivered a 16-yard TD pass to Kellem with 1:04 left on the clock. Trailing by just seven points, Waldorf attempted an onside kick.

“We came back and made it relevant at the end of the game and had a chance for the onside kick,” Anderson said.

The onside kick was recovered by Mayville State’s Marlon Bennett, which allowed the Comets to run out the clock and secure the win.

Though the late comeback effort was a promising sign for the Warriors, it proved to be too little, too late.

“We’ve got to perform when it’s 21-14,” Anderson said. “It seemed like we started executing when the pressure was off, and the game was almost decided. We just can’t do that.”

Turnovers and miscues have slowed Waldorf all season, and it’s something they’re constantly aiming to overcome.

“We work hard on correcting those mistakes, but we keep making the same ones,” Anderson said. “They’re just mistakes at costly time,s and it sounds like the same story through the first eight weeks.”

The Warriors enter a bye week and return to conference play on Oct. 29 against Presentation College (5-1, 1-1) in a 1 p.m. kickoff at Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Taking a few days off and resuming practices midweek, Waldorf looks to be re-energized as the Warriors prepare for their final road matchup of the season.

“It’ll be good for them to get away to check their perspective and recharge their batteries just a little bit,” Anderson said. “They need it, and it would’ve been better coming off a win, but we don’t have that. We have to play the cards that we’re dealt with, and we have to do it coming off a loss. We just have to keep battling and somehow be able to master these crucial mistakes that come at critical times.”