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No. 14 Dickinson State pulls away from Waldorf

Waldorf Warriors LogoBy: Waldorf Sports Information Director

FOREST CITY – Three defensive touchdowns boosted Dickinson State University to a 49-20 win over the Waldorf University football team during Saturday’s Dacotah Bank/North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) matchup.

The Blue Hawks (5-1, 3-0) entered the game ranked No. 14 in the latest National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) poll. They forced five turnovers, and the Warriors (1-6, 0-3) also came up empty in four red-zone trips during the homecoming loss.

“Our kids played hard,” Waldorf coach Kent Anderson said. “It’s the same story with critical errors at critical times.”

The Warriors piled up 505 yards of total offense, recording 34 first downs in the process. Dickinson State turned in 382 yards on offense and finished with 16 first downs. Waldorf controlled time of possession by 17 minutes. It seemed like a statistical anomaly, but the Blue Hawks were keyed by big defensive plays as they returned two interceptions for touchdowns and took back a fumble recovery for a third score.

“I’ve never been a part of anything like that,” Anderson said. “It shows you what one or two miscues can do.”

Maliek Stephens rushed for 176 yards as the redshirt freshman from Orange Lake, Fla. carried 26 times to lead the ground attack for the Warriors, who ran for 224 yards on the day.

“Maliek ran the ball phenomenally,” Anderson said. “He had a great game.”

Waldorf senior quarterback Isaac Sanchez completed 20-of-33 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Hilton Joseph went 14-of-23, passing for 99 yards and a TD.

Freshman Samuel Huntley turned in 64 yards on nine receptions for the Warriors, and senior LaRyan Fletcher provided 59 yards and two TDs on nine receptions. Senior LaMont Johnson added 53 yards while catching six passes. Redshirt freshman Michael Payton finished with 45 yards and a TD on four receptions.

Dickinson State’s Hayden Gibson completed 11-of-15 passes for 183 yards and a TD.

Karsten Mack, Jr. paced the Blue Hawks as he rushed for 106 yards and a TD on 10 carries. Jake Hardy ran for 38 yards and a TD while Jed Fike contributed 17 yards and a TD.

Austin Brown was Dickinson State’s top receiver, leading the way with 66 yards and a TD while hauling in five passes. Brian Cronnelly pulled down a 62-yard reception, and the Blue Hawks also received 32 yards each from Dalton Reid and Chase Anderson.

Senior Rigo Verdin led Waldorf’s defense with six tackles. Freshmen Wisley Jean, Jeremiah Jackson and senior Trent Jones collected five tackles apiece. Sophomore Dubem Awuzie made four stops. Junior Wragner Daceus came away with an interception, junior Sione Aonga forced a fumble and Jones recovered a fumble.

Dickinson State’s Tino Mafi recorded a team-high eight tackles. Cain Boschee, Thomas Sease and Hunter Moore aided the Blue Hawks with seven tackles each. Drew Johnson and Mitch Mehrer finished with six tackles apiece, while Robert Sterling contributed five tackles. Boschee intercepted two passes, while Rob Nalewaja and Sease also had interceptions. Sease also recovered a fumble.

Nalewaja returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown just 30 seconds into the game. Cody Johnson, who converted on all seven of his point-after attempts, split the uprights to give Dickinson State an early 7-0 lead.

The Warriors responded two possessions later when Sanchez delivered a 9-yard TD pass to Fletcher. Following a missed PAT, the Blue Hawks held a one-point edge with 7 minutes, 21 seconds to play in the first quarter.

Huntley appeared to connect with Sanchez on a 14-yard TD pass following a reverse with 2:19 left in the opening quarter, but the play was negated by an ineligible receiver downfield penalty.

Dickinson State approached midfield early in the second quarter, but Daceus snagged an interception and returned it 14 yards to the Blue Hawks’ 36-yardline. Sanchez connected with Payton on a 21-yard scoring strike, and senior German Ponce added the PAT to lift Waldorf to a 13-7 lead with 11:34 to go in the second quarter.

The Blue Hawks went back on top 14-13 when Gibson hit Brown on a 27-yard TD pass with 8:25 remaining in the second quarter.

Nearing halftime, the Warriors were knocking on the door at Dickinson State’s 2-yardline. A third-down pass was intercepted by Boschee and returned 99 yards to pay dirt, pushing the Blue Hawks to a 21-13 advantage with seven seconds left on the clock in the second quarter.

“That was a huge 14-point swing right at the end of the first half,” Anderson said.

Waldorf, which successfully executed an on-side kick in the first half, attempted more trickery to start the third quarter. It didn’t play out in the Warriors’ favor as Trenton Rohr recovered the on-side kick at Waldorf’s 47-yardline. Mack busted a 45-yard run and then found the end zone on a 2-yard carry to extend Dickinson State’s lead to 28-13 just 18 seconds into the third.

“Attempting the onside kick to start the second half, we just wanted roll the dice and be aggressive in our thought process, and it didn’t work out,” Anderson said. “We didn’t respond well to it not working out, and I regret that decision.”

Disaster struck for the Warriors on the ensuing possession. They lost a fumble on a lateral, which was recovered by Sease and returned 52 yards to the end zone as the Blue Hawks built a 35-13 cushion with 12:01 left in the third.

Waldorf’s next possession ended with Sease intercepting a pass in the end zone and returning it to Dickinson State’s 3-yard line. Three of Waldorf’s turnovers were interceptions in the red zone.

“They were really backbreakers,” Anderson said. “But with all of that, even until the last snap and the last series, our kids played hard.”

In the fourth quarter, another red-zone opportunity for the Warriors ended as Boschee intercepted a pass in the end zone for a touchback.

Fike capped a seven-play, 95-yard drive with a 3-yard TD plunge, giving the Blue Hawks a 42-13 lead with 6:29 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The ensuing kickoff took a bounce and was recovered by Dickinson State’s Jake Hardy on Waldorf’s 23-yardline. Six plays later, Hardy found the end zone on a 3-yard run as the Blue Hawks took a commanding 49-13 lead with 3:38 left to play.

Joseph found Fletcher on a 3-yard TD pass with 30 seconds remaining in the game, and Ponce notched the PAT.

In the last five games, the Warriors have faced four opponents who were either ranked or receiving votes in the national poll. There have been flashes of promise in each outing with Waldorf claiming early leads or displaying a competitive spark.

“Every time we’ve played a ranked team, we’ve been in the game during the second half,” Anderson said. “Each time, we’ve held our own to a point. Each time though, critical mistakes have killed us. We just have to have better decision-making in some of those moments.”

The Warriors continue conference play next Saturday as they take on Mayville State University (2-3, 0-1) in a 1 p.m. kickoff at Mayville, N.D. Despite another tough loss against a top-notch opponent, Waldorf is pressing on and looking ahead to challenging the Comets.

“We’re excited to play them,” Anderson said. “Our kids are resilient. They’re still wanting to play, they’re still playing hard and they’re not giving up. That’s something very positive to build from.”