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Warriors win 43-42, the drama as the clock ran out

The first six games for the Waldorf College football team could be described in three words: up-and-down.

James Lloyd making a catch heading towards the end zone

After opening the season with two straight wins, the warriors lost to a nationally ranked William Penn team to lose their first of the season. From there, they went on the road and scored 76 points in a win over Trinity Bible College to move to 3-1, but were blown out by St. Francis at home, another NAIA team ranked in the Top 25 in their next contest. Their next game would be on the road at Grand View, and the warriors could not muster a point in the shutout loss.

Sitting at 3-3 coming into a home contest with MSFA foe Olivet Nazarene University, the warriors took to the field looking to turn things around and try to grab their fourth win of the season. The Tigers, who had played five nationally ranked teams in their first six games, scored the first points of the game on a field goal. Waldorf responded though, as quarterback Bryan Smith scampered in front five yards out to give the Warriors the lead. The Tigers scored again, but James Loydd hauled in a 44 yard touchdown catch from Smith that got the lead back.

A Tiger field goal from Muzljakovich at the 5:52 mark tied it at 12-12, but Marc Ballatori’s touchdown catch allowed the Warriors to take an 18-15 halftime lead. “It was a hard fought first half. We went back and forth trying to get some momentum, but keeping the lead at the half was good for our confidence,” said Ballatori.

To open up the second half, another Ballatori touchdown grab capping a 70 plus yard drive gave the Warriors a 24-15 advantage. Tiger quarterback Prestia rushed in from a yard out to cut the lead down to a two point, 24-22 margin. In the fourth quarter, scoring blew up for both teams. After the Tigers took the lead with another field goal, Smith bombed a 71-yard touchdown pass to Loydd, and after another Smith touchdown rush capped an 81 yard drive, the Warriors held a 37-25 advantage with 4:27 to go. David Payne punched it in for the Tigers with 2:20 to go, and after getting the onside kick, another Payne rushing touchdown run gave the Tigers the 40-37 lead.

A touch-back left the Warriors with 75 yards of green to cover and 1:14 left on the clock. A six yard pass and two in-completions left the Warriors with a do-or-die fourth and four yards to go situation for a first down. A penalty on the Tigers gave the Warriors a first down and new life, and another clutch reception by Ballatori helped Waldorf move down to the 22 yard line with a chance at kicking the game tying field goal. Head coach Kent Anderson initially sent Stack out onto the field, but put the Warrior offense back into the game to go for the win. The ball was snapped on, and Smith rolled out to his right. Throwing back across the field, Smith found an open Ballatori in the back of the end zone for the 22 yard strike.

The crowd erupted, the players cheered, and the Warriors found themselves back in front 43-40. To add to the final second drama, the Tigers blocked the extra point and John Litrenta took it to the house for two points to make things 43-42 with a final kickoff coming. The laterals by the Tigers on the ensuing kickoff were to no avail, and the Warriors came away with an emotional, exciting, and electrifying 43-42 victory.

The win gives Waldorf their fourth win of the season, which is the most in school history since the college switched to a four year institution.

“It was a nerve-racking yet awesome game to witness and be a part of. This was a big win for our program and hopefully it helps us get some momentum and confidence the rest of the season,” said freshman Jordan Eilers.