Christian Zylstra- Staff Writer
Powered by AC/DC’s “Hells Bells,” a new coaching regime and a renewed energy, the Dordt College football program began the 2016 regular season campaign with its first-ever 2-0 start.
But the 2-0 record did not come easily; it took a nail-biter against Dakota State University under the lights, some remarkable individual performances and a fake punt against McPherson College to establish the best start in the program’s nine-year history.
Game one against Dakota State presented its challenges. The defense struggled in the first half, allowing 28 points and bundles of yards through the air. However, the defense showed up when it came down to the wire, allowing only 14 points in the second half, and Jason Miller and Bryce Lidtka really stepped up.
When the first game of the season was over, Dordt’s offense totaled 606 yards in a 45-42 victory. Miller had 15 receptions for 233 yards and a touchdown.
“I was able to be successful because of the game plan schemed up by Coach [Aaron] Mingo, our offensive coordinator,” Miller said. “We showed a lot of different looks that they weren’t ready for, kept the pace up-tempo, and because of that I was able to make plays when the ball came my way.”
Lidtka had a good game as well, with 43 carries for 254 yards and four touchdowns.
“I honestly had no idea I had been given the ball so many times throughout the game until after the end,” Lidtka said. “But what the team was doing was working. It wasn’t just me that had to push through the exhaustion; we each had our individual assignments to fulfill.”
“It was our first game, and we were going to throw everything we had at Dakota State,” said Dordt College Head Coach Joel Penner. “That means a lot of touches for certain guys. Right off the bat, it was ‘we’re going to throw the kitchen sink at them’ and let our playmakers shine.”
However, the superlative offense was not off to the same electric start in the game against McPherson. In a tight game with Dordt’s lead only 14-13 in the third quarter, the Defenders took a risk.
Fourth-and-four on the team’s own 48, everyone expected Dordt College to punt. Everyone except Penner.
“Momentum, we call it the 10 percent,” Penner said. “10 percent of football games are won or lost because of momentum, and we are in control of momentum. We don’t want to wait for something good to happen; we want to steal momentum.”
Glen Thompson’s snap wasn’t actually directed towards the punter, Casey Byker. Rather, the ball was snapped into the clutches of Lidtka. Following the blocks of two linemen, Lidtka raced around the left edge, passed everyone, converting the fourth-and-four with a 36-yard run into the red zone.
Consider momentum seized.
From that point on, Dordt scored 13 unanswered points and cruised to a 27-13 victory over McPherson, sealing the best start in the football program’s history.
Dordt’s 2-0 start has renewed the atmosphere of the stadium and the fan base attending Dordt football games.
“You’re at the games,” said junior Derek De Vries. “Most people are excited all week for the next game, and why wouldn’t they be? We’re 2-0 for the first time ever.”
A perfect start to the season also helps team confidence and morale.
“Since the beginning of fall camp, the team has really bought into the coaches’ philosophies, and I believe this program is heading in the right direction,” said sophomore quarterback Brock Lamle.
The biggest challenges still lay ahead for the Defenders, with Morningside — four consecutive semifinal appearances — on Sept. 17, as well as a full slate of GPAC matchups following. But with a historic perfect start under their belts, the confidence to grab a couple more wins is there.
“We have a lot of potential with this year’s team, and every week we will work hard to reach that potential,” Miller said.