Connor Van Hulzen – Staff Writer
On the Saturday after their victory over the University of Jamestown, the Dordt Defenders took on the Briar Cliff Chargers with the hopes of securing the football team’s first ever winning season.
Senior night turned out to be special for more than just one reason. The Defenders celebrated the careers of their seniors and managed to beat Briar Cliff 36-30 in overtime. Senior safety Casey Byker and junior cornerback Jalen Placide had interceptions and senior quarterback Brock Lamle threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns to help lead Dordt to a victory to give them the record of 6-2 with two games left to go.
With the wins against Jamestown and Briar Cliff, the Defenders reached a landmark accomplishment. For the first time in its history, the Dordt football team will finish with a winning record. After being established in 2007 as a club team and then being promoted to an official NAIA member in 2008, Dordt struggled to be competitive in the GPAC. Finally, last year, the Defenders finished with their first non-losing record, 5-5. The continued improvement of the football team over years of efforts has now culminated in Dordt’s first ever winning record.
On Defender Days weekend, the Dordt defense put on a show. In front of bleachers filled with alumni, parents, and runny noses, the defense racked up five sacks and three interceptions in a 49-18 win over University of Jamestown.
Senior safety Casey Byker had a big day, registering all three of Dordt’s interceptions, with the first two resulting in touchdown returns of 97 and 41 yards. His third interception was important as well, coming with almost two minutes left in the game at Dordt’s own one-yard line, ending a threatening Jamestown drive.
Byker ended the game with the most all-purpose yards of any player on the field with 157 yards, largely due to his interception returns. For his efforts, he was honored with the designation of the GPAC Defensive Player of the Week.
Jamestown’s rushing offense posed a challenge for Byker and the Defenders, but the defense executed their gameplan, largely minimizing the Jimmies’ attack. Defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Lynn Nutt credited his players as the reason for the defense’s success, saying, “We execute because of our players – we have smart guys who prepare and practice well. They have trust in the scheme and their teammates, which allows them to play smarter and faster.”
Dordt’s defense came together to hold Jamestown, a team that had scored 28 and 34 points in the past two weeks, to only 18 points on 373 yards. Jamestown’s quarterback was sacked five times by a combination of seven different players, three Defenders had pass break-ups, and senior defensive end Tyson Dahlgrin had two extra point blocks on the special teams side of the ball. Coach Nutt said there was nothing especially different and chose to stick to the script in the week of preparation before the game.
“We prepared like we always do – each day of practice is a different focus, and on Friday it all comes together for extra reps,” said Nutt. “Saturday is just executing what we did in practice at full speed.”
The Defenders found themselves on the big stage on Defender Days weekend, but their defense showed up with a strong performance to show the progression of the program to the hundreds of alumni, parents, and students who care so much about them. They go into the rest of their season with high expectations to achieve something that no Dordt football team ever has: a winning record.