Connor Van Hulzen—Staff Writer
The Dordt University Defenders faced off against the Grand View University Vikings in the first round of the NAIA Football Playoffs in Des Moines on Saturday, April 17.
On the heels of an all-time best 8-2 regular season performance, Dordt’s maiden voyage into the playoffs showed just how difficult it can be to win against top-level NAIA teams. However, the Defenders didn’t go down without a fight.
The first half featured Dordt grabbing a quick lead that was quickly surrendered to the Vikings. However, a drive in the closing minutes of the second quarter resulted in Dordt getting back on the scoreboard. Led by two clutch interceptions by senior cornerback Nathan Kabongo, the Defenders went into halftime tied 10-10 against the second-ranked team in the NAIA.
The first drive of the second half saw Dordt take almost nine minutes off the clock with a heavy rushing attack against the Grand View defense. Quarterback Noah Clayberg appeared to have scrambled for a touchdown to put Dordt up once again, but a holding penalty resulted in the touchdown being nullified and the Defenders being pushed further away from the end zone. After a Grand View sack on the following play, a 50-yard field goal attempt from sophomore kicker Brett Zackman hooked wide left, and the Defenders were left empty-handed.
A Viking touchdown later in the third quarter brought the score heading into the final period 17-10.
The Grand View Vikings took over the game in the final quarter.
They went on to score three touchdowns in the final quarter, sending Dordt home with a final score of 38-10.
For a day containing so many firsts for Dordt, it would unfortunately also involve many ‘lasts.’ 11 Defenders will graduate at the end of this school year.
Football Head Coach Joel Penner said, “I can talk for hours and hours about this group of seniors. They said yes to Dordt Football when this was a losing program. That was a tremendous move of trust and faith, and all they’ve done for four years is work to improve.”
Important, high-impact players like wide receiver Levi Jungling, defensive end David Kacmarynski, and cornerback Nathan Kabongo will depart from the program. Along with the other seniors, these players had so much to do with Dordt going from a 5-5 record in their freshman season to the place the team is today.
“I feel the kind of pride a parent feels when their kid does something great.” Penner said. “In my mind, they have an absolutely legendary status in this football program and, if we had it my way, we would put up statues in our facility of these players.”