Saturdays in September

Isabel Pheifer— Staff Writer 

The Dordt University Defenders entered their season ranked fourteenth overall in the NAIA Football Preseason poll. And, after three games, the team, true to their name, has defended  their spot in the Top 25. The latest poll ranked them at number 19. 

On Sept. 4, a sea of black and gold filled Open Space Park when the Defenders battled the Midland Warriors for their first game of the year. In the first quarter, sophomore running back Nick Wellen churned out a six-yard touchdown run to put his team on the board. A few minutes later, junior kicker Brett Zachman sent a 25-yard field goal through the uprights. The second quarter of play proved to be a slower affair and Dordt took a 10-0 lead into the half. 

The third quarter played much like the second with neither team reaching paydirt. With ten minutes left in the final quarter of play, the Defenders found the endzone again when senior quarterback Tyler Reynolds completed a pass to sophomore tight end Hayden Large. The Defenders got a little too comfortable with their 17-0 lead, though, as the Warriors wrestled ten points onto the board with a little under 6 minutes left to play. 

The home team fired back with a 44-yard touchdown from Reynolds to junior wide receiver Eli Boldan, slotting up the Defenders at 24-10. Midland answered again with three minutes left, and again with two seconds remaining. The final heartbreak for the Defenders came after the final buzzer sounded when the Warriors were able to convert on two-point conversion and steal the 25-24 win. 

“It was a really disappointing loss for us. We felt like we had control for most of the game and it kind of turned into a situation where the stars aligned for Midland and everything went wrong for us,” Boldan said. “We did not finish as a team.”

After the loss, head coach Joel Penner had some encouraging words for the team. 

“I told them that when you fail to reach your goals, you find out if your goals are ultimate or legitimate.” Penner said. “It’s okay to be upset and disappointed, but how you respond to the result of the game will be a test of where your identity is.”

Despite the heartbreaking loss, the Defenders had to gather themselves and prepare for their next foe, the Hastings Broncos.

“We always adapt our gameplans slightly week to week based on the strengths and weaknesses of the next opponent,” Penner said. 

This seemed to be no problem for the Defenders, as they scored within the first ten seconds of the game. Their offensive success continued throughout the rest of the game, leading to a new program record of 738 total yards. Junior running back Anthony Trojahn ran for 166 yards and scored twice, freshman quarterback Kade McDaniel tallied 101 yards rushing, and Wellen ran for 63 yards. 

Dordt’s defense proved a menace to the Hastings quarterback, as they notched 5 sacks, with sophomore linebacker Drew Daum nabbing two of them. The Defenders entered with a chip on their shoulder and returned with a commanding 61-10 win.

“This was definitely a bounce back game,” Boldan said. “The whole team had a strong showing, and we had a lot of things going for us. We knew we couldn’t sit and dwell on the Midland game, and we came out and played to the level we knew we were capable of.”

The latest game for the Dordt football team occurred on Sept. 18, which put them up against the Concordia Bulldogs. 

“We came in expecting a really physical game, and that’s exactly what it was,” Boldan said. “The first half we struggled to find our footing for offense, but in the second half we got things rolling and finished strong,” . 

The Defenders got their first touchdown in the middle of the first quarter with a 38-yard run by freshman wide receiver Josh Bush. Concordia evened the score with a touchdown with seven minutes left in the first half. In the second half things started to roll for the Defenders. Bush scored his second touchdown on a six-yard carry to make it 14-7. The Dordt defense made another stop, which allowed McDaniel to make an 18-yard run to make it a 21-7 lead. Two field goals in the fourth quarter, one by Zachman and one by freshman Jason Topete sealed the deal for the Defenders, who walked away with a 27-7 win. 

“We have a saying on our team: ‘the longer we play, the better we get,’” Penner said.

So far, such has proved true.

“We just need to continue the trajectory and keep getting better every week,” fifith year senior wide receiver Levi Jungling said. 

The Defenders will travel to Crete, Nebraska for a conference matchup against the Doane University Tigers on Sept. 25.

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