Isabel Pheifer — Staff Writer
The Dordt University Defender Football team has had a tough go of it at home this season. Their first home game was on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m., bringing back the nostalgic feel of Friday Night Lights. A sea of neon packed the student section, while the rest of the fans sported Defender gear. The sounds of the Defender Band’s debut filled the air, and the Dordt Cheer and Dance teams led the crowd, ready to cheer the Defenders on to a win.
The Morningside Mustangs had other plans. The Mustangs entered ready to take control, which was exactly what they did. They scored three touchdowns in the first quarter, taking a commanding 21-0 at the end of the first. The second quarter didn’t prove to be any different, with the Mustangs handling the Defenders and taking a 28-0 lead into the locker rooms.
The Defenders had their work cut out in the second half. There was a change in the whole Dordt team after halftime, coming out with a new sense of urgency. They got their first touchdown with ten minutes left in the third quarter. There was hope for a comeback. But just when hope came, the Mustangs answered with blocking a Defender punt and falling on it in the end zone for yet another touchdown. The fourth quarter saw the Defenders scoring two more touchdowns, but it was too little, too late. The Mustangs, ranked number one in the nation, walked away with a 49-21 win over the Defenders.
“We’ve gotten off to a slow start, but we are going to be picking up steam,” junior wide receiver Eli Boldan said.
The next home game was just as disappointing as the first, the Doane Tigers coming to Sioux Center on Sept. 24 ready for a fight. Dordt opened the game with an early touchdown after an interception by sophomore cornerback Chip Kasay that led to an eventual score by freshman wide receiver Connor Dodd. Dordt had another opportunity to score in the first half, but the Tigers put it to rest when they blocked a Defender field goal attempt. Doane evened the score 7-7 heading into halftime.
The second half was a defensive battle. The only two scores of the half came on field goals, one by Dordt in the third quarter and one by Doane at the end of regulation. Doane’s kicker had missed three times previously that afternoon but was able to connect and force overtime. After an offensive struggle all game, the Defenders were unable to turn it around in overtime and left the ball stranded at the one-yard line in their last attempt to score. The Doane kicker was able to convert once again, giving the Tigers a 10-7 advantage. The Defenders fell again in front of their home crowd, making their record 2-2.
“I think as a team we are obviously looking for wins,” said Boldan. “But beyond that, we’re looking to build as a team and gain steam and momentum throughout the rest of the season.”
Recent defeats the Defenders have faced have fortunately been left at home. Both wins the Defenders have attained this year have come on the road. The first road game was the season opener that pitted the Defenders against the Briar Cliff Chargers in Sioux City, Iowa. The game started slow for both teams, with the first score coming in the second quarter by the Defenders. The teams played back-and-forth in the third quarter, but the Defenders eventually took control of the game. Dordt started the season with a 35-13 road win.
The second road game came the week after the tough defeat the Defenders had against Morningside. The Defenders traveled to Mitchell, South Dakota to face the Dakota Wesleyan Tigers. Heading into this game, the Defenders had won the last four meetings with the Tigers, and that streak continued. The Defenders handled the Tigers with ease the whole game, scoring once in the first quarter, twice in the second, twice in the third, and punching it home for a final touchdown in the fourth. The Tigers’ lone score came in the second quarter, and Dordt ran away with a 38-7 win.
“I think the wins and losses have had various reasons behind them,” Boldan said. “However, I don’t feel like being at home or away has dictated whether we win or lose, despite what the record shows so far.”
Through both the wins and defeats, the support of the Defender Nation has proved unwavering. Each game, Defender fans file in, pack the stands, yell loud, and support the team. The sideline full of coaching staff and bench players stays loud and excited. The cheerleaders keep the hype up. Defender Nation does not give up, and it seems they will not abandon their team no matter the outcome of the games.
“Defender Nation has given us unwavering support throughout the entire season, regardless of what the outcome of games has been,” Boldan said. “We ask that you stick with us. Your support is greatly appreciated and does not go unnoticed.”
The road success has not transferred into home success so far for the Defender Football team. But with the season hitting the halfway point, there is still plenty of time to turn the home field into the winning field once again.
The Defenders resume play Friday, Oct. 7 at Mount Marty in Yankton, South Dakota. The team then returns to their home turf the next week to face in-county foe Northwestern College.