FOREST CITY, IA – Three defensive touchdowns boosted Dickinson State University to a 49-20 win over the Waldorf University football team during Saturday's Dacotah Bank/North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) matchup.
The Blue Hawks (5-1, 3-0) entered the game ranked No. 14 in the latest National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) poll. They forced five turnovers and the Warriors (1-6, 0-3) also came up empty in four red-zone trips during the homecoming loss.
The Warriors piled up 505 yards of total offense, recording 34 first downs in the process. Dickinson State turned in 382 yards on offense and finished with 16 first downs. Waldorf controlled time of possession by 17 minutes. It seemed like a statistical anomaly, but the Blue Hawks were keyed by big defensive plays as they returned two interceptions for touchdowns and took back a fumble recovery for a third score.
Dickinson State's Hayden Gibson completed 11-of-15 passes for 183 yards and a TD.
Austin Brown was Dickinson State's top receiver, leading the way with 66 yards and a TD while hauling in five passes. Brian Cronnelly pulled down a 62-yard reception and the Blue Hawks also received 32 yards each from Dalton Reid and Chase Anderson.
Dickinson State's Tino Mafi recorded a team-high eight tackles. Cain Boschee, Thomas Sease and Hunter Moore aided the Blue Hawks with seven tackles each. Drew Johnson and Mitch Mehrer finished with six tackles apiece while Robert Sterling contributed five tackles. Boschee intercepted two passes while Rob Nalewaja and Sease also had interceptions. Sease also recovered a fumble.
Nalewaja returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown just 30 seconds into the game. Cody Johnson, who converted on all seven of his point-after attempts, split the uprights to give Dickinson State an early 7-0 lead.
The Warriors responded two possessions later when Sanchez delivered a 9-yard TD pass to Fletcher. Following a missed PAT, the Blue Hawks held a one-point edge with 7 minutes, 21 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Huntley appeared to connect with Sanchez on a 14-yard TD pass following a reverse with 2:19 left in the opening quarter, but the play was negated by an ineligible receiver down field penalty.
Dickinson State approached mid-field early in the second quarter, but Daceus snagged an interception and returned it 14 yards to the Blue Hawks' 36-yardline. Sanchez connected with Payton on a 21-yard scoring strike and senior German Ponce added the PAT to lift Waldorf to a 13-7 lead with 11:34 to go in the second quarter.
The Blue Hawks went back on top 14-13 when Gibson hit Brown on a 27-yard TD pass with 8:25 remaining in the second quarter.
Nearing halftime, the Warriors were knocking on the door at Dickinson State's 2-yardline. A third-down pass was intercepted by Boschee and returned 99 yards to pay dirt, pushing the Blue Hawks to a 21-13 advantage with seven seconds left on the clock in the second quarter.
Waldorf, which successfully executed an on-side kick in the first half, attempted more trickery to start the third quarter. It didn't play out in the Warriors' favor as Trenton Rohr recovered the on-side kick at Waldorf's 47-yardline. Mack busted a 45-yard run and then found the end zone on a 2-yard carry to extend Dickinson State's lead to 28-13 just 18 seconds into the third.
Disaster struck for the Warriors on the ensuing possession. They lost a fumble on a lateral, which was recovered by Sease and returned 52 yards to the end zone as the Blue Hawks built a 35-13 cushion with 12:01 left in the third.
Waldorf's next possession ended with Sease intercepting a pass in the end zone and returning it to Dickinson State's 3-yard line. Three of Waldorf's turnovers were interceptions in the red zone.
In the fourth quarter, another red-zone opportunity for the Warriors ended as Boschee intercepted a pass in the end zone for a touchback.
Fike capped a seven-play, 95-yard drive with a 3-yard TD plunge, giving the Blue Hawks a 42-13 lead with 6:29 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The ensuing kickoff took a bounce and was recovered by Dickinson State's Jake Hardy on Waldorf's 23-yardline. Six plays later, Hardy found the end zone on a 3-yard run as the Blue Hawks took a commanding 49-13 lead with 3:38 left to play.
Joseph found Fletcher on a 3-yard TD pass with 30 seconds remaining in the game and Ponce notched the PAT.
Dickinson State returns home on Sunday as they host the University of Jamestown Jimmies at 1:00 PM (MDT) in the DSU annual homecoming game.