Dordt secures third victory
VERMILLION, S.D. | Dordt’s 38-10 Great Plains Athletic Conference football triumph over Briar Cliff at the DakotaDome here Saturday was monumental for a couple of reasons.
First off, it improved the Defenders’ overall record to 3-2, which is their most wins ever in a single season. Secondly, Dordt hadn’t beaten Briar Cliff in eight previous meetings.
“It’s just so fun to see our guys taste victory when they’ve known the opposite for so long,” first-year Dordt Coach Joel Penner said. “I couldn’t be prouder of how they fight. Yes, we made a lot of mistakes today it was not the clean game that we hoped for, but we’re celebrating because it’s a good day.”
Penner, a longtime assistant at several different schools, has led the Defenders to new heights. The program was stuck on two wins each of the last five seasons.
“We’re making history at Dordt, but we’re not going to stop now we’ve got plenty of goals to fix and then we’re going to keep on going,” said junior Bryce Lidtka, who rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns. “We got to see the team come together and fix mistakes we knew we were making, we knew we weren’t displaying who we were the first half. It was good to see us display who we are offensively, defensively, special teams, sideline, we all came through and worked together to get this win.”
Dordt, now 1-2 in the GPAC, had a dominating second half, outscoring Briar Cliff 28-0 to snap a 10-10 halftime tie. The Chargers (1-4, 0-2) were limited to 58 yards in the final two quarters.
“They did what they needed to, I was hoping we would come out with a little more fire than we did and they took it to us,” Briar Cliff Coach Tom Rethman said. “We just didn’t have enough things where we could vary some stuff up and they made some adjustments to try in taking care of Noah in the run game and we unfortunately weren’t able to get them out of that.”
BCU’s Noah Ylagan led all rushers with 124 yards on 22 carries, but all but 19 of those game in the first half. Ylagan, though, was basically the only offense the Chargers could generate all day. He also kicked a 29-yard field goal and an extra point.
Ylagan’s field goal with 9:45 left in the second quarter gave Briar Cliff a 10-7 lead and it held until Dordt’s Brett Gaines booted a 35-yarder on the final play of the first half.
Not only did the Defenders stymie BCU on offense, but they were able to control the clock the entire second half with a punishing ground game that produced 269 yards. That is just shy of the league-leading 273.8 they were averaging coming into the game.
“We’ve got very bright coaches who have the ability to say, hey, we have to stop this and that and Coach (Lynn) Nutt and his group did an awesome job and the players have a resilient spirit about them,” Penner said. “We really challenged them today to not worry about the scoreboard. If we play great football it will take care of itself and I think that’s what they did.”
Dordt scored two touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarters. The go-ahead score , a 1-yard plunge by Lidtka with 9:10 left in the third quarter, was set up by a Ryan Cisneros interception. The Defenders followed that with a 12-play, 90-yard march that ate up 4 minutes, 39 seconds on the clock. Lidkta scored on a 2-yard run with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.
The lead grew to 31-10 when tight end Jason Miller hauled in a 2-yard fade pass from Brock Lamle and Levi Schoonhoven scored on a 4-yard run in the final minute.
“There’s no substitute for being able to run the ball,” Penner said. “It’s probably the most demoralizing thing you can do to a defense, even when they kind of know what play you’re running to be able to hand the ball off and get yards. I’m proud of Coach (Aaron Mingo) and his entire offensive staff and our players played their hearts out on offense.”
Schoonhoven, a freshman from Orange City Unity Christian, was another workhorse, carrying 16 times for 75 yards. Keithen Drury, who scored the game’s first touchdown on a 4-yard run on the first series, tacked on 57 yards on nine carries.
The game took an ugly turn in the final minute when Briar Cliff offensive lineman Mitch Leon-Guerrero was ejected for throwing a punch. Guerrero got tangled up with Dordt’s Alex Watson leading up to the altercation.
“Our big thing right now is looking at how guys are going to respond,” Rethman said. “We’re only halfway through the season and have a lot of games left against some really good opponents. I was disappointed with some things we did in the second half and obviously the thing at the end there, it’s uncalled for and a lack of discipline because it’s going to cost him even more games.”
Which is just what the Chargers – already decimated by injuries – don’t need.
Dordt’s Penner emphasized that although the program has broken new ground, there is still plenty of work to do.
“You know coaches, we’re going to enjoy this for a couple hours but the attention will certainly tur to what’s next,” Penner said. “We definitely don’t have this turned around. We have a trajectory, a good start, but an unbelievable amount of work and progress ahead of us.”
Dordt had three players with double figure tackles, led by defensive back Joey Lovetere with 14. Briar Cliff’s Kevin Occil recorded a game-high 17 tackles.
Briar Cliff plays at Concordia on Saturday while Dordt hosts Dakota Wesleyan.