Mike Stetson, Sports Information Director
FOREST CITY – The NAIA’s game of the week lived up to its billing, coming down to a fantastic finish.
Not so fantastic for Warrior fans, though, as Valley City State marched 80 yards in the final minute to steal a 25-21 victory from Waldorf and spoil Homecoming at Bolstorff Field on Saturday.
“Heartbreaking loss for the Warriors today,” Waldorf head coach Will Finley said, adding, “but I’m proud of how hard our guys played today.”
Both teams battled back and forth all day in a game highlighted by the NAIA and selected by fans as the best match-up of the weekend.
Waldorf (4-2 overall, 4-2 NSAA) started the battle between North Star Athletic Association foes with a 75-yard scoring march highlighted by a 33-yard wide-receiver sweep by Dominick Watt.
J.J. Harrell capped the scoring march with an 8-yard touchdown run up the middle, and the Warriors held a 7-0 edge with just 3:22 gone.
Valley City State (4-1, 4-1) responded after both teams traded punts, as quarterback Jalen Pfeifer capped a 65-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge, tying the game 7-7 after one quarter.
The Vikings special teams snapped the tie early in the second quarter when Dakota King blocked a punt that bounced out of the back of the Warrior end zone for a safety.
The Warriors didn’t let the special-teams play turn the game’s momentum, though, as the Waldorf defense stiffened, giving the hosts a chance to retake the lead as Slater Gifford kicked field goals of 35 and 22 yards to give Waldorf a 13-9 halftime lead.
A stalemate much of the third quarter, a 22-yard field goal by the Vikings’ Nico Magana made it a 13-12 contest, then Pfeifer tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Zane Schuchard with 13:06 left to play, putting the guests on top, 18-13.
Waldorf then took control as the run game ground out an 82-yard scoring drive, capped by a 4th-and-goal, 5-yard touchdown pass from Tyler O’Hara to Ryan Martinez.
Opting for the 2-point conversion, O’Hara tacked on the points when Watt hauled in his pass for a 21-18 lead with 2:06 left to play.
On the ensuing kick-off, the Warriors looked poised to ice the victory as Seth Oakes scooped up a fumble, setting up Waldorf’s offense at the Vikings’ 20.
Valley City State held on defense, though, forcing a missed field-goal attempt, and setting the stage for a fantastic finish for the Vikings.
With 56 seconds left, Valley City State took over at their 20 and started the drive with a 17-yard pass to Mich Cornelious.
Pfeifer then hooked up with Benjamin Dumond for 33 yards, and the Vikings got a fortunate bounce when he fumbled but Caid Combs recovered at the Warrior 25.
With 26 seconds left, Pfeifer missed on his first attempt at the win, then lobbed a jump ball to Dumond who wrestled it in for the game-clinching TD with 12 seconds remaining on the clock.
“This one hurts, but I know we will learn from it and move on to preparing for Dickinson State this next week,” Waldorf’s head coach said.
Jatoviay Hill led the Warriors on the ground, rushing for 67 yards on 16 carries, while O’Hara completed 14-of-29 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, MaCoy Yeakel had 10 tackles and forced a fumble, and Wayne Parrish added seven tackles, including 3 ½ for losses, and broke up a pass for the Warriors, who next play at Dickinson State this coming Saturday at 2 p.m. (CT).
Taylor Simmons, Pfeifer and Dumond led the way for the Vikings as Simmons ran for 143 yards on 23 carries, Pfeifer completed 16-of-32 passes for 263 yards and 2 TDs, and Dumond caught five passes for 147 yards and a score.