Mike Stetson, Sports Information Director
MAYVILLE, N.D. – The Warriors’ Will Finley era began with a solid first half and a resilient finish: Congratulations Coach Finley on career win No. 1.
The Waldorf football team gave their new head coach that victory by fending off host Mayville State’s four-quarter comeback efforts to score a 50-40 win in both teams season opener Saturday in North Star Athletic Association action.
“Proud of the way our team battled through adversity and found a way to win,” Finley said. “Lots of positives we will find from this win; our goal was to be 1-0 this week.”
The Warriors (1-0 overall, 1-0 NSAA) met that goal with a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter that thwarted the Comets, who twice closed within just two points.
Leading 28-26, MaCoy Yeakel came up with a pick on an overthrown pass that led to a Warrior touchdown and a bit of breathing room.
Mayville State (0-1, 0-1) battled back with an interception of its own and a short touchdown drive, closing to 35-33 back with 9 minutes, 3 seconds left to play, forcing another push by the Warriors.
The Warriors answered with a 65-yard scoring march capped by Taylen Alexander tossing his fifth TD pass of the day in his Waldorf debut at quarterback, putting the Warriors in front 42-33.
Then came the second of those picks, which iced the win for Waldorf, when Wayne Parrish grabbed a tipped ball and raced 28 yards for the game-clinching score with 2:11 remaining.
Offensively, Alexander led the way for Waldorf completing 22-of-30 passes for 278 yards and five TDs in his debut, which included a 13-of-15 effort in the first half, and three scoring strikes.
Moving the ball around to eight different receivers, Ryan Martinez turned out to be Alexander’s favorite target with five catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Chase Hansen added two more scoring catches, and Taye Buchanan added the other.
J.J. Harrell and Jatoviay Hill shared the load running the ball as Hill rushed 13 times for 71 yards and a touchdown, while Harrell carried the ball 11 times for 52 yards. He also caught four passes for 35 yards.
Defensively, Parrish led the way with his interception while he also added a sack and a team-high eight total tackles.
Yeakel added seven tackles and his pick, while Thomas Edwards also had seven tackles for the Warriors, who also got a sack from David Warren, and a half-sack each by Austin Steele and Deqwunn McCobb.
Waldorf jumped in front early as Alexander and Martinez twice connected on scoring strikes in the opening 11 minutes of the contest.
An Alexander scoring toss to Hansen in the final minute before halftime sent the Warriors into the break in control, on top 21-20.
Waldorf pushed the lead to 28-16 as Alexander connected with Buchanan on an 11-yard TD pass midway through the third before the Comets made the fourth quarter thrilling.
Along with Alexander’s fifth TD pass and Parrish’s pick-6 in the final stanza, the Warriors also got a 5-yard scoring run from Hill, which helped fend off Mayville State.
With win No. 1 of the season – and the Will Finley era – out of the way, Waldorf will focus on securing win No. 2 when they play again at Valley City State next Saturday.
“I’m ready to watch the film and get better this week,” Finely said. “We will get better tomorrow from the film and move on to a really good Valley City State football team.”