Northwestern knew they needed to win big against 19th-ranked Midland Lutheran to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Raiders won 24-6, but it was not enough to move the team up from 15th in the ratings or to earn a spot in the NAIA National Championship Series. They finished the year with an 8-2 record, with losses only to first-ranked USF and seventh-ranked Morningside.
Sophomore James Rodriguez kicked a 40-yard field goal in the second quarter to lead off the scoring. The Warriors responded with a touchdown but failed to convert the extra point, bringing the score to 6-3. Just before the half, senior Brad Payne found the end zone after returning a punt 49 yards to put the Raiders up 10-6 at the half.
The next score came in the fourth quarter when sophomore Brandon Smith ran 11 yards for a touchdown. Senior Kevin Vander Schaaf iced the win with an eight-yard touchdown.
The Raiders rushed for 295 yards against a defense that has only allowed 91.5 yards per game. For the fifth time this season, both senior Taylor Malm and Smith ran for over 100 yards.
Malm rushed for 121 yards on 17 carries before an injury in the third quarter forced him to leave the game. Malm finished the season with 1,147 rushing yards and rushed for over 100 yards in six games.
Smith gained over 100 yards for the seventh time, rushing for 106 yards in 23 carries. He totaled 1,166 rushing yards this season.
Vander Schaaf carried the ball five times to gain 31 yards. Junior Jayme Rozeboom completed four of 11 passes for 36 yards to bring the offensive total to 331 yards.
The Raider defense also played well, holding Midland to 295 yards. Senior Austin Rozeboom had seven tackles to lead the defense, while fellow seniors Paul Lundgren and Caleb Van Otterloo recorded 5.5 and five tackles, respectively. Seniors Jon Gerber and Caleb Blauwet each had an interception.
NW will graduate 22 seniors, including 10 starters who have contributed greatly to the team’s success over the last four years. They will be losing running back Malm, who gained over 1,000 yards in part thanks to his offensive line, which included seniors John Adam, Dan Solis and Logan Ogden. Other senior starters were cornerbacks Van Otterloo and Jordan Halvorsen, safety Jon Gerber and linebackers T.J. Lensch, Caleb Blauwet and Austin Rozeboom.