The Raiders prevailed in dominating fashion Saturday against Hastings with a final score of 45-6. Fueled by a balanced offense and a stingy defense, the Raiders continued their playoff quest and moved up four rankings in the NAIA poll to where they now stand at No. 14.
Following a punt block and recovery by freshman safety Jake Zylstra on Hastings’ first possession, the Raiders took advantage of the short field, finishing on a one-yard touchdown run by junior running back Theo Bartman. Senior kicker Mike O’Brien connected on the extra point and the Raiders took an early 7-0 lead.
On the next Hastings possession, senior linebacker Aaron Jansen recovered a fumble that gave the Raider offense great field position once again. The Raiders scored on a five-yard strike from junior quarterback Davis Bloemendaal to senior receiver Eli Groenendyk.
After a Hastings field goal, the Raiders responded with a 73-yard drive that was capped off by a 32-yard touchdown pass from Bloemendaal to senior receiver Tyler Walker. The Raiders led 21-3 at the end of the first quarter.
After another Hastings field goal, senior running back Brandon Smith capped off a 10-play, 80-yard drive with a seven yard scamper to pay dirt that put the Raiders ahead 28-6.
O’Brien added a field goal to end the first half scoring. The Raiders entered halftime on top 31-6.
With five minutes left in the third quarter, Smith rushed for his second touchdown of the day from seven yards out. O’Brien connected on the extra point and the Raiders extended their lead to 38-6.
After a Hastings punt, the Raiders methodically drove down the field. Bloemendaal connected with junior receiver Bryce Byker on a 21-yard strike to finish the day’s scoring.
Smith topped the century mark in rushing for the 20th time in his career, rushing for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Bartman proved equally potent by rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Bloemendaal finished with 292 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air.
Defensively, senior safety Dillon Green led the charge with 6.5 stops and Zylstra with five. Senior defensive end Stanley Flemming had a sack and forced fumble. Sophomore linebacker Court Eckland and senior defensive end Ethan Lensch also notched a quarterback takedown.
“We came out of the gate more physical than Hastings and we put a lot of pressure on their quarterback,” Green said. “Those were both reasons our defense had a lot of success.”
The Raiders finished out the day with 525 total yards on offense while only surrendering 236 on defense. The Raiders also held the edge in time of possession with 32 minutes and 26 first downs on the day.
As the Raiders hope for a playoff bid, next week’s matchup versus rival Dordt becomes even more important.
“They have a new offense that relies heavily on the run game, so we definitely have to be prepared to stop that,” Green said.
Northwestern will host on senior day tomorrow at 1 p.m. against Dordt.