Northwestern kicked off its football season on Saturday, Sept. 5, with a 9-7 win over the No. 22 Tabor College Blue Jays. The contest was a matchup between teams in the GPAC and KCAC series, respectively.
NW senior Jesse Walnofer intercepted the ball in the last minute of play to secure the win for the Red Raiders.
“That interception was crucial to get into victory formation to win,” said junior quarterback Jonathan Kodama. “It was a great play, great read.”
After the Raider defense forced and also recovered a fumble on the first play of the game, NW junior Julian Dittman kicked a field goal to give the Raiders a 3-0 lead. Early in the second quarter, NW advanced the ball 64 yards in 11 plays that ended with another field goal by Dittman to bring the score to 6-0. The Blue Jays’ two subsequent three-and-outs set the Raiders up to score again. In another 11-play drive, NW’s offense went 78 yards to Tabor’s 2-yard line to be in scoring position. Dittman’s third field goal, a 19-yarder, advanced the Raiders to 9-0.
“We moved the ball well, especially in the first half,” said head coach Kyle Achterhoff. “We had five chances to put it in the end zone, and we scored on three out of the five. If we would have put a couple of those drives in, resulting in touchdowns, the score would have looked different.”
Tabor scored the game’s only touchdown early in the second half, following NW’s first-possession punt. NW’s three first-half field goals proved to be enough to hold off the Blue Jays’ offense and its one touchdown.
“The defense played a great football game,” Achterhoff said. “Their [Tabor’s] offense is known for being able to run the ball, and we limited them. We caused a lot of turnovers.”
“We had different levels of players out there—from starters to guys just getting started—but we all had a bond. We need to tighten that bond, and when we do, we’ll be better as an offense… I’m thankful for the opportunity the coaches have given me and that they’ve put their beliefs in me. In time, I will show them the best that I can be.”
The Raiders will face the Dordt College Defenders at 6 p.m. Saturday in Sioux Center. Achterhoff said they will be tweaking the offense this week to prepare for Dordt. He said that little things will make a big difference.
“We got the first game jitters out, so we’ll be connected for sure,” said Kodama of the Dordt game.