FOREST CITY – Entering the 2017 campaign, Waldorf University football coach Josh Littrell wanted to his players to buy in to the importance of a hard work ethic.
It paid off for the Warriors (1-0), who crushed Briar Cliff University (0-1) in a 62-26 victory and produced 556 yards of total offense during Saturday's season opener.
"That's the hard-hat mentality and I can't say it enough," Littrell said. "Our kids showed it and I'm very proud of them."
Waldorf quarterback Hilton Joseph completed 21-of-28 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns. The redshirt sophomore from Miami also showed his scrambling ability, rushing for 33 yards and a TD.
"Hilton is a student of the game," Littrell said. "He does a great job of leading the offense and he's got great composure. That's what you look for in a quarterback."
Sophomore Samuel Huntley was Joseph's top target, hauling in eight receptions for 102 yards and a TD. Redshirt sophomore Benjamin Mau caught four passes for 70 yards and redshirt sophomore Cameron Newsome added 61 yards on four receptions.
The Warriors rolled up 254 yards on the ground, putting the ball in the hands of eight different players. Jordin Roberts led the ground game as the 5-foot-10, 185-pound redshirt freshman from Hallandale, Fla. rushed for 62 yards and a TD.
Cale Crowder played a big-time role for Waldorf. The 5-foot-11, 246-pound junior from Guthrie Center ran for 51 yards and a TD while also catching three passes for 22 yards and a TD.
Sophomore running back Dereck Samudio powered forward for 46 yards on the ground. Junior Tyron Jones rushed for 27 yards and a TD. Jones also corralled two passes for 30 yards and a TD. Across the board, Waldorf's running backs put together a promising night.
"It was the first game, but I want see the running backs continue to get more aggressive with their running styles," Littrell said. "We'll keep working hard at that."
Junior James Bell III led the Warriors on defense with five tackles, including two sacks. Sophomore Jeremiah Jackson and senior Derris Key also recorded five tackles each. Senior Sione Aonga collected four tackles. Junior Andre Cox and senior Dubem Awuzie came away with one fumble recovery apiece.
The Chargers ended the night with 302 yards of offense, accounting for 169 yards on the ground.
Briar Cilff's starting quarterback Dylan Desmarais was limited to a 5-of-18 passing performance for 43 yards and a TD. Backup quarterback Chance Barlow completed 4-of-8 passes for 90 yards and a TD. Barlow also ran for 49 yards and a TD.
Noah Ylagan powered the ground game for the Chargers, rumbling forward for 118 yards and a TD. Kwame Johnson added 50 yards on 12 carries.
Rashad Brown led Briar Cliff's receiving corps with 80 yards and two TDs on two receptions.
Markel Roby finished with a game-high 11 tackles and recovered a fumble for the Chargers. Jared Eastes turned in nine tackles, Angel Delgado made eight stops while Kenneth Forward and LaDarrian Bowman provided six tackles apiece. Briar Cliff received five tackles each from Sharvarus Coleman and Materno Hassan. Hank Glaros contributed four tackles.
Waldorf fumbled away its first possession on Briar Cliff's 10-yardline. The Warriors made up for the turnover on the ensuing possession. Jackson blocked a punt in the end zone and recovered the loose ball to score the first TD of the game. Freshman kicker Adam Rademacher, who converted on 7-of-8 point-after attempts, split the uprights to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead with 11 minutes, 2 seconds to go in the opening quarter.
Disaster struck for the Chargers as they fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by Cox at Briar Cilff's 32-yardline. Seven plays later, Joseph found Jones on a 1-yard TD pass to push Waldorf to a 14-0 advantage with 6:39 left in the first quarter.
The Warriors were on the move, ending the first quarter on Briar Cliff's 1-yardline. Crowder punched it on a 1-yard TD plunge to begin the second quarter as Waldorf built a 21-0 lead. It was the start to a huge second quarter, which saw the Warriors reel of 28 points.
The Chargers fumbled a bad snap on a fourth-down punt and recovered, but turned the ball over on downs on their own 45-yardline. Waldorf capitalized with a two-play drive, capped by a 1-yard TD run from Roberts as the Warriors extended their lead to 28-0 with five minutes left until halftime.
Waldorf continued to pile it on following another costly Briar Cliff turnover. The Chargers fumbled the kickoff and Awuzie pounced on the loose ball to set up the Warriors at Briar Cliff's 38-yardline. Joseph found Huntley for a 6-yard TD on a shovel pass with 3:40 to play in the second quarter.
Jones added a 4-yard TD run with 1:01 to go in the second quarter, sending Waldorf to a commanding 42-0 halftime lead.
Briar Cliff finally got on the board in the third quarter. Closing out an 11-play drive, Desmarais hooked up with Brown on a 13-yard TD pass and Austin Holloway connected on the PAT with 10:53 on the clock in the third quarter.
The Warriors answered with a 6-yard TD run by Hilton on a quarterback keeper, bringing Waldorf's lead to 49-7 with 7:07 left in the third.
Ylagan broke free for a 65-yard TD run on the following possession. Waldorf freshman Nick Harrison blocked the PAT.
Another big play aided the Chargers. Barlow eluded defenders on a 50-yard TD scamper with 55 seconds remaining in the third. The PAT failed and Waldorf remained in front 49-19 heading to the fourth quarter.
The Warriors opened the final quarter with an eight-play, 75-yard drive. Crowder rushed for 38 yards on the drive and found the end zone on a 7-yard carry. Following a missed PAT, Waldorf owned a 55-19 lead.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Edward Dominguez came on for the Warriors and scrambled for 24 yards. He tacked on Waldorf's final TD on an 8-yard quarterback keeper. Senior Lavelle Cook knocked through the PAT to boost the Warriors to a 62-19 advantage with 3:12 remaining in the game.
Barlow launched a 67-yard TD pass to Brown with 2:52 to play, but it would mark the final possession for the Chargers as Waldorf melted away the clock in the lopsided win.
Littrell, who made his debut as Waldorf's head coach after spending the past four seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Doane University, said the biggest priority for the first game was to see the Warriors display a first-class demeanor.
"I told our staff before the game, win or lose, all I care about is winning by the way we act," Littrell said.
Waldorf's players have thus far bought in to what Littrell and his staff preached throughout preseason camp and practices. It's all part of the process to turning around the program.
"This was a baby step," Littrell said. "We're talking about building a wall right now. We put another layer of concrete and another cylinder up on the wall and we're going to keep working at it."
Waldorf returns to action on Sept. 9 against Dordt College (0-0) in a 6 p.m. kickoff at Sioux Center. Just like Briar Cliff, the Defenders are another Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) opponent that Littrell is familiar with from his days at Doane.
Though the upcoming game with Dordt is the focus moving forward, Littrell and his team are savoring the moment of the season-opening win.
"We're going to celebrate this one first," Littrell said. "These things are hard to come by."
Saturday also marked Community Night for Waldorf. A large crowd was on hand, drawing support from both the campus and community.
"It was a great team win," Littrell said. "I told our kids that it's all about them and the community. I was very proud of our community that was out there and all of the behind-the-scenes things that people did within our school to make this night special for everyone involved. I'm just truly blessed to enjoy this experience with everybody."