Orange City, Iowa — No.5 Northwestern College fell to top-ranked Morningside 37-27 in a GPAC Championship match-up between unbeaten teams played today on Korver Field at DeValois Stadium.
Northwestern ends the regular season with an 8-1 record, 9-1 overall, and will find out its postseason opponent on Sunday night when the NAIA released its 16-team Football Championship Series pairings. Morningside wins the GPAC regular season title with a 9-0 record, 10-0 overall and pushes its win streak to 25 games.
With Northwestern leading by three (13-10) at halftime, the Red Raiders were outscored 20-0 in a third quarter dominated by the Mustangs. Morningside scored on all four of its possessions while the hosts managed only three first downs resulting in a 30-13 lead by quarters end. Chase Carter began the second half scoring with a 40-yard field goal to tie the game at 13 at the 10:30 mark. Following a Northwestern punt, Morningside scored on its second play when A.P. Ponder broke through for a 56-yard run and a 20-13 advantage. The Mustangs scored again less than three minutes later when Joe Dolincheck hooked up with Addison Ross for a 21-yard touchdown at the 6:46 mark. Carter finished off the third quarter scoring with a 23-yard field goal to give Morningside a 17-point lead with one quarter left to go.
Northwestern came back with a scoring drive early in the fourth quarter when Tyson Kooima hooked up with Cade Moser three straight times, the final one on an eight-yard reception, to make it a two-score game, 30-20, with 8:38 left. Morningside clinched the game, however, with a 14-play, 82-yard scoring drive that used up over six minutes of clock and ended with a Dolincheck to Austin Johnson touchdown. The Red Raiders added a late touchdown on a Kooima to Moser 26-yard pass but the ensuing onside kick went out of bounds to end any hope for the hosts.
The final stats indicate how close the game was with Northwestern gaining 485 yards compared to 498 by the Mustangs. The Red Raiders had the advantage in first downs (28-24) and time of possession (33:39 – 26:21) while Morningside won the turnover battle, 4-2.
Kooima completed 27-of-53 passes for 348 yards and matched his career high once again with four touchdowns. The junior also rushed 14 times for 56 yards. Moser had a career day in his first game back from injury, catching a career-high 11 passed for 125 yards and three touchdowns, also a career high. Shane Solberg totaled 10 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown and became the program’s all-time leader with 30 for his career. Jacob Kalogonis accounted for 78 yards rushing on 14 carries in his first game back from injury.
Morningside’s defense came up with the game’s first big play when Jacob Katzer intercepted a Kooima pas and returned it 13 yard to the Red Raiders 37-yard line on the opening drive. Seven plays later, a 28-yard field goal from Carter put the Mustangs in front 3-0. Northwestern responded with an eight-play, 75-yard drive finished off with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Kooima to Solberg for a 7-3 lead.
The Mustangs came right back with a touchdown drive of their own when Dolincheck connected with Johnson for a 39-yard scoring toss with seven minutes still left in the first quarter. Northwestern threatened to take back the lead on its next drive but an interception at the Mustangs two-yard line ended a 13-play, 57-yard drive.
Down 10-7, Northwestern went ahead on its first offensive series of the second quarter when Kooima and Moser connected for their first touchdown pass, a five yard strike to cap an eight-play, 53 yard drive. Both teams had scoring chances halted due to turnovers over the final 10 minutes of the quarter to put the halftime score at 13-10.
Sean Powell and Tanner Machacek totaled 10 stops each to lead the Raider D. Both players forced a fumble and Machacek broke up two passes. Ben Granstra totaled eight tackles and Devin Mouw accounted for a career-high seven tackles.
Dolincheck completed 12-of-29 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson caught five passes for 99 yards and two scores and Els totaled four catches for 45 yards. The Mustangs ground game came up big as Ponder rushed 28 times for 232 yards and a touchdown. Klayton Nordeen led the Mustangs defense with 11 tackles and an interception.