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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Thanksgiving weekend brings Northwestern football together

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The Northwestern College football team didn’t mind having night practice at DeValois Stadium on Thanksgiving.

That meant the Red Raiders were preparing for a quarterfinal playoff game at noon Saturday against Marian University of Indianapolis. It’s a noon kickoff in Orange City.

The Red Raiders practiced early Wednesday morning, and coach Matt McCarty gave his student-athletes the rest of Wednesday and most of Thursday off so that they could spend time with families.

Matt McCarty

McCarty

Most of the Northwestern football roster hails from Siouxland towns, which allowed those who were able to go home to do so.

“The majority of the guys were able to go home, or a lot of them stepped up and took care of our guys who were out of the area,” McCarty said.

However, there were some players who couldn’t travel on a quick turnaround, so the hometown players stepped up to host teammates who didn’t go home.

According to McCarty, there were also host families who welcomed in some Red Raiders who didn’t go home.

“The family atmosphere around our program makes being able to practice on Thanksgiving work,” McCarty said. “I’m most thankful for our people. I think that’s what makes our program special.”

Everyone joined up again Thursday evening, putting in some work before the game against the Knights.

“It’s a lot of fun to be together as a team this time of year,” McCarty said. “There’s only eight teams still playing and it’s fun to be able to compete. Each week you get at this point is a blessing.”

Chip on their shoulder

The Northwestern defense has played over the last couple weeks with a chip on their shoulder.

Over the last two weeks, the Red Raiders ‘D’ has allowed just seven points to both Briar Cliff and Central Methodist.

In the game against the Chargers, Northwestern’s defense earned two defensive touchdowns while limiting BCU to 252 yards. The Chargers only amassed 3.4 yards per play.

Then, in the first-round playoff game against Central Methodist, Northwestern’s defense held CMU to 300 total yards.

Northwestern has limited its opponent to not many rushing yards, and that held true last week against the Eagles.

The Eagles ran the ball 24 times, but only gained 100 net yards.

Noah Van’t Hof, Parker Fryar and Brett Moser were the three leading tacklers for the Red Raiders last week.

Van’t Hof led with eight total tackles, while Fryar and Moser each had five.

Moser also had two tackles for loss for eight yards, and he had a sack for seven yards.

Jalyn Gramstad, Jessen Reinking and Peyton Nieuwsema each had a tackle for loss in the win last week.

“That group plays so well together as a unit,” McCarty said. “I think that’s really important. I think they were really controlling the run game. They have been controlling the line of scrimmage. We’ve been able to do that on the defensive side of the football the last couple of weeks.”

Morningside vs Northwestern football

Morningside's Anthony Sims is taken down by Northwestern's Jalyn Gramstad during a May 1 NAIA national semifinal game at Elwood Olsen Stadium in Sioux City. 

Prepping for Marian

The Red Raiders see some similarities on film when studying the Marian offense.

The Knights have some balanced production, just like the Red Raiders do.

Marian passes the ball a little bit more, collecting 2,580 passing yards entering Saturday’s game against the Red Raiders.

Zach Bundalo is the team’s No. 1 quarterback, completing 135 of 256 passes for 2,482 yards. He’s thrown 26 touchdowns and also has thrown seven interceptions.

Bundalo’s two favorite targets are Johnny William (44 catches, 909 yards) and Ben Stevens (43-915).

“They have some great receivers,” McCarty said. “We need to limit big plays and make them drive the ball down the field.”

That doesn’t mean the Knights don’t run the ball effectively. On 292 rushes, the Knights have collected 2,042 yards.

Daylen Taylor and Baron Huebler take the majority of the rushing snaps. Taylor has 889 rushing yards on 141 carries while Huebler has 712 yards on 138 touches.

“The familiarity of schemes really helps make practices go smoother,” McCarty said.

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