SIOUX CITY | Jason Garnand, Corey Wortman and members of the Sioux City Stampede have been waiting for this game for a long time.
Winners of 15 straight games dating back to last year’s Midwest Football Alliance championship, the Stampede will take a 4-0 record (5-0 overall) into Saturday's p.m. Northern Elite Football League game at Memorial Field against the NEFL’s defending champion Minneapolis Warriors.
True to its team name, the Stampede have rolled over league opponents this season, outscoring them by a 214-15 margin, including back-to-back shutouts in each of the last two weeks. Minneapolis (3-1) raised its NEFL record to 2-1 after last Saturday’s 28-17 win over the Fox Valley Force.
“This game is going to set the tone for the rest of the season,” said Wortman. “We still feel like we have something to prove, being the new kids on the block from the MFA. We’ll turn heads and show the rest of the league we are for real and not to be taken lightly.”
Sioux City’s running back combination of Larry Taylor (419 yards, 8 TDs) and T.J. James (351, 6), the NEFL’s second and third leading rushers, were held to a combined 119 rushing yards in last Saturday’s 40-0 win at Hudson (Wis.). The Thunderhawks’ defense, however, didn’t stop quarterback Dorian Ballentine (790 yards passing, 8 TDs), who for the first time this season, had a pair of 100-yard receivers, Bret Van Muyden (21 catches, 295 yards, 4 TDs) and Bryce Harshman (15, 202, 3).
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Ballentine is the league’s third-leading passer while Van Muyden is second in the league in receiving.
Defensively, inside linebackers TyRae Kemp and Wortman are third and fourth, respectively, with 33 and 31 tackles. Lineman Derek Geddings is the NEFL leader with two forced fumbles while cornerback Warren Joiner is second with four interceptions.
Minneapolis quarterback Dave Connors has passed for 229 yards and four touchdowns. Garnand, the Stampede coach, describes Connors as similar to Ballentine, as a rushing and passing threat.
“We’re going to do different stunts he is not used to seeing which will cause confusion and make him feel uneasy so we can flush him out of the pocket,” said Garnand. “We’re going to let our defense shine, with 11 men playing football sideline to sideline. We’re going to play to our strengths.”
Garnand called the Warriors’ Kirk Eggleston one of the league’s best defensive ends. He looks for their defensive backs to challenge his talented wide receiver corps, which also includes Jake McDonald (13 catches, 208 yards, 5 TDs).