FOREST CITY – Facing 65 yards of turf, and a determined defense ready to stop him and his Warrior teammates, Hilton Joseph still knew the win was there for the taking.
With precision and confidence in the players around him, the Waldorf quarterback guided his offense quickly down the field, finishing off a dramatic final-minute victory with a touchdown pass to Samuel Huntley that lifted the Warriors to a 39-35 win over Valley City State in North Star Athletic Association football Saturday at Bolstorff Field.
“I knew we were going to score the whole time,” Joseph said, despite his team facing a 35-32 deficit with just 52 seconds left on the game-clock. “I knew we were going to score; I trust the coach’s play calls, I trust my teammates, and we just did what we knew what we could do.”
The Warriors put their trust in Joseph, too, as he scrambled for 34 yards himself on the drive, then hit two passes for the other 31 yards, including a roll-out toss to Huntley just in front of the right pylon at the goal-line. Huntley easily hauled in his ninth catch of the day for the game-winning score.
“I tell you, we played a complete football game,” Waldorf coach Josh Littrell said. “The kids battled - offensively we got a glimpse of what we’re going to look like in the future with our up-tempo offense, (Joseph) doing a great job of leading that.
“Our offensive line did a great job of establishing the run game, and our defense played their tails off today too, so it was a great team win.”
Both sides of the ball got their time to shine Saturday afternoon in the victory as Waldorf came out rolling on offense, erasing an early 7-0 deficit as Joseph capped a 7-play, 59-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run, his first of three rushing touchdowns on the day.
An Oreande Glover interception – one of three takeaways by the Waldorf defense – kept the Vikings stuck on seven points while the Warrior offense added to its total.
Joseph hit Cameron Newsome with a 22-yard touchdown pass for a 13-7 lead after one quarter, then Joseph added a 2-yard scoring run to put Waldorf on top, 19-7 at halftime.
Receiving the second-half kick-off, the Warriors (3-2 overall, 2-1 NSAA) went to work breaking the game open, marching to the Valley City State 7 yard-line when a fumble in the end zone – the lone offensive miscue of the day for Waldorf – changed the game’s moment.
Back-to-back Vikings touchdowns put the Warriors in a 21-19 hole, and started a see-saw, second-half battle.
“In the game of football, you have a little adversity,” Littrell said. “The good teams step up, and today our guys stepped up.
“I’m proud of them.”
Responding to adversity, the Warriors quickly answered with a 9-play, 68-yard drive capped by Joseph tossing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Cale Crowder for a 25-21 Waldorf edge.
A Valley City State touchdown again forced the Warriors to rally, and Joseph capped the comeback drive running the ball into the end-zone from 7 yards out for a 32-28 lead with 2:37 left to play.
But the Warriors still need more as the Vikings went 53 yards in 1:45 to take a daunting, but not insurmountable, 35-32 lead with 52 seconds to play, setting up a thrilling victory charge by Waldorf.
“They go down and score, we have only 52 seconds into the wind; most teams would have cashed it in, but our guys showed resiliency today,” Littrell said, “they showed that hard-hat mentality.”
Joseph led the way with his six-touchdown performance, rushing for three on 17 carries for 95 yards, and throwing for three more, completing 22-of-29 passes for 243 yards.
Huntley was the top target for the Warriors, hauling in nine passes for 95 yards and a touchdown, while Crowder and Jordin Roberts each recovered a fumble for Waldorf, and James Bell III and Connor Curran each made seven tackles to lead the defense.
The victory moves the Warriors into a tie for second place in the NSAA standings and sets up a huge clash next weekend as Waldorf travels to Dakota State next Saturday to battle the Trojans for outright possession of the No. 2 spot in the North Star Athletic Association.