FOREST CITY – Warriors head coach Josh Littrell says his team doesn't pay attention to the number in Waldorf's win column, but many other people do.
And after Saturday's determined defensive effort turned the game around for the Warriors, all of North Iowa will be talking about the Warriors first winning season in the football program's history at the 4-year level.
"We haven't even talked about wins and loses with our team," Littrell admitted, "it's about being first class, it's about that hard-hat mentality."
The Warriors hard-hat mentality won out for the second time this season against Presentation College, as defense stalled the Saints and powered Waldorf to a 41-33 victory at Bolstorff Field in North Star Athletic Association action.
"Gosh darn-it, our guys battled today," Littrell said. "We played this team once already and in order to beat a team twice, that's a pretty tough task; and they're a good team and very well coached."
In the team's previous meeting in Aberdeen, S.D., the Warriors (6-4 overall, 4-3 NSAA) rallied for a 54-47 win in a game that was a true shoot-out, as the Saints racked up 465 yards of offense to the Warriors 503 yards.
It looked like that trend might continue Saturday on the Waldorf campus as the Saints (4-5, 3-4) took the opening kick-off 58 yards on two plays for a quick 7-0 lead.
Waldorf answered with an eight-play, 88-yard march capped by a 30-yard scoring strike from Hilton Joseph to Samuel Huntley, making it 7-7 before most fans had a chance to find a seat.
But then the Warrior defense began to set the tone for the rest of the day, stymying the Presentation attack and forcing the Saints to settle for field goal after field goal by kicker Jaiden Machuca.
"They just stepped it up," Littrell said of his defense. "They started tackling, they put pressure on the quarterback; they backed off on the receivers and forced them to throw the short stuff, that was really the only adjustment, other than that we just got after it."
Waldorf needed that defensive performance as the Warriors stalled a bit on offense after a 12-yard Joseph touchdown run briefly gave the Warriors a 14-10 advantage in the first quarter.
"We shot ourselves in the foot offensively," the Warriors coach said, as Waldorf managed just four first-downs the rest of the opening half.
That allowed Presentation to eke out a slim 16-14 lead on three straight field-goals, but the Warrior defense refused to let Saints into the end zone.
That allowed the Waldorf offense time to re-find its rhythm, and the Warriors came out of the halftime break on fire.
Joseph guided his team 65 yards downfield and put the Warriors on top for good, up 20-16, after a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Newsome.
Another Presentation field-goal trimmed the difference to 20-19, but Waldorf answered with a second-straight Joseph to Newsome touchdown strike for a 27-19 score.
"Offensively we've played good all year, just a little sporadic again today," Littrell said. "… But we did a good job offensively moving the ball today."
The Warrior offense kept moving the ball, racking up yards and points, taking a 34-25 lead on a 4-yard scoring pass from Joseph to Ryan Harrison, then iced the win as Joseph raced untouched 61-yards on a quarterback option for a 41-25 score.
The final score came after an interception by Derris Key for the determined Warrior defense. Key also had a game-high 11 tackles, and his was the third pick of the day by the Waldorf defense, which also got two more interceptions from Newsome, and 2 ½ sacks by Dakota Jahnke.
While the defense turned the game around, the Warrior offense was led once again by dynamic sophomore signal-caller, Joseph, who ran for two scores and 115 yards on nine carriers, and threw for 168 yards and four touchdowns, completing 15-of-21 passes.
Huntley proved to be his favorite target as he hauled in eight passes for 114 yards, and Jordin Roberts and Tyron Jones provided help on the ground, with Roberts rumbling for 127 yards on 21 carries and Jones racing for 99 yards on 12 rushes.
While the win secured the first winning season for the Warrior program since transitioning from the junior-college level, the season's work is not done for Littrell and his crew.
Waldorf closes the regular season next weekend looking for win No. 7 as the Warriors host Jamestown for "Senior Day" at 1 p.m.