FOREST CITY – Maybe it was the nerves of homecoming, or maybe just the excitement of starting a three-game home-stand.
Whatever the reason, it took the Waldorf football team a little bit to get their mo-jo going Saturday, but once the Warriors did it was a true homecoming celebration at Bolstorff Field as Waldorf rolled to a 48-14 victory over Mayville State in North Star Athletic Association action.
"It was awesome today," Waldorf coach Josh Littrell said. "We had a great crowd, we had a lot of families here with homecoming; we had our 1962 football team that got inducted (to the Hall of Fame) here, so it was great to have everybody back.
"So really excited for our team today."
The Warrior fans and alumni in attendance saw plenty of exciting action, starting with a see-saw battle in the first half as the Comets led 7-0 and 14-7.
Warriors quarterback Hilton Joseph capped an 11-play, 67-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring run that tied the game, 7-7, after one quarter, the first highlight of the day for Waldorf.
Battling both the Comets and a 20-mph headwind, Waldorf played power football on the drive, racking up 42 yards on the ground.
"We were pretty one-dimensional going into that headwind, but we were able to run the football, so hats off to the O-line for that," Littrell said.
The Comets retook the lead on their ensuing drive, but Waldorf (5-4 overall, 3-3 NSAA) answered marching 75 yards on nine plays, getting as close as 14-13 when Joseph tossed a 2-yard shovel pass to Samuel Huntley for the Warriors second score of the day.
From that point on it was all Warriors, who time and again gave their homecoming crowd plenty to celebrate.
"It was about getting out of our own way," Coach Littrell said of his Warriors shaking off a slow start. "We made mistakes, we put the ball on the ground; you can't do that, you can't win games when you put the ball on the ground.
"We righted the ship," he added. "Defense played well today … they did a great job, I'm proud of them."
The Waldorf defense played phenomenal the rest of the way, actually outscoring Mayville State, 6-0, in the second half as Cameron Newsome scooped up a fumble for the Warriors and raced 54 yards up the right sideline for the game's final touchdown.
"I'm a big believer in defense wins championships," Littrell said. "Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. We're going to continue to get better defensively here and put the best players on the field to give our team the best chance to win."
Defensive dominance led to offensive efficiency, as well, as Tyron Jones capped a 14-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds left in the first half to put Waldorf on top for good, up 20-14.
On top, the Warriors pulled away just two plays into the second half when Joseph hit Huntley over the middle with a quick slant and the Waldorf receiver turned on the jets, racing the next 45 yards for a 58-yard touchdown and a 27-14 lead.
Waldorf's big-play offense then struck again with Joseph racing 57 yards untouched on the option for a 34-14 lead at the end of three quarters.
Alex Pierre added a 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth before Newsome's fumble-return for a score capped a happy homecoming for Waldorf.
The Warriors now get two weeks to prepare for their next game on Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. when Presentation College (4-3, 3-2) visits Bolstorff Field. It's the second contest in a three-game home-stand to finish the regular season as Waldorf looks to secure its first winning season ever as a 4-year program.
"We set ourselves up for success," Littrell said. "We've got to get one of them to have a winning season."
Multi-dimensional Warrior quarterback, Joseph, led the way with 124 yards rushing on 12 carries and two touchdowns, while adding in two touchdown passes as he completed 12-of-26 passes for 182 yards.
Huntley was his top target, catching four passes for 83 yards and two scores, and Tyron Jones added 65 yards on the ground on 12 carries.
Defensively, Jeremiah Jackson had 12 tackles for the Warriors, Derris Key and Marcel Lindner each forced a fumble, and James Bell III and Nathaniel Lamar II each added a quarterback sack for Waldorf.