FREMONT. Neb. – College football is officially back, and the Midland University football team wasted no time in getting back to form.
The Warriors (1-0) made a statement in the 2018 season opener, nearly reaching the half-century mark versus the MidAmerica Nazarene Pioneers (0-1) in a 49-28 victory at Heedum Field.
Midland racked up 558 yards of total offense, the most in a single game since August 27, 2016 (587 yards vs Olivet Nazarene). The Pioneers’ offense totaled 327 yards.
“We moved the ball really well, (Offensive Coordinator Ryan) Williams did a good job mixing it up, guys were able to run it and able to throw it,” said Head Coach Jeff Jamrog of the offense. “It looked pretty efficient out there. That was good to see.”
Junior quarterback Payton Nelson led the way, throwing for 262 yards and four touchdowns. He also added 99 rushing yards to lead the team.
On defense, a pair of sophomores led the Warriors in tackles. Defensive end Tyler Koch registered seven tackles, including one sack, followed by linebacker Zach Gates with 5.5 total tackles. Safety Brock Larsen also came up with big plays when his number was called. The senior had an interception in the first half, and recovered a fumble he forced in the fourth quarter.
The first quarter went back and forth as both Midland and MidAmerica Nazarene scored on their first two offensive drives. Midland’s scores came courtesy of a 7-yard reception from junior wide receiver Jordan Jackson and a 15-yard run from senior Lukas Vopnford. MidAmerica’s points came on touchdown receptions from Jackson Sherley (33 yards) and Juvantae Martin’s (75 yards).
MidAmerica Nazarene led 14-13 after one quarter on account of a failed 2-point conversion attempt by the Warriors.
The second quarter was all Midland as they racked up 20-straight points on three touchdown drives, getting scores from junior running back Gary Cannon (6-yard rush), Jackson (30-yard reception), and junior running back Adrian Kellogg (16-yard rush).
MidAmerica Nazarene would score late in the half thanks to a 50-yard touchdown reception from Kobe Hardin, cutting the Pioneers’ deficit to 33-21 at the intermission.
Defenses controlled the third quarter with MidAmerica Nazarene outscoring Midland 7-3 in the period. The Warriors took care of business in the fourth quarter on their way to earning the victory in the late-August heat.
“We were our worst enemy in the first half, we gave up a couple big plays”, Jamrog said. “I really thought the defense played extremely well in the second half, only giving up seven points.”
The Warriors went on scoring drives of 85 and 72 yards, respectively. Nelson capped the drives with a pair of touchdown passes, a 2-yard grab for Vopnford and a 12-yard catch from Darrin Gentry.
MidAmerica Nazarene came up empty on its last possession as senior defensive lineman Johan Williams forced a fumble on quarterback Levi Taylor with 36 seconds left, resulting in a 32-yard return from junior defensive lineman David Hansen.
Under Coach Jamrog, Midland has now won three straight season openers with a pair of those wins coming at home.
“It kind of went how I thought it would. There were some great things that we did and others where we are our own worst enemy,” said Jamrog. “We can fix those things, and I expect us to make a huge stride from game one to game two.”
Midland is home next week at Heedum Field on Saturday, September 1, as the Warriors host the Mayville State University Comets (0-1). Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. in Fremont, Nebraska.