ORANGE CITY, Iowa – The No. 4-ranked Northwestern College football team (11-1, 9-1 GPAC) advances to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Football Championship Series (FCS) Quarterfinal round for the second-straight season behind two big interceptions from Jaden Snyder (R-So., Larchwood, Iowa/West Lyon), defeating the Central Methodist Eagles (9-3) 24-7.
A sluggish start to the game saw a 7-3 Raider lead near the end of the first half, thanks to a pick six from Snyder on the fifth play of the game, taking it 53 yards to the house. The Raiders only had five possessions in the first half as Central Methodist held the ball nearly 20 minutes. Both offenses would stall the rest of the first quarter, as the Raiders would lead 7-0 thanks to the Snyder pick-six.
The first Raider offensive possession of the day started with 12:47 on the clock, but ended with a Tyson Kooima (Sr., Hull, Iowa/Western Christian) interception that was returned to the Raider 5-yard line. CMU would punch it in two plays later to tie the game with 13:24 to go in the half.
The next Raider possession also ended with an interception, this time in the endzone. The Northwestern defense would hold firm and force an Eagle punt. Northwestern would get the ball back with six minutes to play in the half and a 9-play, 60-yard drive would be capped off by a 25-yard field goal by Eli Stader (So., Cedar Grove, Wis./Oostburg). The Raiders would take that 10-7 lead into the locker room.
The Raiders were held to just 142 yards in the first half, and the offense could not punch the ball into the endzone as the Eagle defense held firm in the first 30 minutes.
The second half would see Northwestern flex their No. 4-ranked muscle slightly as the Raiders would outscore CMU 14-0 in the second half. The half would begin with a bang as Kole Telford (So., Rock Rapids, Iowa/Central Lyon) took the kickoff back 37 yards to the Northwestern 48 to set up Kooima and company with great field position. Kooima would take advantage, capping off a 6 play, 52-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Blake Anderson (Jr., Oakland, Neb./West Point-Beemer), Kooima’s first and only touchdown toss of the day.
The Raider offense would go quiet again until midway through the fourth quarter when Snyder would tally his second pick of the day at midfield. Logan Meyer (So., Alvord, Iowa/West Lyon) punched it in from one-yard out to put the nail in the coffin.
Northwestern battled through adversity, led by the stout defensive effort, holding CMU to only seven points on the afternoon. Noah Van’t Hof (Sr., Lester, Iowa/West Lyon) led the team with eight tackles on the afternoon, along with one pass breakup. Brett Moser (Sr., Rock Valley, Iowa/Rock Valley Community) would tally five tackles with two being for loss, including one sack on the elusive Paxton DeLaurent. Snyder picked up his fifth and sixth interceptions on the season, and could have had seven but the third pick of the day was taken off on a Raider penalty. Northwestern’s defense held CMU to only 300 yards of offense, with 200 of those coming through the air.
A chippy game all contest long, 28 flags were thrown in the game – 20 of them being on Central Methodist. Snyder had a busy day with his punting leg, booting away an unusually high three punts for the Raiders, pinning the Eagles twice inside their own 20-yard line.
Konner McQuillan (Jr., Leavenworth, Kan./Lansing) was named the Opening Round offensive player of the game by the media in attendance. Not surprising, Snyder secured the defensive player of the game honors with his two picks.
The Raiders await the next NAIA seeding to see who they will play next Saturday, November 27. Due to travel issues, one First Round contest will be played tomorrow. Stay tuned to NWC social media and nwcraiders.com to see who the Raiders will battle next week.