The air is cooling down and the leaves are changing color, which can only mean one thing: it’s football time. The Duhawks kicked off their season against the Elmhurst College Bluejays on Sept. 3.
The Bluejays opened with a pick-6 from junior quarterback Bob Kelly, but the Duhawks were able to hold them off to only one other field goal until the fourth quarter. Going into the fourth quarter, the Duhawks had a big lead, 27-9.
However, the Bluejays managed a comeback of 19 unanswered points to win the game, 28-27. The Duhawks had five turnovers, two of which were pick-6s — interceptions returned for touchdowns — and four of those turnovers occurred in the second half. This allowed the Bluejays to become the NCAA Division III Football Team of the Week for their week-1 comeback.
For the second game of the season, the Duhawks traveled to Aurora, IL, on Sept. 10 to take on the Aurora University Spartans. The weather was perfect, and a slight wind helped both teams with kicking and punting.
The Spartans came out strong with a touchdown in the first quarter while also shutting out the Duhawks. In the second quarter, with the help of a punt from senior Jeremy Peters, the Duhawks pinned the Spartans on the 1-yard line, giving the opportunity for the Duhawks’ defense to get a safety. They entered halftime behind by a score of 7-2.
When starting the second half, there was a glimmer of hope that the Duhawks could pull out the win, but the Spartans scored another touchdown in the fourth quarter. Hope was almost lost until Kelly threw a touchdown pass to senior Danny Willis. With 2:21 left in the game, junior Mason Quigley kicked an onside kick that the Duhawks recovered.
The energy was high, until Kelly threw a pass, intended for sophomore Brad Boelkow, that was intercepted on the 5-yard line. The Duhawks had a quiet bus ride home after the 14-9 loss.
Head Coach Steve Helminiak thinks the season is going to get tougher, but the team just needs to put the ball in the end zone.
“I think it is going to get harder from here on out,” Helminiak said. “I think the Iowa Conference is a great league and great competition, so we’ll have to sure a lot of things up. I don’t think we are that far off. (In) both of the games, we have out gained them and shut them down defensively.
“We have to be able to convert offensively and put the ball into the end zone,” he continued. “It’s what we are gonna have to do. We have to take care of the football. With five turnovers in the first game and four in this game, it’s not what’s going to win you a game. These are the things that we need to better ourselves moving onto conference.”
The Duhawks now will begin play in the Iowa Conference. The Duhawks will travel to Cedar Rapids on Saturday to face the Coe College Kohawks. The next home game is Sept. 24 in the Rock Bowl against the Central College Dutch.