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Egli, Northwestern play for title

—Photo by Northwestern athletics Fort Dodge graduate Ben Egli celebrates for Northwestern earlier this season.

ORANGE CITY — Fort Dodge Senior High graduate Ben Egli has played a pivotal role in the rebirth of Northwestern College as an NAIA football power.

On Monday night, Egli and his Raider teammates will attempt to defend their national championship in a rematch with No. 3 Keiser University of Florida in Durham, N.C.

Egli is a starting linebacker and first team all-GPAC performer for top-ranked Northwestern. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound sophomore was recognized by the conference after recording 69 tackles — including 3.5 for loss — this year for the 14-0 Raiders, who have reeled off 27 consecutive victories dating back to the 2022 season opener.

“I was happy to see the work I’ve put into football was being rewarded, beyond just winning games,” said Egli, who was an all-district honoree for the Dodgers in 2021. “Based on how the season had gone (with all the success), I guess I wasn’t super surprised my name was in the mix — but I was glad to be considered a part of the all-conference group.

“It doesn’t really change anything for me, though. It’s just a label that other teams and people can see.”

Egli’s most productive individual performance came in a 27-24 overtime upset at Drake in September, when he had a team-high 11 tackles. The Raiders haven’t skipped a beat as they pursue a repeat of last year’s crown – their first since 1983.

“It’s awesome to continue the legacy that the graduating class from last year created and pursue another title,” Egli said. “The team is really clicking on the field right now on both sides of the ball, and I feel very confident in our preparation.

“We are confident mentally, and outside of some wear and tear from the long season, I would say we are physically healthy and ready to go as well.”

Northwestern posted a 35-25 win over Keiser in the finals last December. Monday’s championship game, dubbed the “68th Annual Battle for the Red Banner” by the NAIA, will kick off at 11 a.m. inside Durham County Memorial Stadium.

“Personally, I think I’ve grown the most in learning how to do my ‘1/11th’ on the field,” Egli said. “It’s something our coaches preach a lot. I learned that I just need to know my job and execute play after play.

“I’ve been able to get more comfortable on the field every game thanks to the guys around me.”

An Iowa school has won four of the last five NAIA national titles, with the Raiders prevailing in 2022 and Morningside in 2018, 2019 and 2021. Grand View was the champion in 2013.

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