PELLA—There’s a full agenda on the Central College football practice schedule this week.
The season’s first loss was a 28-7 disappointment last Saturday against the University of Dubuque but the Dutch can’t let that linger while seeking to counter an aggressive Buena Vista University attack. The teams clash Saturday at Storm Lake with a 1 p.m. kickoff at J. Leslie Rollins Stadium.
Central is 4-1 overall and 2-1 in American Rivers play. Buena Vista is 2-4 overall and 0-4 in the league but held a third-quarter lead against No. 9-ranked Wartburg College and was within a score of Coe College late in the fourth quarter last Saturday before dropping a 27-13 decision.
Game week starts with a thorough but swift review of all that went awry for the Dutch at home last Saturday.
“We’re going to watch this film–we’ve spent a lot of time with it already,” coach Jeff McMartin said. “We’ll watch it with our players and then it’s on to Buena Vista. They’re going to be a very tough team.”
The series—Central was a 62-20 winner over Buena Vista at Pella last year. The Beavers prevailed in the last meeting at Storm Lake in 2016, 39-38 in overtime. The teams’ series began in 1928 and Central leads 59-28.
The Beavers—The Buena Vista offensive spark comes from junior wide receiver Eric Pacheco, who has a league-leading 42 receptions for 672 yards and two touchdowns. The Beavers use a pair of sophomores at quarterback. Dylan Laughlin has completed 67 of 118 passes (56.8 percent) with seven interceptions for 718 yards and four scores while Reyes Lara III is 47 of 89 with three interceptions for 607 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore running back Bryland Menicucci has rushed 55 times for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
“They’ve got a really special wide receiver,” McMartin said. “I think he’s one of the best in the American Rivers. They run an offense that fits their personnel very well. Their running back does a nice job and their quarterbacks are good football players and make good decisions. They put their players in a good position. They challenge you because they spread you out and they have good speed.”
Junior linebacker Tanner Frost has 42 tackles, including 19 solos with 3.0 sacks. But McMartin is even more impressed with a young Buena Vista secondary. Freshman cornerback Jalen Moore ranks second in the league with nine pass breakups and two interceptions.
“Their safeties are really good and their corners can cover anybody,” McMartin said. “They blanket people.”
The defense creates preparation complexities.
“They’re bringing a lot of pressure,” McMartin said. “It’s almost like finding the code. There are so many people coming at you from so many places and they have people who can play you man-to-man. They’re definitely capable of doing that. I think they have a really good defense. You’ve got to really be sharp. You’ve got to make good decisions with the football on offense and you can’t give up big plays or let the game get away from you because that’s where they’re really good.”
Lessons learned—There were letdowns in several areas in Saturday’s setback against Dubuque.
“We got off to a really slow start on offense,” McMartin said. “We turned the ball over on our first two drives. We never really got into a rhythm at all and we really struggled to get open. We struggled to make the type of plays we needed to make.”
Central mustered a season-low 223 yards of offense, including just 109 passing yards. Quarterback Blaine Hawkins (junior, Ankeny) completed nine of 23 passes with a career-high five interceptions, but he shouldn’t shoulder all the blame, McMartin said.
““The passing game is everything,” he said. “It’s protection, it’s running routes, it’s making throws. We did not do any of those things up to our capabilities. And we had a lot of penalties on offense.”
Correcting the errors is a process.
“You identify where you can get better,” McMartin said. “Then you look at how you’re utilizing people and what you’re asking them to do. You want to make sure that you’re executing things with personnel in a way they’re capable of executing them.”
Egli emerging— Sophomore free safety Brayden Egli (Saint Charles, Interstate 35 HS), who was the league’s defensive player of the week after recording 11 tackles in a win at Luther College last Saturday, topped that with a career-high 15 stops, including eight solos. He’s now the team season leader with 38 tackles. Outside linebacker Tate O’Tool (senior, Fort Dodge, St. Edmond HS) follows with 34. He had 10 tackles with one for loss and a forced fumble Saturday.
I thought defensively we did a really good job of stopping the run,” McMartin said. “We had some big stops. We really hung in there. The challenge that I came away with in that football game was that, even with the slow start, we still had opportunities. I think the defense provided us with those. We had five turnovers but Dubuque only scored seven points off turnovers. That should be an area where we say that should give us a chance. We should have been able to build on that.”
NCAA numbers—Central took a statistical hit from Saturday’s loss, dropping out of the top 25 in the NCAA Division III in several categories. But the Dutch still rank 21st in total offense (468.8 yards per game). Hawkins is fourth in passing touchdowns (19), 12th in completion percentage (68.5), 12th in passing efficiency (181.5), 20th in total offense (299.4 yards per game)
Wide receiver Hunter Robinson (senior, Lisbon) is ninth in punt returns (16.7 yards per return) and 15th in touchdown catches (8)
Saturday’s game also snapped a 23-game streak with at least one touchdown pass. The last time the Dutch failed to throw one was Sept. 2, 2017 in a season-opening loss to Whitworth University (Wash.).
Central dropped out of the AFCA Top 25 but is still among those schools receiving votes.
QB 3 Blaine Hawkins (5-11, 200, jr.)
RB 24 Joey McIntyre (5-8, 210, jr.)
SB 1 Caleb Schlatter (5-11, 200, jr.)
TE 83 Ross Norem (6-3, 230, sr.)
WR 11 Erik Knaack (6-0, 190, jr.)
WR 2 Hunter Robinson (6-0, 190, sr.)
LT 68 Cody Smith (6-4, 295, sr.)
LG 53 Jake Suggett (6-0, 300, sr.)
C 70 Ian Den Herder (6-0, 270, fr.)
RG 58 Josh Mayhew (6-1, 260, jr.)
RT 60 Carter Smith (6-6, 275, sr.)
DL 97 Matt Glockel (6-0, 245, jr.)
NG 52 Tom Adolph (5-11, 250, so.)
DL 92 Blade Durbala (6-1, 285, jr.)
OLB 33 Tate O’Tool (5-11, 185, sr.)
ILB 9 Drew Smith (5-9, 195, so.)
ILB 12 Connor Lewin (6-1, 195, sr.)
OLB 54 Hunter Maddy (6-3, 220, jr.)
CB 14 Danny Anderson (6-1, 190, sr.)
SS 22 Jordy Borman (5-10, 170, sr.)
FS 4 Brayden Egli (6-1, 180, so.)
CB 13 Tre Wilridge III (5-7, 145, jr.)
K 19 Jon Alberts (5-11, 180, jr.)
P 14 Danny Anderson (6-1, 190, sr.)
KR 12 Connor Lewin (6-1, 195, jr.)
8 Jason Hopp (6-0, 225, so.)
PR 2 Hunter Robinson (6-0, 180, jr.)
14 Danny Anderson (6-1, 190, sr.)
LS 46 Justin Thomas (6-0, 185, fr.)
- H 10 Tanner Schminke (6-0, 180, jr.)
4-1 overall, 2-1 conference
Sept. 7 Northwestern-St. Paul Pella W, 42-12
Sept. 14 DePauw (Ind.) Pella W, 45-19
Sept. 28 Loras Pella W, 52-33
Oct. 5 Luther Decorah W, 45-14
Oct. 12 Dubuque Pella L, 28-7
Oct. 19 Buena Vista Storm Lake 1 p.m.
Oct. 26 Nebraska Wesleyan Pella 1 p.m.
Nov. 2 Simpson Indianola 1 p.m.
Nov. 9 Wartburg Pella 1 p.m.
Nov. 16 Coe Cedar Rapids 1 p.m.
American Rivers standings
W L W L
Wartburg 4 0 6 0
Simpson 3 0 4 1
Coe 3 1 4 2
Central 2 1 4 1
Dubuque 2 2 3 3
Loras 1 2 2 3
Nebraska Wesleyan 1 2 3 2
Buena Vista 0 4 2 4
Luther 0 4 0 6