Pivotal league football battle for Central

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Tanner Schminke taking advantage of strong support on a run. (photo by Steve Woodhouse)

PELLA— The schedule takes a daunting turn as the Central College football team travels to Indianola to tackle a veteran Simpson College squad Saturday.

Game time is 1 p.m. at Buxton Stadium.

A week after weathering the American Rivers passing leader in outlasting Nebraska Wesleyan University 49-35, the Dutch (6-1 overall, 4-1 conference) are preparing for the league’s top rusher in Simpson senior tailback Joe Meyer. Simpson (4-3 overall, 3-2 conference) was edged at Coe College Saturday, 10-7.

“They’ve got a lot of seniors throughout their team and they’re playing well,” coach Jeff McMartin said. “They’re well-coached and they’re a very physical, athletic football team.”
Simpson threw a scare into nationally ranked Wartburg College Oct. 19 before tumbling 29-15 and scored a 21-14 Sept. 21 road win against the University of Dubuque, which later handed Central its only loss, 28-7.
“Simpson is definitely a top team,” McMartin said. “This is a big game.”

The series—Central edged Simpson 17-16 with a last-minute touchdown at Pella last year and holds a 64-29-3 advantage in the teams’ series, which launched in 1905. It’s Central’s longest active series. The first recorded Dutch game was in 1892 against William Penn but those teams haven’t met since 2000.

Simpson— Meyer is averaging a league-leading 101.1 rushing yards per game for Simpson. He’s gained 708 yards on 152 with two touchdowns. Sophomore backup Noah Bruckner ranks seventh with 367 yards and two scores on 83 carries. Senior quarterback Tanner Krueger has completed 131 of 236 passes (55.5%) with seven interceptions for 235.7 yards per game and 14 TDs. Senior Sam Bartlett is the conference receiving yards leader with 115.6 per game, catching 44 passes for 809 yards and 11 TDs.
Senior linebacker Michael Connor is third in the conference with 62 tackles, including 25 solos and 2.5 sacks.

Simpson is averaging 407.4 yards per game while giving up 370.9 and is outscoring opponents 22.1-19.9.

“I think their philosophy is to be balanced and to be physical,” McMartin said. “They are a great defensive team. Offensively, they do a fantastic job of running the football and throwing the ball off of those runs. They’ve got some big-play wide receivers and their quarterback has just done a phenomenal job. He’s gotten better each year.”

Top offense– Central is the conference team offense leader with 471.9 yards per game. The Dutch defense is fifth, allowing 375.3 yards.

Wilridge cited—Central cornerback Tre Wilridge III (junior, Crowley, La., Tombstone, Ariz. HS) was named to the D3football.com Team of the Week after notching a career-high four pass breakups along with six tackles Saturday, including four solos. He has a team-high 12 breakups for the season, three shy of the season record of 15. He also has one interception for the year, giving him 13 passes defended, tied for the eighth-most in school history. At 5-foot-7, Wilridge more than holds his own against lanky wide receivers, McMartin said.

“Tre played another good game,” he said. “He plays with a lot of confidence and a lot of energy. He will embrace challenges. He’s not going to back down, he’s going to compete on every play. If something doesn’t go right, he’s right back on the next play and ready to go. I think that’s a great mindset for a defensive back. People are going to complete passes. It’s what are you going to do on the next play that tells you a little about yourself.”

Lewin tackle totals climb—Linebacker Connor Lewin (senior, Stillman Valley, Ill.) recorded 15 tackles Saturday, with eight solos while fellow senior linebacker Tate O’Tool (Fort Dodge, St. Edmond HS) had eight stops including seven unassisted. Lewin is the team season leader with 59 tackles and O’Tool is third with 47. Free safety Brayden Egli (sophomore, Saint Charles, Interstate 35 HS) has 48 tackles.

“Both of those guys have given us everything they have,” McMartin said. “They get done with games on Saturday and they’re spent. They pour everything into practice and everything into games. They bring energy and a positive attitude, leadership. They’re athletic, they’re fast and they fly around the field.”

Making room for Bannister—Freshman Cameron Bannister (State Center, West Marshall HS), who started the year as a defensive back, then moved back to quarterback after a need developed for back-up help, is seeing some action at running back. Saturday he had a season-high 66 yards on nine carries with a touchdown. McMartin said he’s continuing to look for ways to utilize the talented rookie.

“We like to move Cameron around a lot,” McMartin said. “He’s very athletic. We feel like we can use him in a lot of places. He’s a good enough football player that him standing on the sideline isn’t necessarily helping our football team. Moving him around, asking him to do different things, he’s athletic enough, fast enough that he can do that. I thought he made some very big plays in the game. Plays that should be getting 2 of 3 yards, he’s getting 5 or 6. He was able to slip some tackles, get us some extra yardage, put us in good positions to get first downs and because of his abilities he can come at you a lot of different ways. He can catch it, he can throw it, he can run it.”

NCAA numbers—Central ranks fifth in Division III in red zone offense (93.9%, 31-33), 18th in total offense (471.9 yards per game), 19th in kickoff returns (24.42) and 26th in third-down conversions (49.1%, 52-106).

Individually, Hawkins is third in points responsible for (182), 10th in passing touchdowns (24) and 22nd in total offense, (300.4 yards per game). He’s completed 146 of 223 passes (65.5%) with nine interceptions and 24 scores for 266.4 yards per game.

Wide receiver Hunter Robinson (senior, Lisbon) is 12th nationally in punt returns (14.3 yards per return) and is the league leader as well. He’s also 18th in Division III in touchdown catches (10).

Alberts is ninth in Division III in field goal percentage (88.9%, 8-9). His 48-yarder matches the ninth-longest kick of the season in Division III. Last year, Alberts had Division III’s longest boot with a school-record 55-yard kick.

Wilridge is 10th in passes defended (1.9 per game).

Record watch—Hawkins has taken over second place on the school career charts in pass completions with 409, 86 behind Tim Connell (2004-07). He’s also second in passing yards (5,542), third in total offense (6,601 yards) and took over the top spot in passing touchdowns Saturday (59). On the season records list, with three games remaining, Hawkins is sixth in pass completions (146), sixth in passing yards (1,865), third in passing touchdowns (24) and eighth in total offense (2,103).

Erik Knaack (junior, Reinbeck, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) is up to a tie for eighth in pass reception touchdowns (16), 11th in pass receiving yards (1,321) and 13th in receptions (85). Knaack is eighth in season receiving yards (801). Robinson is tied for seventh in season pass reception TDs (10).

Kicker Jon Alberts (senior, Huntley, Ill.) is fourth in career extra points (12) and field goals (30).

Notes– Central is still among those schools receiving votes in the AFCA Division III top 25 poll…The Dutch have now topped the 40-point mark in six of their seven games but mustered just seven in the loss to Dubuque. Central has never had more than seven 40-point games in a season. However, Central’s final three opponents this year are the top three in the league in scoring defense, all allowing fewer than 20 points a game. Central is averaging 40.5 points a game while giving up 24.0. The school scoring record is 43.5 in 1989…The Dubuque loss, in which the Dutch committed five turnovers, is also the only game where Central failed to top the 400-yard mark in total offense. Saturday’s 560-yard output marked the season’s fourth 500-yard game in seven outings…Central’s 58 rushing attempts and 373 rushing yards Saturday were season highs by considerable margins.

Probable starters
OFFENSE

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 61 Colton Anderson (6-0, 250, so.)

C 70 Ian Den Herder (6-0, 270, fr.)

RG 58 Josh Mayhew (6-1, 260, jr.)

RT 70 Travis Wagner (6-5, 270, jr>)

DEFENSE

DL 85 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.)

SPECIALTY

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.)

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