Central eyes football title share

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PELLA—The scenario is similar to a year ago but the nationally ranked Central College football team is looking for a happier ending Saturday as it bids for its first conference crown since 2009.

The Dutch (8-1 overall, 6-1 American Rivers) travel to Cedar Rapids to tackle Coe College (6-3 overall, 5-2 conference) in the regular-season finale needing a win for at least a share of the American Rivers title and an NCAA Division III playoff berth. A Coe victory could drop Central into a second-place tie.

Game time is 1 p.m. at Clark Field in Cedar Rapids.

The Dutch burst into the conference title picture by knocking off then-No. 7 Wartburg College, 57-56 in overtime Saturday at Pella. That leaves the teams tied for the top spot heading into the season’s final league game. Wartburg plays host to Loras College this week.

But the Dutch have vivid memories of last season, when victories in the season’s final two games would have given them a championship share. Coe ended those hopes with a 27-24 overtime decision at Pella.

However, coach Jeff McMartin’s squad isn’t thinking about that game or the implications of this one.

“Our goal is to prepare the same way we have done every week this year,” he said. “Nothing changes this week. We have moved on from Saturday and we are locked in and preparing to play our best this weekend. And we know it’s going to take our best.”

Central is No. 24 in the American Football Coaches Association Division III poll and No. 25 in the D3football.com rankings. This week’s NCAA West Region rankings have not yet been released but Central is expected to climb from last week’s No. 8 spot. The 32-team NCAA playoff field will be announced Sunday at 4:30 p.m. with a selection show that airs on www.ncaa.com.

Central has captured a league-record 30 titles and made 20 NCAA Division III playoff appearances, most recently in 2009.

On the air and online—The Voice of the Dutch, Trevor Castle, will call Saturday’s action on KRLS-FM (92.1), with former Central defensive coordinator Don De Waard providing the color. The KRLS pregame show will air at 12:35 p.m. The broadcast can be accessed through www.kniakrls.com or directly at rdo.to/krls. It’s also accessible via mobile device with the KRLS app available through iTunes and other outlets.

On Mondays, Castle plays host to coach Jeff McMartin on the KRLS Coaches’ Corner at 7 p.m. Those broadcasts are also available on demand through www.kniakrls.com.

Twitter users can get updates through @CentralDutch.

The series—Central holds a 17-10-2 advantage in the series with Coe, which started in 1925. It’s been especially competitive in recent years, with the Dutch taking six of the last 10 meetings.

Trading places—Last year, Central was forced to play Coe without starting quarterback Blaine Hawkins (junior, Ankeny), who was injured the preceding week at Wartburg College. This time, the Coe starting signal-caller, senior Quentin White, was sidelined at Wartburg, the team’s most recent outing. The Kohawks, who were off last weekend, were outlasted at Waverly 21-7 Nov. 2.

White ranks 27th in the NCAA Division III in completion percentage (64.9%). If he’s unavailable this weekend, Coe has a veteran ready to step in, senior Max Ridenour. He has appeared in seven games, rushing for 113 yards and passing for 208.

The uncertainty complicates Central’s preparation.

“Ridenour is an excellent runner and thrower,” McMartin said. “He’s a dual-threat quarterback. White is a great passer. He’s very agile and has thrown for a lot of yards. They’re very different but they’re both effective and they’re both dangerous.”

The Kohawks—Central’s record-setting offensive numbers could take a hit at Coe, which hasn’t given up more than 21 points in its last eight games. The Kohawks rank first in the league in scoring defense (15.1 points per game) and total defense (284.7 yards), limiting foes to just 104.9 yards rushing and 179.8 yards passing. The Kohawks have also picked off five passes. They’re 14th in Division III in third-down conversion defense (27.1%).

Sophomore linebacker Manny Lopez has 53.5 tackles, including 4.5 for loss. Senior defensive back Hunter Semelroth has 50.5 stops, with 42 solos.

“It’s a really solid defense and they’ve got an experienced secondary,” McMartin said. “They play the ball well and they’re physical. They’re well-prepared and don’t get out of position. You’ve not only got to know what you want to do but you’ve really got to execute about as well as you can execute. I think they’ve got about the best defense in the league.”

The Kohawks have playmakers up front as well.

“They can get pressure with three or four guys but they’ll mix in some blitzes and pressures,” McMartin said. “They’ll disguise their coverages a lot. They keep things in front and then they rally up and really hit you. When they tackle you, it’s a collision.”

After surrendering a blocked punt for a Wartburg touchdown last week, McMartin is especially wary of the Coe special teams. Coe shares the Division III lead with five blocked punts this season, including four by sophomore safety AJ Christensen.

The Kohawk offense is putting up 381.2 yards and 27.7 points a game. Senior receiver Colton White ranks second in the league with 61 catches for 664 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior running back Tyler Dralle has gained 511 yards and seven touchdowns on 136 carries. McMartin is also impressed with powerful 5-foot-9, 240-pound sophomore Cody Russell.

“He’s one of the toughest runners in the league,” he said. “They run the ball well. They have a big offensive line. They’re big kids and they’re physical. And they’ve got excellent wide receivers. They’re big and they have a lot of speed.”

Senior Mitch Stopko is a both a running and receiving option.

“They put him all over the place and he does a good job,” McMartin said. “He can really go get the ball.

“They’ve got some good football players on both sides of the ball. They’re a very sound football team and one of the best in the league. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us.”

Senior shout-out—Saturday’s contest marks the regular-season finale for 22 Dutch seniors.

“I’m very proud of our seniors,” McMartin said. “They’ve been very loyal to this program. They’ve worked hard and set a really good example this year of how to prepare and how to play. They have set very high standards for the team and for themselves. Their leadership is something our players have witnessed and benefited from. They’ve set a great example.”

During their Central careers, the Dutch have posted a 31-8 record.

Record-setting Saturday—The 113 points on the Schipper Stadium scoreboard Saturday were easily the most combined points ever in a Central game. The previous high was 99 in a 50-49 Dutch victory over Whitworth University (Wash.) in 2016. Teams totaled 96 in an 82-14 win over the University of Dubuque in 1996.

Central fans were alternately dazzled and dazed Saturday as the Dutch unexpectedly surged to a 42-14 halftime lead and stretched it to 49-14 with 9 minutes left in the third quarter, only to see Wartburg roar back to tie the game and actually take a 56-49 lead in overtime. It was the largest deficit ever erased by a Central opponent, but that made the subsequent Dutch comeback even more gratifying to McMartin.

“The thing that we can really build on is that I feel like we worked hard to stay in the moment and we weren’t looking past anything,” he said. “We battled the whole game. There were a few series that really went the wrong way on us in the third quarter that turned the momentum, but I was proud that when we went to overtime, the guys hit the reset button and just went about their job.”

Breaking it down–Field position was the biggest difference in the two halves. In the second half and overtime combined, Wartburg only gained 12 more yards than it did in the first half (303-291). But the Knights’ average field position on first-half drives was inside their own 30-yard line. The third quarter average, however, was their 41-yard line and in the fourth quarter, it was the Central 46.

McMartin blamed turnovers and poor kick coverage.

“We can clean up a few decisions and reads and we had a few penalties that played a part, we have to clean up those,” he said. “Special teams were very big. (Wartburg was) very good in the kick return game. They blocked punt for a touchdown. Those are all things we need to improve this week. Coe has a very talented punt block team. They’re very good in kick return. We’ve really got to focus on getting better this week.”

McMartin noted that the Dutch defense limited Wartburg to 2-of-13 on third-down conversions. But the Knights went for it on fourth down seven times.

“ If you can keep a team on the other side of the 50, they’re less likely to go for it,” he said. “But we bought ourselves four downs. That’s part of what you have to deal with as a defense. When you have a team that’s behind and has good field position, they’re going to snap the ball four times every series. Then you have to rise up and make plays and there were times when we did and times we didn’t.”

Most notable among the times the Dutch defense did come through was on a fourth-down stop at the 1-yard line.

“The goal-line stand was big and we almost got a safety at the end of the game,” McMartin said. “There were some things that we did really well.”

Freshman linebacker Noah Bandstra (Marshalltown, East Marshall HS) is drawing attention from the Dutch staff.

“Noah Bandstra was part of that tackle at the goal-line and almost got the safety,” McMartin said. “In critical times, he really showed up well. (Linebacker) Hunter Maddy (junior, Mystic, Centerville HS) played very well with some pressures against the quarterback and running things down and (free safety), Brayden Egli (sophomore, Cedar Rapids, Kennedy HS) had another really good game and (linebacker) Tommy Smith (sophomore, Maryville, Tenn.) played well.”

Egli had 12 tackles and an interception. Maddy and Smith both had seven stops and two pass breakups.

Honors, continued—Hawkins was named the league offensive player of the week for the third time this season. He tied his own school record with six touchdown passes, a mark he set against the University of Northwestern-St. Paul (Minn.) Sept. 7 and repeated Sept. 28 against Loras College. He completed 22 of 39 passes for 326 yards with three interceptions while rushing for 127 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown.

His top target on the day, receiver Erik Knaack (junior, Reinbeck, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) was tabbed for the D3football.com Team of the Week. Knaack had nine catches for 222 yards and two scores, his second straight 200-yard day. He’s the sixth Central player to receive the D3football.com distinction this season.

NCAA numbers—Central ranks seventh in first downs (226), seventh in total offense (512.8 yards per game), eighth in Division III in red zone offense (90.7%, 39-43), 12th in third-down conversions (51.4%, 71-137), 14th in scoring (43.6 points), 14th in scoring (43.6), 18th in pass completion percentage (65.6%, 203-308-14), 20th in passing yards (306.8 yards) and 18th in passing efficiency (169.29).

Individually, Hawkins is second in points responsible for (182) fourth in passing touchdowns (35), fifth in total offense, (339.1 yards per game), 14th in passing efficiency (173.2), 18th in passing yards (2,615) 19th in pass completion percentage (.659) and 21st in yards per pass attempt (9.02). He’s completed 192 of 290 passes (66.2%) with 12 interceptions and 35 scores for 290.2 yards per game.

Hawkins is also the conference total offense leader (339.4 yards)

Robinson is 14th nationally in punt returns (13.2 yards per return) and is the league leader as well. He’s also 14th in Division III in touchdown catches (13). Knaack is 23rd in receiving yards (945).

Alberts is sixth in Division III in field goal percentage (.900, 9-10) and 20th in field goals per game (1.00). His 48-yarder matches the 16th-longest kick of the season in Division III. Last year, Alberts had Division III’s longest boot with a school-record 55-yard kick.

Record watch—Somewhat overlooked in the dizzying chaos of Saturday’s win was that Hawkins shattered three more school career records. He topped Tim Connell’s school career passing mark of 6,181 yards (2004-07). Hawkins now has 6,199 yards. He broke Connell’s career total offense record of 7,415 yards with 7,553. And he exceeded Nate Snead’s record of 91 TDs responsible for (2008-11) with 93.

One of the few career passing records without Hawkins’ name on it is pass completions. Connell completed 495 of 891 throws with 33 interceptions. Hawkins stands second at 455-695-20. He extended his record career touchdown passes total to 70, 12 more than Connell.

For 2019, Hawkins has tied Connell’s 2007 record for TD passes with 35. He also ranks third in pass completions (192), 36 behind Connell’s 2007 total. He’s second in passing yards with 2,612, trailing Connell by 472. Hawkins is third in total offense with 3,055 yards, 276 behind Connell and he’s already set the mark for TDs responsible for with 43. Connell played 13 games in 2007 as the Dutch reached the Division III quarterfinals.

Knaack moved into sixth in career pass receiving yards (1,754), is tied for tied for sixth in career TD catches (20) and is ninth in career pass receptions (103). Robinson is tied for 10th in TD catches (14).

On the season charts, Knaack is fifth in receiving yards (943) and sixth in receptions (55). Robinson holds the TD receptions record (13) with Knaack tied for fifth (11).

Alberts is fourth in career extra points (133), fourth in career field goals (31) and sixth in career scoring (226 points). With at least a game remaining, he’s second in career extra-point percentage at 96.4 (133-138) and first in career field goal percentage at 88.6 (31-35).

For the year, Alberts is 49-49 on extra points and 9-10 on field goals to rank first in percentage in both categories. He’s tied for third in extra points for a season and tied for 10th in field goals.

Notes—A year has made a big difference for Egli. Against Coe as a freshman, he was thrown into the starting quarterback job following the injury to Hawkins. Now as a sophomore free safety, he’s surged to the top of the Dutch season tackles chart with 75, including 48 solos…Central is assured of the program’s ninth season with eight wins or more in McMartin’s 16 years at the helm….The Dutch have topped the 40-point mark in eight of their nine games, the most in school history. They’re averaging 43.6 points a game while giving up 28.7. The school scoring record is 43.5 set in 1989…Saturday’s 630-yard output marked the season’s sixth 500-yard game. Central is averaging 514.3 yards per game. The school mark is 535.3 yards in 2016…Wartburg had not yielded more than 27 points previously this season, but Central’s 57 last Saturday are not the most the Knights have ever surrendered. That record was set by the Dutch in a 66-7 romp at Waverly en route to a Stagg Bowl appearance in 1988.

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 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 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, sr.)

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.)

2019 results
8-1 overall, 6-1 conference

Sept. 7 Northwestern-St. Paul Pella W, 42-12

(Minn.)

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 W, 44-27

Oct. 26 Nebraska Wesleyan Pella W, 49-35

Nov. 2 Simpson Indianola W, 51-34

Nov. 9 Wartburg Pella W, 57-56 OT

Nov. 16 Coe Cedar Rapids 1 p.m.

2019 American Football Coaches Association Division III Coaches’ Poll – November 11, 2019

Rank School (1st votes) Rec. Pts. Prev. Last Week Next Game

1. Mary Hardin-Baylor (Tex.) (37) 9-0 1282 1 D. Texas Lutheran, 41-3 Nov. 16 at Sul Ross St. (Tex.)

2. Mount Union (Ohio) (15) 9-0 1262 2 D. Muskingum (Ohio), 51-3 Nov. 16 at Marietta (Ohio)

3. Wisconsin-Whitewater 9-0 1199 3 D. Wisconsin-Stout, 37-17 Nov. 16 at Wisconsin-Oshkosh

4. Wheaton (Ill.) 9-0 1113 4 D. Carthage (Wis.), 55-6 Nov. 16 at Elmhurst (Ill.)

5. Muhlenberg (Pa.) 9-0 1080 5 D. Gettysburg (Pa.), 44-3 Nov. 16 vs. Moravian (Pa.)

6. North Central (Ill.) 8-1 991 6 D. Illinois Wesleyan, 69-14 Nov. 16 at Millikin (Ill.)

7. Salisbury (Md.) 8-0 935 8 D. New Jersey, 62-20 Nov. 16 at William Paterson (N.J.)

8. John Carroll (Ohio) 8-1 883 9 D. Heidelberg (Ohio), 17-13 Nov. 16 at Baldwin Wallace (Ohio)

9. Delaware Valley (Pa.) 8-1 822 10 Idle Nov. 16 vs. Widener (Pa.)

10. Bethel (Minn.) 8-1 815 11 D. Augsburg (Minn.), 62-6 Nov. 16 at No. 21 St. Thomas

11. St. John’s (Minn.) 8-1 803 12 D. Hamline (Minn.), 70-0 Nov. 16 vs. Rose-Hulman (Ind.)

12. Wesley (Del.) 8-1 690 13 D. Kean (N.J.), 27-13 Nov. 16 vs. Christopher Newport (Va.)

13. Hardin-Simmons (Tex.) 7-2 621 14 D. East Texas Baptist, 45-0 Nov. 16 vs. Southwestern (Tex.)

14. Chapman (Calif.) 8-0 540 16 D. Clare.-Mudd-Scripps (Calif.), 41-17 Nov. 16 at La Verne

15. Case Western Reserve (Ohio) 9-0 536 15 D. Waynesburg (Pa.), 27-24 Nov. 16 at Carnegie Mellon (Pa.)

16. Union (N.Y.) 9-0 485 17 D. Utica (N.Y.), 13-7 Nov. 16 vs. Rensselaer (N.Y.)

17. Linfield (Ore.) 7-1 438 18 D. Whitworth (Wash.), 38-31 Nov. 16 vs. George Fox (Ore.)

18. Susquehanna (Pa.) 8-1 376 19t D. McDaniel (Md.), 49-7 Nov. 16 at Juniata (Pa.)

19. Wartburg (Iowa) 8-1 350 7 Lost to Central (Iowa), 57-56 OT Nov. 16 vs. Loras (Iowa)

20. Berry (Ga.) 8-1 310 21 D. Centre (Ky.), 45-22 Nov. 16 vs. Austin College

21. St. Thomas (Minn.) 7-2 305 22 D. Gust. Adolph. (Minn.), 57-36 Nov. 16 vs. No. 10 Bethel

22. Bridgewater (Va.) 9-0 256 23 D. Randolph-Macon (Va.), 28-21 Nov. 16 vs. Guilford (N.C.)

23. Redlands (Calif.) 8-1 196 24 D. Whittier (Calif.), 45-10 Nov. 16 at Occidental (Calif.)

24. Central 8-1 153 NR D. No. 7 Wartburg (Iowa), 57-56 OT Nov. 16 at Coe (Iowa)

25. Brockport (N.Y.) 8-1 145 25 D. Alfred (N.Y.), 16-7 Nov. 16 at Morrisville St. (N.Y.)

Dropped out: Ithaca (N.Y.) (19t)

Others receiving votes: Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 78; Cortland (N.Y.), 67; Wisconsin-Platteville, 55; Wisconsin-La Crosse, 27; Hope (Mich.), 21; Texas Lutheran, 17; Hanover (Ind.), 16; Middlebury (Vt.), 15; Martin Luther (Minn.), 8; Whitworth (Wash.), 5; Heidelberg (Ohio), 2; Hobart (N.Y.), 1; Trinity (Tex.), 1; Western New England (Mass.), 1.

NCAA Division III West Region rankings
1. Wis.-Whitewater 7-0

2. Wartburg 8-0
3. Chapman (Calif.) 7-0

4. Redlands (Calif.) 7-1

5. Saint John’s (Minn.) 7-1

6. Bethel (Minn.) 7-1

7. Linfield (Ore.) 6-1

8. Central 7-1

9. Wis.-Oshkosh 6-2

10. Martin Luther (Minn.) 7-1

American Rivers standings

Conf. Overall

W L W L

Central 6 1 8 1

Wartburg 6 1 8 1

Coe 5 2 6 3

Dubuque 5 2 6 3

Loras 4 3 5 4

Simpson 3 4 4 5

Luther 1 6 1 8

Nebraska Wesleyan 1 6 3 6

Buena Vista 1 7 3 7