Cal Lu, St. Olaf comeback kings

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Cal Lutheran came out a little flat, but with splendid vistas surrounding them in their new stadium.
Photo by Joe Bergman for d3photography.com 

Cal Lutheran almost let the glitz and glamor of a new William Rolland Stadium and SCIAC rival Redlands get to them.

"We practiced for the first time in the stadium on Thursday," Kingsmen coach Ben McEnroe said. "They were kind of wide-eyed. There were a lot of distractions just in the facility. We didn't practice well, I told the coaches, I told my wife that 'We're so enamored by the new facility.’ "

McEnroe said Friday wasn't any better at practice. It showed up in the first half Saturday as they saw themselves trailing 24-0. "All credit goes to Redlands; they came out, punched us square in the eyes and played that game well," McEnroe said.  "We came out and they got after us."

Eventually, a halftime speech by a friend of McEnroe's with the gist being 'How do you eat an elephant?' One bite at a time.

The second half was a feast for the Kingsmen.

"After halftime, we tried to focus on play by play, first down by first down, touchdown by touchdown," said Kingsmen wide receiver Eric Rogers, who caught six passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. "Players executed what our coaches planned due to our adjustments.”

On the first drive of the third quarter, Cal Lutheran put together a 10-play, 61-yard drive capped by a 2-yard touchdown by Daniel Mosier.

The Kingsmen's big surge came in the final quarter when it scored three times, the final time coming on a 1-yard run by quarterback Jake Laudenslayer with just 16 ticks remaining. Cal Lutheran started the final drive at its own 2 with 3:02 left in the fourth and no timeouts.

"At first we trying to get close to field goal range, then we kept making plays to get closer," Rogers said. "It was kind of surreal, kind of a like a Hollywood movie. It was incredible."

Even when it seemed bleak for the Kingsmen.

"Given the circumstances, this just builds our character," Rogers said. "We didn't give up on each other, we just kept getting done."

Even if it was only one half. "Once we put a full game together we're going to be scary good on both sides of the ball," Rogers said.

Cal Lutheran (2-1, 1-0 SCIAC) moves on to host Whittier Saturday.

Another epic second half rally

St. Olaf coach Jerry Olszewski had a similar situation that his good friend McEnroe faced and also came out victorious. The Oles trailed 28-10 in the second half at then-No. 5 Bethel on Saturday afternoon with 13:36 left in the game.

"They’re the No. 1 defense in Division III," Olszewski said. "It's not where I would've wrote the script."

Even with the improbable odds, the Oles were calm, cool and collected when in the huddle.

"There was no panic, it was 'Let’s go to work,' " Olszewski said. "I was real proud of their maturity at that moment. They just stood up and got the job done."

St. Olaf cut the deficit to 28-17 with a seven-play, 56-yard drive capped by a 2-yard touchdown pass by Dan Dobson to Steven Asp. Then after a defensive stop the momentum started to turn the way of the Oles. St. Olaf got a quick four-play, 95-yard touchdown drive with the huge play coming on an 82-yard score from Dobson to Jake Schmiesing. Then the final drive started at the 3:08 mark on the Royals' 35. Dobson was near-flawless as he completed five of  six passes for 57 yards and capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge with only 25 seconds left. It was his fourth touchdown of the day (two rushing, two passing).

"Dobson played lights-out and kept making big plays and getting big chunks of yards," Olszewski said. "(Also) the o-line didn't give up a sack, they did a nice job protecting Dan."

With the win, the Oles are now in position to compete for a playoff spot. Two weeks ago that wasn't the case as St. Olaf was destroyed 49-14 by No. 3 St. Thomas.

"Every team's goal is to make the playoffs," Olszewski  said. "We have more specific goals, right now we're on track with our goals. Any team can beat every body on Saturday."

As the Oles proved that, it was just the second time in 20 years and first time in six years that St. Olaf topped Bethel.

"It was a great program win," Olsewski said. "I'm so happy for the alumni. We've been so close years back, it's a great moment for our college."

Dubuque set for showdown with Wartburg

Dubuque coach Stan Zweifel had a good feeling that his Spartans were going to be an explosive team on offense. While he was right about that, he couldn't imagine his team having such a solid defense. The combination of the two has lifted the Spartans to a 5-0 overall mark, and top in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a 3-0 mark.

"We did expect to have a really good football team," Zweifel said. "The offense is about as good as I thought it would be. Surprisingly, the defense has played so well and has been so opportunistic. They do a great job of rallying to football. They pursue so well, they're very, very intense."

Dubuque will put its flawless mark on the line against defending conference champion and No. 20 Wartburg Saturday. The Knights are (4-1, 2-1)

"I expect their best game from them," Zweifel said. "For them this is a game they must win if they want to be able to have any self control of their destiny. A big game in this stage of the year."

The Spartans have been led by the play of quarterback Wyatt Hanus. Hanus has thrown for 1,483 yards and 18 touchdown and has been intercepted only four times.

"I've got good players surrounding me, senior players that have been in the program, who guide some of the younger guys and help out," Hanus said. The Spartans’ biggest weapon has been Michael Zweifel, who has 60 catches for 894 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also plays in the secondary and has a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Dubuque is balanced as Justin Spaulding has rushed for 553 yards and seven touchdowns.

Even though this is unfamiliar territory for Dubuque, the program is well aware of what is at stake.

"We're playing a game to have to be a chance to be a conference championship contending team," Coach Zweifel said. "It's a chance to control our own destiny.We're excited about that."

Behind the Number

63: Points scored by No. 3 St. Thomas as the Tommies manhandled their archrival St. John’s on Saturday. The 56-point loss was the worst defeat at St. John’s for iconic coach John Gagliardi.

Josh Smith photo

Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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