PELLA — Eleven new starters will help the Central College football team open the season against a veteran Univ. of Wis.-Oshkosh squad Saturday, yet the Dutch will field a senior-dominated lineup.
Game time is 1 p.m. at J.J. Keller Field in Titan Stadium at Oshkosh, Wis.
On the air, on the Web—Trevor Castle will call the play-by-play of Saturday's game on KRLS-FM (92.1) and the broadcast can also be accessed through Central's website at www.central.edu/athletics or through www.kniakrls.com. KRLS also airs the Coaches' Corner featuring Dutch coach Jeff McMartin at Applebee's restaurant in Pella each Monday night at 7 p.m.
The coaches—Dutch coach Jeff McMartin enters his eighth year with a 61-15 record (.802) with four league titles and four NCAA Division III playoff berths in his first seven seasons.
Pat Cerroni joined the Wis.-Oshkosh staff as an assistant in 2000 and is entering his fifth year as head coach, compiling a 19-20 record.
Senior starters—Central's season-opening projected starting lineup features 17 seniors, four juniors and just one sophomore, although that mix certainly could change as the season progresses and younger players make strides.
Central has six returning players who have all-conference distinction. Quarterback Nate Snead (senior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) and his younger brother, wide receiver Jeremy Snead (senior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS), are two-time first-team honorees. Wide receiver Mike Furlong (senior, Davenport, Assumption HS) was a first-team pick as a return specialist and free safety Jake Petersen (senior, Gladbrook, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) was a first-team defensive back. Another defensive back, Ryan Schmidt (senior, Keswick, Tri-County HS), was a second-team choice. Wide receiver Brett Wilkin (senior, Pleasant Hill, Southeast Polk HS) was also an all-league pick in 2009 as a return specialist, but will miss Saturday's game due to injury.
The Titans--Experience will be useful on the longest road trip of the season. Central outlasted the Wis.-Oshkosh 34-28 in last year's opener at Pella, which was the schools' first meeting ever in football. But the Titans return 15 starters, including eight on defense. The one who made the biggest impression at Pella was quarterback Nate Wara, now a junior. Wara completed 17 of 24 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. He was sacked three times but still managed to gain a net 50 yards rushing with one score. For the season, Wara passed for 2,155 yards while rushing for 555 yards with a combined 27 touchdowns. Senior Garrie Fox also returns after leading the team with 716 receiving yards and nine TDs. Wara and Fox each earned all-conference honors, as did defensive lineman Vince Sciano.
"They've got a good quarterback, a lot of returning starters and a lot of depth," McMartin said. "They're very well-coached. (Cerroni) was a very successful coordinator and is a good head coach.
"They've got talent all over the field. Defensively, they mix it up up front and show you a lot of different coverages. They've got some great athletes, which makes it tougher. Offensively, they run everything under the sun. It's a fun offense to watch on film, but it's not a fun offense to defend. You've got to know the formations and be very disciplined. It's a lot like playing an option team. Everybody has a job to do and you've got to stay focused on that job."
Preseason picks--The Titans were 4-6 last year but were among those teams receiving votes in this year's D3football.com preseason poll. They're picked to finish fourth in the powerful Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (WIAC).
Meanwhile Central also received votes in the D3football.com poll and is tabbed for third place in the Iowa Conference. The Dutch have captured a record 30 league titles, most recently in 2009, before taking third a year ago.
Promising start—McMartin said the preseason went well.
"The guys did a nice job of being good teammates to each other," he said. "We're getting good leadership out of the senior class. They've worked hard and learned a lot about accountability and teamwork. Good things can come out of that."
Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage was encouraging, particularly for a rebuilt defensive unit that lost six starters.
"The defense looked very good," McMartin said. "That's somewhat normal. You'd hope the defense would be a little ahead of the offense at this point. Ultimately you want to have both sides executing well and, at times, they did. But we've still got a lot of work to do."
Opening obstacles—It's a demanding pre-conference slate for the Dutch. Following the lengthy trek to Wis.-Oshkosh, Central returns home to tackle perennial NCAA playoff contender Augustana (Ill.). Don't expect any sympathy from Wis.-Oshkosh. The Titans must journey to Alliance, Ohio next week to take on No. 2-rated powerhouse Mount Union. And two-time defending Division III champion Wis.-Whitewater is the Wis.-Oshkosh homecoming foe Oct. 22.
Notes-- Central has a 5-4 record against WIAC schools. Seven of those nine games were post-season contests… It's Central's third straight season opener against a WIAC foe. The Dutch opened 2009 with a wild 22-21 decision over Wis.-Stevens Point, rallying from an 11-point deficit in the final six minutes. The Dutch have won their last six season openers and 11 of their last 13…McMartin is 6-1 in season-opening games…Four of Central's next five games are at home…At Central's home opener Sept. 10, the Dutch are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Central coaching debut of hall of famer Ron Schipper. "A Half-Century of Winners" features former players from the past 50 years, which is how long it's been since the Dutch have had a losing campaign…Central was rated No. 15 in Lindy's preseason Division III top 25.
2011 Central College football schedule
Sept. 3 Wis.-Oshkosh Oshkosh, Wis. 1 p.m.
Sept. 10 Augustana (Ill.) Pella 1 p.m.
Sept. 17 Luther Pella 1 p.m.
Sept. 24 Dubuque Dubuque 1 p.m.
Oct. 1 Coe Pella 1 p.m.
Oct. 8 Buena Vista Pella 1 p.m.
Oct. 15 Loras Dubuque 1 p.m.
Oct. 22 Cornell Pella 1 p.m.
Oct. 29 Wartburg Waverly 1 p.m.
Nov. 12 Simpson Indianola 1 p.m.
QB 6 Nate Snead (sr., 6-2, 225)
RB 34 Ross Doehermann (jr., 6-0, 200)
SB 41 Preston West (sr., 5-8, 230)
TE 22 Cory Nikkel (sr., 6-1, 220)
WR 3 Jeremy Snead (sr., 6-3, 230)
WR 11 Mike Furlong (sr., 6-0, 190)
LT 61 Garret Albers (sr., 6-2, 250)
LG 56 Colton Smith (sr., 5-11, 255)
C 68 Casey Tanner (sr., 6-2, 270)
RG 60 Nate Rouse (sr., 6-1, 290)
RT 62 Nathan Wolff (sr., 6-5, 270)
DE 30 Holden Blythe (sr., 6-3, 220)
NG 94 Brady Hill (sr., 6-2, 250)
DT 14 Danny Samson (so., 5-11,250)
DE 9 Brady Wilson (sr., 6-2, 230)
LB 23 Seth Carson (jr., 6-0, 230)
LB 42 Ryan Steinkamp (sr., 5-11, 215)
LB 48 Keith Rush (jr., 5-10, 185)
CB 20 Jason Breon (jr., 5-11, 165)
CB 1 Adam Petz (sr., 6-0, 190)
SS 28 Ryan Schmidt (sr., 5-10, 180)
FS 4 Jake Petersen (sr., 5-10, 195)
Kickoff: 16 Kevin Sheldon (fr., 5-11, 165)
PAT/FG: 16 Kevin Sheldon (fr., 5-11, 165)
Holder: 11 Mike Furlong (sr., 6-0, 190)
Punter: 24 Preston Roberts (sr., 6-2, 210) or 2 Blaine Forsythe (fr., 6-2, 195)
Punt return: 11 Mike Furlong (sr., 6-0, 190)
Kickoff return: 11 Mike Furlong (sr., 6-0, 190) or 27 Josh Osborn (fr., 5-10, 190)
Punt snapper: 18 Mike Young (so., 5-11, 185) or 92 David Young (sr., 6-2, 220)
PAT/FG snapper: 72 Adam Dubois (sr., 6-2, 270)