The Dutch found a way.
As 25-mph winds whipped through Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium Saturday, the Central College football team felt like it was bucking headwinds most of the way, but the Dutch overcame a 30-14 deficit to escape Buena Vista 33-30. Freshman Kevin Sheldon (West Des Moines, Valley HS) delivered the gamewinner, a 19-yard field goal with 2:21 left.
Down 30-20 at intermission, Central (4-2 overall, 3-1 Iowa Conference) pitched a shutout the second half, giving the offense enough time to grind out 13 fourth-quarter points for the win. The Dutch pounded out 318 rushing yards, outgaining Buena Vista 425 yards to 278 overall.
"I'm extremely happy with our football team," coach Jeff McMartin said. "I'm very proud of the effort our players gave in the second half."
In the first half, Buena Vista (1-4 overall, 1-2 conference) jumped on every Central mistake and had an answer for every Dutch offensive assault. The Beavers set the tone in the first quarter when they were going against the stiff wind yet were in command, controlling the ball for 12:19 of the 15 minutes. They used an interception to set up a touchdown for a 7-0 lead.
A frenzied second quarter followed, with the teams erupting for a combined 43 points. A fumbled kickoff following the BV score set up a 35-yard Gunnar Wyatt field goal, then the Beavers blocked a Dutch punt and recovered a subsequent fumble in the end zone. Suddenly it was 16-0.
Running back Josh Osborn (freshman, Burlington) jump-started the Central offense with a dazzling 54-yard TD run to make it 16-7. But Buena Vista needed just five plays to strike back as Logan Lehrkamp caught a 54-yard scoring strike from freshman quarterback Bobby Brown.
Dutch quarterback Nate Snead (senior, Altoona, Southeast Polk) completed a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a 4-yard scoring run, but again BV had the quick answer. The Beavers needed just two plays to move 67 yards as Dylan Barrett scored from 28 yards out.
Then it was Central's turn. Just 30 seconds later, Snead broke free for a career-long 73-yard touchdown run and it was 30-20 at intermission.
But after running wild in the second quarter, Buena Vista was limited to 25 yards in the third quarter and two of the Beavers four possessions in the period resulted in negative yardage. BV could muster just 60 yards for the half.
"What a huge defensive stand we had on every level in the second half," McMartin said. "Buena Vista had the wind in the third quarter and that was a chance for them to get a score or two on the board and to really put the game away. We didn't allow that to happen. That got us a lot of momentum in the fourth quarter when we had the wind at our back."
The defense was spearheaded by a career-best effort from linebacker Seth Carson (junior, Woodridge, Ill., Downers Grove South HS) who had 11 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, and two interceptions.
Carson's second pick set up a career-long 40-yard field goal by Sheldon with 12:56 left in the game. Then S-back Preston West (senior, Swisher, Cedar Rapids Prairie HS) barreled a career-long 36 yards for the tying score with 9:37 remaining.
Central quickly regained possession and powered its way to the Buena Vista 2-yard line, setting up Sheldon's winning boot.
"That field goal he made came at one of the toughest angles you can have," McMartin said. "That close and on a hash (mark) and he nailed it. Kevin's been rock solid all year and I want to give him and (kicking coach Darrell) Brand a lot of credit."
McMartin said the second-half turnaround had little to do with strategy.
"The second half was really about heart and it was about mental toughness," he said. "For all the things that got thrown at us, the things we weren't able to capitalize on and the things we did poorly, to be able to block that out and focus on just playing the next play and coming out and giving a great effort shows a lot about this team's character."
Buena Vista paid heavy attention to Snead but he still managed to rush for a game-high 116 yards and two scores. He also completed 10 of 17 passes for 107 yards with two interceptions. West rushed for a career-best 86 yards on nine carries, Osborn gained 73 yards on seven attempts and running back Ross Doehrmann (junior, Williamsburg) gained 53 yards on 13 tries.
Jeremy Snead (senior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) was the game's top receiver with five catches for 57 yards.
Linebacker Ryan Steinkamp (senior, Carroll, Kuemper Catholic HS) followed Carson on the tackle charts with nine stops while defensive back Jack Shipley (sophomore, Tipton) and linebacker Keith Rush (junior, Griswold) both had six tackles.
Central is on the road for three of its final four games, starting with next Saturday's contest with Loras College at Dubuque. Like Buena Vista, the Duhawks will be facing Central coming off a bye week. They're 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the league.