Finding the end zone early will be a point of emphasis Saturday as Central College treks to Decorah for an Iowa Conference football game at Luther College
Records—Central is 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the league. The Dutch erased a 23-0 deficit last Saturday but missed some scoring opportunities in the red zone, suffering a 30-25 setback to Buena Vista University.
Luther is searching for its first season win at 0-6 overall with a 0-3 conference mark. The Norse jumped to a 10-0 first-quarter lead last Saturday before Wartburg College took over for a 24-10 win.
The series—Central toppled the Norse last year, 37-9, with four touchdowns in a 13-minute span in the second half. The Dutch haven't lost to Luther since 2008 and hold a 50-22-1 lead in the all-time series, which began in 1928.
The Norse—Luther is averaging 186.5 yards a game passing and 123.2 yards rushing while giving up an average of 193.3 yards through the air and 178.2 yards on the ground. The squad's pass defense ranks second in the conference.
"Luther plays a lot of man-to-man," coach Jeff McMartin said. "They'll put pressure on you and they cover well and run well. You've got to be patient and take advantage of what they give you."
The Norse graduated all-America linebacker Kyle McGivney, but return seven starters on defense including two all-league picks from last year's 3-7 club. Senior linebacker Trent Kerrigan (5-10, 2-5) ranks second in the conference with 71 tackles. He's made 36 solo stops and two sacks.
Offensively, Luther has seven starters back. Senior quarterback Kody Moore (6-3, 235) has completed 103 of 186 passes for 1,103 yards with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
"He wasn't their starting quarterback last year, but he played against us," McMartin said. "He's a big kid who throws the ball well and moves around well in the pocket."
Moore's top targets are senior wide receiver Zach Jipp (6-0, 210) and junior receiver Matt Jaronik (5-11, 180). Jipp has 261 yards on 25 catches with one touchdown while Jaronik has 266 yards on 24 catches with two touchdowns. Senior backup Adam Bohr (6-1, 200) has racked up 308 yards on just 19 catches.
On the ground, senior running back Dan Ridenour (5-9, 200) has 76 carries for 352 yards with two touchdowns. He has the team's most all-purpose yards, averaging 82.5 a game.
"Luther has a lot of people back on offense," McMartin said. "They use them all in various positions and they do a nice job up front."
Senior placekicker Seth Streeter (5-11, 175) has connected on 4-of-5 field goals, which is second in the league behind Central's Kevin Sheldon (sophomore, West Des Moines, Valley HS), who is 6-for-7.
Slow out of the gate—Central is racking up points in the second half, outscoring opponents 102- 58, but the Dutch have struggled to get going early. Central has been held scoreless in the first quarter the past two weeks.
"Getting off to a quick start and getting some momentum will be important," McMartin said. "We've got to take advantage of opportunities and make plays."
The Dutch did generate some offensive numbers last Saturday, outgaining Buena Vista 444 yards to 352. Sophomore quarterback Aaron Eiseler (Mesa, Ariz., Red Mountain HS) came in after Central's second possession and completed a career-high 29 of 49 passes for 278 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown.
Central had a 166-34 rushing yardage advantage against the Beavers and running back Ross Doehrmann (senior, Williamsburg) tallied a season-high 79 yards on 13 carries.
Clean it up—McMartin has been talking about eliminating turnovers all year, and this week is no different. Central had two turnovers in the red zone at Buena Vista and has committed 17 for the year.
"Eliminating mistakes has been the focus of our team for a number of weeks now," McMartin said. "We need to get past those critical errors that are jumping up and getting us."
Central has scored on just six of 11 trips inside the red zone the past two weeks, but are 17-23 for the year (74 percent). The squad's opponents aren't much more efficient with 18 scores on 23 attempts (78 percent).
"When you get in the red zone you've got to get points on the board," McMartin said. "That's one of the things that really bit us last week. We've spent a lot of time on it in practice during the week and it's something we want to be good at."
They don't quit—McMartin is happy with the team's fight.
"The guys play hard and battle and we're pleased with their effort," he said. "They have an attitude to never quit, which is a good quality in football and in life."
Notes—Sophomore Jordan Wachter (sophomore, Clive, Waukee HS) slides into the starting linebacker slot, replacing an injured Andrew Weaks (senior, Fulton, Ill.)…Central's defeats to Simpson and Buena Vista are the program's first back-to-back losses since 2004…The Dutch completed 2 of 2 fourth-down conversions at Buena Vista and are leading the league at 9-13 (69.2 percent).