A pair of pivotal plays fueled a 17-point second quarter and the Central College football team overpowered Loras College 27-10 Saturday.
Three promising first-quarter drives resulted in just a 27-yard Kevin Sheldon (sophomore, West Des Moines, Valley HS) field goal. Sheldon connected on a 32-yard boot with 6:32 left in the second quarter and it was still just 6-3. But cornerback Spencer Boeyink (sophomore, Pella) blocked a punt that linebacker Jordan Wachter (sophomore, Clive, Waukee HS) recovered at the Loras 26-yard line. Five plays later, quarterback Aaron Eiseler (sophomore, Mesa, Ariz., Red Mountain HS) darted 6 yards to the end zone for Central's first TD.
A 47-yard kickoff return and a 32-yard run put Loras back in business but a fierce Central pass rush resulted in an errant pass that linebacker Luke Geneser (junior, Granger, Woodward-Granger HS) snagged at the 1-yard line and he wasn't chased down until he'd sprinted 88 yards to the Loras 11. It was Geneser's third interception in two games.
"Coach (Don) De Waard made a great call with a blitz," coach Jeff McMartin said. "The guys executed and really put pressure on them."
And with just 21 seconds left in the period, Eiseler hit Grant McArdle (senior, Red Oak, Stanton HS) for a 9-yard TD and a 20-3 halftime lead.
"The punt block and the interception turned the tide," coach McMartin said.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Dutch (4-4 overall, 3-2 Iowa Conference) finished their scoring as running back Ross Doehrmann (senior, Williamsburg) hurdled a Duhawk defender and raced 29 yards for a touchdown with 10:48 left in the game.
Loras got its lone TD with just 44 seconds remaining, an 11-yard Dylan Jones pass to Joe Walker.
McMartin said it was nice have a relatively stress-free fourth quarter.
"Once we got into the fourth quarter, we knew if we took care of the ball and played defense, we were going to win the football game," he said. "It's one of the few games we've had like that."
Central's offense was well-balanced with 230 yards rushing and 174 through the air. Eisler was 13-of-27 for 154 yards while Jack Flaherty (senior, Burlington) completed both his throws for 20 yards. Eiseler also ran for a career-high 68 yards on 11 carries while Doehrmann finished with a team-high 76 yards on 11 attempts. McArdle had four receptions for 79 yards.
"We were very balanced," McMartin said. "For us, balance is being able to both run and pass well, it's not necessarily the number of plays or yards being equal. And I thought we did that."
The Dutch outgained Loras 404 yards to 208. The Duhawks (2-6 overall, 1-5 conference) had 130 yards rushing and just 78 through the air, completing six of 16 passes with three interceptions. Running back Nate Carrier had a game-high 146 yards on 33 carries but Loras was hurt by two Dutch sacks.
Linebacker Mike Young (junior, Country Club Hills, Ill., Hillcrest HS) had a game-high 11 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Geneser had 10 stops with 1.5 for loss while free safety Jake Edelman (junior, Mechanicsville, North Cedar HS), strong safety Jacob Tune (sophomore, Mesa, Ariz., Red Mountain HS) and linebacker Seth Carson (senior, Woodridge, Ill., Downers Grove South HS) each had eight tackles. Edelman and freshman defensive back Bryan Mejia (Miami, Fla., Coral Gables HS) joined Geneser in making interceptions.
The schedule takes a difficult turn as the Dutch close the year by taking on traditional contenders Wartburg College and Coe College. Wartburg visits next Saturday for Central's 1 p.m. home finale at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium. The Knights (5-3 overall, 3-2 conference) were tripped by unbeaten Coe, 35-7 at Cedar Rapids Saturday. But they defeated Central at Waverly last year, 20-13.
While Central's ceiling for improvement remains high, McMartin likes what he's seeing from his players.
"We talk a lot about tradition at Central College," he said. "To us, that means playing hard, playing smart and playing as a team. That's Central football. We did a lot of those things today. I thought the guys gave a great effort, just as they have all year."