If the Central College football team is going to be a factor in what looks to be a wide-open Iowa Conference race, the Dutch will need to have some early success on the road, starting with a challenging trip to the University of Dubuque Saturday.
Central is 2-1 after wrapping up its non-conference slate by outscoring Albion (Mich.) Saturday, 31-6. Dubuque, which was off last weekend, is 1-2 following a demanding three-game stretch with perennially talented Wisconsin university foes. The Spartans whipped Wis.-La Crosse 35-24 before being held off by No. 9-rated Wis.-Platteville 38-24 and Wis.-Stevens Point 31-28.
Game time Saturday is 1 p.m. at Chalmers Field in the Chlapaty Outdoor Sports Complex in Dubuque.
On the air, on the Web—Veteran sportscaster Trevor Castle will call the play-by-play for the Dutch on KRLS-FM (92.1). The broadcast can also be accessed through Central's website atwww.central.edu/athletics or throughwww.kniakrls.com.
Meet Coach McMartin— KRLS radio also airs the Coaches' Corner featuring Dutch coach Jeff McMartin at Applebee's restaurant in Pella each Monday night at 7 p.m. The show can be accessed online, either live or via podcast.
Meanwhile, the Central College Coaches' Chalk Talk will convene again Thursday at noon in the Central Market on campus. McMartin and the rest of Central's fall sports head coaches will provide updates on their squads and answer questions from fans. There is no charge for attendance and fans may purchase lunch through Central's Dining Services if they wish. The event will also be staged for fall sports Oct. 24 and Nov. 7.
The series—Central pulled out a 31-24 win over Dubuque at Pella last year, but the last Dutch visit to Dubuque in 2011 resulted in a 56-28 Spartans conquest. Central holds a 55-16-2 advantage in the all-time series.
The Spartans—Dubuque has been fueled by a high-octane offense in recent years and the formula has not changed in 2013. Quarterback Bryan Bradshaw transferred to Dubuque for his final season after two years as a starter at Division II Winona State (Minn.). He leads the conference in passing, averaging 306.3 yards per game. He's completed 70 of 126 passes for 919 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions.
"He's really helped," McMartin said. "He throws a really good ball."
Senior wide receiver Sean Anderson shares the league receptions lead with 21 for 206 yards while junior Tyler Rutenbeck is third with 20 catches for a league-leading 407 yards and six touchdowns. Running back Kyle Acker has gained 193 yards on 56 carries with one TD. The Spartans have scored touchdowns on all eight of their trips inside the Red Zone.
"They're experienced everywhere on offense," McMartin said. "They've got two explosive wide receivers and they're throwing it about 70 percent of the time."
But the Spartans are effective on the ground as well.
"They like to run zone plays," McMartin said. "We'll have to be ready for a lot of misdirection, counters and boots."
Sophomore linebacker Blaine Snitker is fifth in the league in tackles with 28. Sophomore defensive lineman Andrew Mariotti has two sacks while lightning-quick junior free safety Darren Myles has two pass breakups and an interception. Myles was recruited to the University of Tennessee by then-coach Lane Kiffin but left Rocky Top in 2010 for Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College before joining the Spartans this fall.
"Their defense is moving around more," McMartin said. "They are putting more pressure on you. They've got good defensive backs and linebackers and their front is very big. It will be a great challenge."
Taking the road—Central must open the league season with two road games, following Saturday's trip with a trek to Simpson College Oct. 12. Blocking out distractions is crucial away from home, McMartin said.
"You have to be a very focused team," he said. "You have to do things right. Taking care of the ball is very important and you have to be ready to battle. It's a great challenge."
Familiar foes—Conference opponents arrive well-prepared, McMartin said, and offenses like Dubuque's know how to exploit weaknesses.
"You have to be sound, keep making plays and not get out of position," he said. "Offenses have a lot of advantages in college football. There are going to be things that happen to you. How we handle people up front and how we cover people are going to be instrumental in whether or not we're successful."
Varied attack—McMartin likes the balance the Dutch offense is displaying in the early going. Running back Josh Osborn (junior, Burlington) has taken over the league rushing lead after his 192-yard outburst against Albion Saturday. He's averaging 108.7 yards per game and 5.4 per carry in three games. Meanwhile quarterback Aaron Eiseler (junior, Newberg, Ore., Red Mountain, Ariz. HS) has completed 50 of 80 passes (.625) for 505 yards with four interceptions and seven touchdowns.
"It's kind of a work in progress," McMartin said. "But we're playing as a team. We've got a lot of different people touching the football and a lot of people are contributing. We don't have a favorite receiver or a guy who's always going to get the ball. We're doing a good job of just throwing to the guy who is open and making teams defend the whole field."
By the numbers—Central is ninth in Division III in 3rd-down conversion percentage on defense (.214), 14th in interceptions (7) and 27th in tackles for loss (14). Individually, cornerback Eric Larson (junior, Waverly, Waverly-Shell Rock HS) is fourth in passes defended with a league-leading 2.7 per game and kicker Kevin Sheldon (junior, West Des Moines, Valley HS) is 16th in field goals per game (1.3). Sheldon also leads the league in scoring with 23 points. Blaine Forsythe (junior, Pella) is the top punter, averaging 38.6 yards. Linebacker Keith Rush (senior, Griswold) is the conference sacks leader with three, one better than lineman Danny Samson (senior, Baxter, CMB HS). Samson is tops in tackles for loss (6.5). Mitch Schroeder (junior, Lowden, North Cedar HS) is fourth in tackles (9.7).