After injury, Brooks stronger than ever for Heidelberg

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Cartel Brooks is on track to break Heidelberg's career touchdown record.
Kyle Youngblood, Heidelberg athletics

If there are any doubts about the determination level of Cartel Brooks’ will to win, any doubts about how bright his competitive fire burns, they are put to rest quickly when you take the following into consideration.

Heidelberg's star running back was on the sidelines of the Student Princes' playoff opener last November because of an ankle injury. It was an injury so bad that when he hurt it two weeks earlier, the ligament was pulled so hard it ripped the bone off the ankle.

Yet, Brooks, nowhere near 100 percent healthy, couldn't stand to watch as Heidelberg's once-commanding 22-point lead slipped away like those last days of summer break.

The junior star wanted to be on the field. He wanted to do anything he could to help his team save its season.

Brooks finally got his chance, but it didn't help. He carried the ball three times and finished with no yards. The injury was too much to overcome, and Heidelberg, which led 31-13 at the half, would ultimately fall 52-38 to Wittenberg at Frost Kalnow Stadium in Tiffin.

"I was so mad because of the way the game was going that I asked my coach if I could go in," Brooks said. "I only carried it three times. I couldn't do anything. It was tough. We had worked so hard to get there, and it was hard not being able to help my team."

Brooks is back, and judging by the way he ran the football in Heidelberg's 52-7 drubbing of Alma in the season opener Saturday afternoon, he is as strong as ever. He carried the ball 10 times for 104 yards and rushed for a pair of touchdowns.

"I was ready to play. Our whole team was ready," Brooks said. "We worked hard in practice the last few weeks to get ready, and we went out and played a good game. I was excited to be on the field again. I felt strong, the offensive line did a great job blocking and thought I ran the ball well."

A year ago, Brooks gave opposing defenses all sorts of problems, shredding them to the tune of 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns as the Student Princes fashioned a 9-2 season and reached the playoffs for the first time since 1972.

Brooks now has 25 career touchdowns and is on pace to break the school record of 40, which was set by Paul Yackey in 1952.

But before going forward with Brooks’ story, it's only appropriate to look back at an injury that took away his opportunity to shine when Heidelberg could have used
him most. Brooks was off and running in a game against John Carroll on Nov. 3, rushing for 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

But his fate would quickly change when his ankle was rolled by a defensive lineman. Something had gone wrong, and Heidelberg would be forced to go forward without their top threat in the backfield.

"It was very tough to deal with the injury because we were having such a great season," Brooks said. "But I worked hard in the offseason to get stronger all the way around, and I feel like I was able to get faster, too. I feel like I'm back to 100 percent."

Brooks said when he is on the field, he will hit the hole hard if he has an opportunity but prefers to dash to the outside and take off from there.  His method of attack has worked pretty well. Last season, he lost only 48 total yards. He lost only one yard in the win over Alma on Saturday.

"I'll go to the outside more than anything," Brooks said. "I know if I get to the outside and get past the line of scrimmage, things usually look pretty open for me because my blockers do a great job. I always try to run as hard as I can and make as many big plays as I can."

Brooks certainly has the speed factor on his side. After all, he played basketball and track in high school, and even ran track for Heidelberg two years ago. Brooks, who is a sprinter and long jumper, said he is considering going out for track again this year. He didn't compete last season because of his injury.

For now, his focus is on the football season. Heidelberg came within a game of winning an OAC championship. The Student Princes finished second in the standings at 9-1 as it lost 33-14 to Mount Union, which went on to win the national title.

"We definitely want to compete for the championship again and be in a position to get back to the playoffs," Brooks said. "We have high goals for our team, but we know the only game that matters right now is Ohio Northern next week. We have to focus on one game at a time."

In the Poll

The Vince Kehres era at Mount Union nearly ended in disappointment, but the top-ranked Purple Raiders, who got all they could handle from No. 19 Franklin, survived with a 30-27 victory at Mount Union Stadium on Saturday.

The defending national champions won their 26th consecutive season opener on a day Kehres was taking over for his father, Larry, who retired in the spring. The Purple Raiders have won 74 consecutive games in the regular season and 68 straight at home.

Kevin Burke threw for 266 yards and also rushed for 72 yards while Jack Nicholls caught eight passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.

Mount Union led 20-0 at halftime and hung on in the second half. It rolled up 424 yards while holding Franklin to 281 yards. Ted Rosalva racked up five tackles and two sacks to pace the defense. Isaiah Chambers and Alex Kocheff finished with five tackles apiece as well.

It was a tough season opener for No. 10 Wittenberg, which went on the road to play FCS school Butler on Saturday night in Indianapolis. The Tigers fell behind 14-3 early, gave up 28 points in the second quarter and lost 49-24.

Reed Florence threw for 298 yards and two touchdowns while running for a touchdown, and Brendon Cunningham came through with eight catches for 95 yards.

Wittenberg hurt its cause by turning the ball over four times but managed to roll up 416 yards of offense. Spencer Leno led the defense with nine tackles.

Coming off a trip to the NCAA playoffs, Heidelberg took its first step toward earning another postseason berth as it rocked Alma 52-7 at Mayer Field on Saturday. The 14th-ranked Student Princes scored four touchdowns in the opening quarter and never looked back.

Michael Mees was on point as he threw for 251 yards and a touchdown while Ryan Fischer broke loose for a 71-yard punt return for a score. Dan Kilger extended his streak of extra points to 98, the longest streak in college football, as he hit six on the day.

Adam Cepik racked up 11 tackles, and Will Nunnally added seven tackles. Heidelberg shredded Alma for 532 yards. The Student Princes allowed only 211 yards and turned the ball over just once in the win.

No. 23 Baldwin Wallace opens its season Saturday in a road game against Bluffton and No. 25 Wabash will play host to Hanover.

Inside the OAC

Ohio Northern attacked Alfred State in a lot of different ways in its 55-0 win on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium. Not only did the offense crank out 341 yards, but the Polar Bears scored on a punt return and returned two interceptions for touchdowns in their dominating season-opening win.

Ryan Malone broke free for a 61-yard punt return in the opening quarter, and Ryan Reid, who tallied three tackles and picked off two passes, returned an interception 35 yards for a score. Adam Best also had an interception in the opening half, taking his pick 38 yards to the end zone. Ohio Northern went into halftime with a 28-0 advantage.

The Polar Bears stifled Alfred State, limiting it to only 140 yards of offense, including just five yards through the air. William Bodden rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns to pace the Polar Bears' offense. Cody Cox stepped up on defense and came through with a team-best nine tackles.

Tom Arth made his debut as the head coach of John Carroll one to remember as the Blue Streaks crushed St. Norbert 41-0 on Saturday in a game played at Toyota Park in Chicago.

Mark Myers had a performance that will be talked about for years to come as he set a single-game record for passing yards, throwing for 526 on 26-of-41 passing. Myers threw four touchdown passes as well on a night when he broke his own record of 474 yards, which was set in October of 2012.

Aramis Greenwood benefitted from the stellar performance as he caught two scoring strikes. He finished with six catches for 160 yards while Marshall Howell made four catches for 147 yards and a touchdown.

The Blue Streaks, who rolled up 664 yards, were just as impressive on defense, limiting the Green Knights to 114 yards of offense. St. Norbert converted only once on third down.

Inside the MIAA

Darrin Williams turned out to be the hero for Albion in its season opener against Defiance on Saturday at Sprankle-Sprandel Stadium. Williams scored the go-ahead touchdown with eight minutes to go, and the defense did the rest as the Britons held on for a 32-29 victory.

It was the first ever night game at home for the Britons, who trailed 29-25 early in the fourth quarter. The Britons did allow 513 yards but the defense did produce two touchdowns. Chris Jakubik returned an interception 42 yards for a score in the second quarter and Mike Vandermus forced a fumble and ran 33 yards for the end zone in the third.

Williams scored twice for Albion in the win and carried the ball 16 times for 83 yards. Albion managed only 240 yards of offense and Vandermus tallied 10 tackles to go along with his fumble recovery for a touchdown. James Hartley racked up 11 tackles for the Britons.

Justin Danzy threw a 26-yard scoring strike to Josh Wise and the play proved to be the decisive one of the game as Kalamazoo survived a wild season-opening battle with Rose-Hulman with a 28-23 win on Saturday at Angell Field.

Danzy hooked up with Wise with 28 seconds left in the third quarter and finished his night with 279 yards through the air. His pass to Wise was his only touchdown toss of the game. Danzy, who finished with 50 rushing yards, also rushed for a score.

Wise caught 10 passes for 132 yards and the Hornets and Engineers combined to rack up 683 yards on 168 plays in a game played at a furious pace. Kalamazoo, which trailed 16-7 at halftime, tallied 366 yards of offense.

Blake Simon paced the defense with 14 tackles and a sack. Kalamazoo limited Rose-Hulman to only 87 rushing yards and forced two turnovers. Dylan Zerki tallied 11 tackles and Thomas Tabor finished with 10 tackles and two sacks.

Inside the PAC

Jensen Gebhardt made quite an impact in his first start of the season for Thomas More as he completed 11 of his 22 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the
Saints' 20-0 season-opening over Capital on Saturday in Columbus.

The sophomore hit Goose Cohorn on a 31-yard scoring strike to get the Saints on the board for the first time and he threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Vogelpohl in the second quarter as Thomas More dominated the Crusaders on the road. Cohorn caught four passes for 74 yards.

The Saints rolled up 379 yards, including 157 and a touchdown from Domonique Hayden, while holding the Crusaders to 190 yards. Erick Butler came through with 10 tackles to lead the Saints on defense. Nate Dorsey racked up nine tackles. The Saints forced one turnover.

Carter Hill is in his first full year as a starter for Waynesburg, and he delivered in crunch time Saturday, throwing a game-winning touchdown pass to Bernie Thompson in the Yellow Jackets' 21-17 win at home over Muskingum.

Hill found Thompson on a third-down play with 23 seconds left as Waynesburg sealed the deal on the victory. Hill was 19-of-34 for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He did not throw an interception and eight players caught at least one pass in the victory.

Waynesburg managed 298 yards compared to 396 for Muskingum but it got a big lift from Andrew English, who caught six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. The win was the 50th for head coach Rick Shepas in his career at Waynesburg.

Bryan Gary, coming off a season-ending injury in 2012, came through with 12 tackles while Logan McAnany racked up eight tackles.

Inside the NCAC

Behind a blistering start that featured touchdowns on its first three possessions, Kenyon nailed down a season-opening win on the road over Allegheny on Saturday.

The Lords led 14-0 at the end of one quarter and took a 22-0 lead into halftime. Jack Bates played a key role in the win as he threw for 153 yards and a touchdown.
Kenyon was tough to slow down on the ground as well as Brandon January churned out 143 yards to pace while Casey Beaudouin added 72 yards. January scored one touchdown.

Kenyon rolled up 439 yards of offense and converted on seven of its 14 third-down opportunities. Kolin Sullivan helped pace the defense as he came through with nine tackles. Reed Franklin racked up nine tackles as well.

The Lords held the Gators to 246 yards and forced three turnovers, including interceptions by Kye Duren and Alexander McQuiston.

Mason Espinosa started off his senior season at Ohio Wesleyan with a bang, throwing for 322 yards and a touchdown as the Bishops rolled to a 37-20 win over the Beavers.

Bluffton gave Ohio Wesleyan all it could handle early as the score was tied 10-10 at the end of one quarter. The Bishops took control with a 20-point second quarter behind rushing touchdowns from Calvin Cagney, Scott Jenkins and Kevin Herman. The Bishops led 30-13 at halftime. Jenkins carried the ball 17 times for 93 yards to pace the Bishops' running attack.

Rayce Risser led the way on defense with seven tackles while Johnathan Valentine came through with six tackles and three scks. Justin Segal also racked up six tackles.

Ohio Wesleyan finished with 521 yards and forced three turnovers. One of the biggest keys to its success was that it converted on all five of its chances in the red zone.

Quick Look at Tartans and Spartans

Despite rolling up 366 yards of offense, Carnegie Mellon was unable to open the season with a win, falling 28-10 to Grove City on the road Saturday.

Rob Kalkstein was 14-of-27 for 158 yards while Zach Cree, who is only a freshman, scored his first career touchdown, finding the end zone from six yards out in the fourth quarter.

Carnegie Mellon trailed 14-0 at halftime and was led on defense by Jack Butler, who came through with a career-high 11 tackles. Akwasi Brefo and Eric Rolfes finished with 10 tackles apiece for a defense that allowed 382 yards.

Four players scored and the defense came up with three turnovers as Case Western Reserve cruised to a 37-16 win over Marietta on Saturday at Case Field.
Kenny Riordan scored twice for the Spartans and rushed for 51 yards on 14 carries.  Manny Sicre and Ricky Hanzlik also scored rushing touchdowns while Erik Olson completed an 8-yard scoring strike to Ethan Albers.

The Spartans finished with 345 yards of offense while Everett Dishong and Gavin Sandidge fueled the stellar defensive effort, racking up 12 and 11 tackles, respectively. They helped the Spartans limit Marietta to 220 yards of offense. Their tackle totals were the best of their careers.


C.J. Snider gave a gutsy effort in Muskingum's gut-wrenching 21-17 loss to Waynesburg on Saturday. Snider, who helped the Muskies overcome a 14-0 deficit when he scored on a 66-yard run that nudged his team in front 17-14 with four minutes left, finished his night with 157 passing yards and 141 yards on the ground...Shawn Jackson moved up the career rushing chart at Hope on Saturday as he churned out 144 yards on 23 carries in the Flying Dutchmen's 41-21 win over North Park on the road. Hope trailed 14-3 at the end of one quarter. Jackson's longest run of the night covered 50 yards. He is now sixth all-time in rushing with 2,273 yards...Dion Wiegand scored two of the three touchdowns Washington and Jefferson put on the board in the opening eight minutes of a 58-21 win over Wooster at John P. Papp Stadium. Wiegand rushed for 128 yards and the 58 points was the most scored by the Presidents in an opener since putting up 63 in a win over Ursinus in 2002....Brandon Sklenar made quite a debut for Denison on Saturday night in his first career start at quarterback. Sklenar threw for 196 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 79 yards and a score as the Big Red rolled to a 51-28 season-opening win over Earlham.

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Joe Sager

Joe Sager is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh. He has written about sports since 1996 for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites. He first covered D-III football in 2000 with the New Castle (Pa.) News.

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