Super sophomore

More news about: Westminster (Mo.)
In Kickoff this summer, we wrote of Latif Adams. 'He'll get challenged with a lot of carries this year, to the tune of 25 carries if possible.' He's lived up to the challenge.
Westminster athletics photo by Kylie Huck

The Westminster (Mo.) football team has relied heavily on Latif Adams to carry the offense. And the sophomore running back hasn’t let the Blue Jays down this season.

When Westminster’s starting quarterback Trent White was injured four weeks ago against Greenville, freshman Eain Roberts stepped into the starting lineup. To make Roberts’ transition smoother, coach John Welty knew they would need to lean on Adams.

Adams hasn’t disappointed this season. Rather he has overcome torn knee cartilage this summer and a broken thumb this season to rush for 1,006 yards – including a school record 270 yards in that win vs. Greenville.

“I think it helped that a lot of guys who came in this year, looked up to me. It made me take a leadership role and just push my team to be better,” said Adams, whose rushing total ranks third nationally among Division III athletes.

“He’s a great player. He was a very good player last year, (but) we played him sparingly just because he was a freshman and it’s a long season,” Welty said. “And he hit the ground running as a sophomore.”

The coach explained that Adams worked hard in the offseason and came into the season with more muscle, which has complemented his superb vision and deceptive speed.

“He moves the pile. If there’s not a hole there, he’ll move the pile,” Welty said. “He’s as physical of a running back as we’ve ever had here.”

“I feel like finishing runs has been a big part of the game-change for me,” Adams agreed.

Adams is currently playing with a glove cast to protect a sprained thumb, which also has a fracture.

“I get it padded up and taped before games,” the tailback explained. “It’s hard because I can only carry the ball with one hand.”

But overcoming an injury is nothing knew – witness the cartilage tear. He had surgery on July 13 and got back into game shape before the season began.

“For a few weeks, I couldn’t walk, and after that I could start to gain strength a little bit,” he said. “I went to a lot of rehab with my trainer here.”

Adams has carried the ball 137 times for 1,006 yards and 10 touchdowns, helping the Blue Jays build a 5-2 record overall and a 5-1 mark in UMAC play. However the running back was quick to point out that his job is significantly easier thanks to the efforts of the offensive line.

“Me and a lot of the O-line are members of the same fraternity, so we live together and we spend a lot of time together at practice and outside of practice,” Adams said. “Having a friendship off the field has helped work together on the field.”

“We’re as good as our O-line is,” Welty agreed. “It all starts with the guys up front.”

Following a 61-7 win over Martin Luther this week – during which Adams ran for 176 yards and a score – Westminster is tied with Northwestern (Minn.) for second place in the league standings and trails St. Scholastica by one game. Those teams are the Blue Jays’ next two opponents.

So despite suffering a 29-21 setback to Crown three weeks ago, a pair of wins could propel Westminster to the conference title as well as the program’s first NCAA Division III playoff appearance.

“We haven’t earned the right to talk about playing for a championship yet,” said Welty, whose team last won a league championship in 2005 when the Blue Jays claimed the South Division of the UMAC. “Right now, we’re in contention. We haven’t won anything.”

While there is still a lot of work to be done, Adams said he is proud of team for overcoming a number of challenges this year to compete well within the conference.

“I feel like we’ve been proving we can compete with those guys and I think we’re going to give them a shot,” Adams said, referring to the teams atop the UMAC.

“We’re excited to be in this place, and we’re just going to continue to keep working hard,” he continued. “We’re just going to keep working hard in practice, and try to buckle down and finish the season strong.”

Dubuque upsets Wartburg

Dubuque racked up 475 yards of offense and only allowed Wartburg to convert one third down conversion in a 45-13 IIAC win.

Maurece Herrion ran 31 times for 140 yards and four touchdowns while Rio Johnson threw for 280 yards and a score to pace the Spartans offense. The Dubuque defense came up big as well as Wartburg was just 1-of-11 on third down conversions. Malachi Ward capped the big day for the defense by returning a fumble for a touchdown.

The Knights, who had won 11 IIAC games in a row and back-to-back conference titles, entered the game ranked No. 8 nationally. Wartburg’s last conference loss took place on Nov. 2, 2013.

Dubuque has won four games in a row, after opening the season with non-conference losses to St. John’s and UW-Platteville. The Spartans are the only team unbeaten in IIAC play.

Number of the week

60 – as in the number of consecutive winning seasons posted by Linfield. The Wildcats scored 28 points in the third quarter en route to defeating Willamette, 49-7. The victory improves Linfield’s record to 5-0, which ensures the Wildcats will finish the regular season above .500 and extends the program’s streak of winning seasons to six decades. Linfield’s 60 years of winning football is a record that spans all divisions of NCAA football. The former record was 42 seasons, shared by Harvard (1881-1923) and Notre Dame (1889-1932) – and later matched by Central (1961-2002). Linfield broke the record in 1998 and has continued to build on it since. During its 60-year streak, Linfield has compiled a 475-109-10 record – good for a winning percentage of .808.  The Wildcats have won 30 outright conference titles during that time and shared seven other league championships.

The rest of the West

Nick Waldvogel caught eight passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. He was one of five different St. Thomas players to log a touchdown reception in St. Thomas’ 78-7 win over Hamline. … La Verne sits atop the SCIAC standings following a 44-3 win over Whittier. Travis Sparks-Jackson and Dallas Parent combined for 339 rushing yards and two touchdowns to help the Leopards improve to 3-0 in league play. La Verne finished 1-6 in the SCIAC last season. … Whitworth snapped a five-game losing streak to Pacific Lutheran with a 32-7 decision. Ian Kolste threw for 215 yards for the undefeated Pirates, who travel to unbeaten Linfield next. … UW-Oshkosh remained the only unbeaten team in the WIAC with a 21-10 win over UW-Stevens Point. After a scoreless first half, Jayden Essman threw two touchdown passes to help the Titans pull away. … Coy Dorothy scored on a 1-yard run with 2:25 to play and then completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Curry to rally MacMurray to a 27-24 win over Greenville. … Shane Pico’s 4-yard touchdown run served as the go-ahead points as Claremont-Mudd-Scripps topped Redlands, 25-23. It was the Stags first win over Redlands since 2003. … Loras topped Central, 55-48, behind 434 yards passing by Nolan Baumhover. In the loss, Sam Markham set a Central school record with 13 receptions, racking up 206 yards and three touchdowns on the day. … J.J. Strnad had touchdown runs of 3, 36, 73 and 40 yards in addition to a 16-yard touchdown reception, pacing St. Olaf to a 34-27 win over Carleton. Strnad finished the game with 226 rushing yards and 78 yards receiving. … Hank Kujack led UW-Stout with 319 yards and five touchdown passes in a 45-12 in at UW-Eau Claire. … Eureka blanked Iowa Wesleyan, 35-0. LeAnthony Reasnover had 145 yards rushing and three scores on offense while the Red Devils’ defense registered six sacks, three fumble recoveries and one interception. … Puget Sound aired out the ball as Hans Fortune completed 40-of-53 pass attempts for 575 yards and four touchdowns, guiding his squad to a win over George Fox, 43-35. … Occidental scored the final 22 points of the game, and the Tigers took their first lead of the game in the final minute of their 35-27 win over Chapman. … St. Scholastica answered a second-quarter Northwestern (Minn.) touchdown with two Dakota Paulson touchdown passes as the UMAC-leading Saints won, 13-7. … Jordan Ratliffe rushed for 130 yards in the first half before leaving with an injury, and UW-Whitewater pulled away from UW-La Crosse, 30-12. … Sam Sura racked up 201 yards and four touchdowns as St. John’s handed Gustavus Adolphus its first loss of the season, 49-27. … Cooper Nelson scored three times and gained 126 of Luther’s 395 rushing yards in a 41-34 win over Buena Vista. … Cal Lutheran scored 24 second-quarter points to build a 31-14 halftime advantage and went on to best Pomona-Pitzer, 47-27. Ricky Johnson caught a pair of touchdown passes from Adam Friederichsen in the victory. … UW-Platteville rolled to a 56-19 win at UW-River Falls and improved to 5-1 overall. … Michael Herzog completed three touchdown passes and Chad Johnson ran for three other scores during Concordia-Moorhead’s 56-24 triumph over Augsburg. … Nathan Suyematsu hauled in five catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns in Pacific’s 49-28 win at Lewis and Clark. … Jordan Beem carried 34 times for 193 yards a pair of scores in Simpson’s 18-15 win at Coe. … Minnesota-Morris rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Crown, 10-6. The Cougars’ defense registered six tackles for a loss and intercepted two passes.

Rank ‘em

Nine teams from the West Region were ranked in this week’s Top 25 poll.

For the second straight week, Linfield received six first place votes to earn the No. 2 ranking. UW-Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater remained ranked Nos. 5 and 6, respectively, and St. Thomas moved up two places to No. 7.

UW-Platteville and St. John’s climbed one spot each to Nos. 12 and 13, respectively. Concordia-Moorhead rose two places to No. 17.

Wartburg tumbled from No. 8 to No. 22 while Whitworth entered the rankings at No. 25.

Bethel (13), Dubuque (10) and Gustavus Adolphus (4) all received votes this week.

Be heard

Do you have a story idea for the Around the West column? Contact me about approaching milestones, broken records, breakout players or any other storylines in the Region. Or just drop me a note to let me know what you think of the column. All ideas and feedback are welcome. Email me at josh.smith@d3sports.com or follow me on Twitter @By_Josh_Smith.

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Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
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