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Coe's new heights

More news about: Coe
Trevor Heitland has found a new role this season under Coe's new head coach.
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After the top two rushers from 2015 graduated, the Coe coaching staff knew it needed to find a replacement.

It turns out, the back the Kohawks were looking for was already on the roster, working out with the wide receivers.

Trevor Heitland, who had previous experience as a high school running back, made the transition back to his natural position and has excelled. Through eight games, he leads all NCAA Division III rushers with 1,299 yards and Coe is unbeaten atop the IIAC standings.

“When he came to Coe, we started him out at receiver – kind of a slot receiver hybrid between slot and running back – and used him in different ways to create space and get him the ball in the open field. He’s great in space and really dynamic in those situations,” explained Tyler Staker, who is in his first year as head coach after serving as Coe’s offensive coordinator under his father, Steve Staker.

Identifying Heitland as one of the team’s biggest weapons, Staker and new offensive coordinator Myers Hendrickson discussed the best way to feature the 5-11, 196-pound athlete.

During spring practice, the coaches approached Heitland about moving to running back this season, and things took off from there.

Heitland said running back feels more natural for him, but he is the first to admit that running the ball at the collegiate level took some adjustment.

“From high school to college, it’s a whole different game – the speed’s a lot faster, the blocking is a little different. There was a little bit of a learning curve,” Heitland said.

“By the time the season started, we felt pretty good with what we had at running back. We knew he was going to be a really good player,” Staker recalled. “He had that explosiveness still, but was able to hit those holes in between the tackles. That was probably our biggest question mark, and he’s done it well this year.”

During Saturday’s 45-6 win over Luther, Heitland carried the ball 20 times for 152 yards and a touchdown, in addition to 20 yards receiving and another score.

“We’ve had pretty good success throughout the whole year,” Heitland said. “We have a pretty good offensive line that’s really experienced coming into this year, which makes a huge difference.”

Heitland, who has an effective spin move that makes it difficult for one defender to stop him, now has 200 carries this season for nearly 1,300 yards.

He has 14 touchdowns on the year, with 10 coming on the ground. Entering the 2016 season, he had eight career touchdowns that all came on passing plays.

“He was able to pick up on it really quickly. He’s a smart player. He’s always up watching film in his free time,” Staker said. “He’s definitely a student of the game. That makes a big difference when you’re put in a new position – that you’re putting in that extra film session time to prepare yourself.”

Staker has noticed Heitland’s patience improve throughout the season. The running back allows plays to develop and reads his blocks well.

“Sometimes you get those backs that are really fast, and they just want to hit everything a hundred miles an hour. He’s got great patience back there,” Staker said. “He lets blockers climb up to the second level and just hangs in there. He sees a crease, and he’s able to explode through and hit some big-gainers.”

Coe is unbeaten through eight games and leads the IIAC with a 6-0 mark.

The Kohawks set themselves apart from the rest of the league with consecutive wins over Wartburg, Central and Dubuque. They won the first two games by three points each.

“That definitely was a tough stretch,” Heitland said. “Those three teams are very good teams. Being able to play them back-to-back-to-back and come out successful is huge for the whole team’s confidence.”

“Those are definite confidence boosters,” Staker agreed. “Winning those close games like that and being in those situations, as player and coach, gives you confidence that if you’re in that situation again you have what it takes to win because you’ve done it.”

While the offense and the running game has found success, Staker is quick to point out the job the defense has done up front and in the secondary.

“Our defense has allowed us to do some of the things we want to do on offense,” the coach explained.

That combination of offense and defense, coupled with the right mindset, has proven successful for Coe.

“Our philosophy this whole season, and preseason, is taking one game at a time. That’s been our team motto, and it’s been working out well for us,” Heitland said.

“Hopefully, if everything goes right, we’ll make the playoffs,” he added. “And just like the season, we’ll take it one game at a time and try to make a run.”

Pattison remembered

Tom Pattison, a long-time radio broadcaster for UW-Whitewater and the creator of WarhawkFootball.com, died last week after a lengthy battle with cancer.

I got to know Tom and became friends with him after I began covering Division III football several years ago. I can say with supreme confidence that Tom was one of the best ambassadors D-III could have ever asked for.

Tom was always promoting Division III schools. It seemed like if a conversation about sports was taking place, he could always find a way to tie it to Division III athletics.

He was very devoted to UW-Whitewater and he brought great enthusiasm to the campus, especially on game day. I, like many others, found Tom's excitement contagious and enjoyed talking with him about upcoming games, playoff scenarios and anything else surrounding D-III football.

As his health declined, it was strange not sitting and chatting with him in the press box at Perkins Stadium, and I suspect it will continue to feel strange for a long time.

Everyone associated with D3football.com - players, coaches, fans, writers - has a passion for Division III athletics that they want to share with one another. But few possess the passion Tom had for our D-III world.

At Saturday’s homecoming game, UW-Whitewater paid tribute to Tom by placing a helmet on a wheelchair near the corner of the field – the same spot where Tom watched many games when his health prevented him from covering the games up in the booth.

It was a kind gesture and a great way to recognize a wonderful man.

St. Thomas reaches milestones

St. Thomas defeated Hamline, 71-20, at O’Shaughnessy Stadium to record the program’s 600th victory and give head coach Glenn Caruso his 100th career win.

Tucker Trettel rushed for a career-high 189 yards and three touchdowns and Alex Fenske passed for 148 yards and three scores. Defensively, Ryan Winter registered two of the Tommies’ eight quarterback sacks.

SCIAC showdown

Pomona-Pitzer and Redlands will square off Saturday with first place in the SCIAC on the line. Both teams enter the game 5-1 overall and 4-0 in conference play.

Pomona-Pitzer got a combined 221 rushing yards and four touchdowns from Aseal Birir and Kater Odermann in a 42-35 at Occidental Saturday. Edward Sias added 268 yards passing and two touchdowns. The Tigers’ Bryan Scott, who became the SCIAC’s career passing leader last week, threw for 174 yards in the loss.

Meanwhile, Alex Raya booted three field goals, helping Redlands race out to a 23-3 lead and eventually defeat Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 23-17. On defense, Joe Munroe recorded three of the Bulldogs’ six sacks and Trevor Raras recovered a fumble in the end zone.

Number of the week

61 – as in the number of consecutive winning seasons recorded by Linfield. The Wildcats defeated Whitworth, 45-31, in a battle of first place Northwest Conference foes as Sam Riddle threw five touchdown passes and ran for another TD. Reed Peterson caught five passes for 124 yards and a touchdown while Johnny Carroll hauled in three scoring receptions. At 5-1, the Wildcats are assured a winning season, something the program has accomplished every year since 1955. The winning season streak is the longest at all divisions of college football.

The rest of the West

Dylan Hecker rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns while Devon Linzenmeyer chipped in 123 rushing yards to help UW-Oshkosh grind out a 22-13 win over UW-Platteville. … Dubuque needed three overtimes to defeat Buena Vista, 45-37. Conor Feckley threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Schultz on the Spartan’s third OT possession then Derek Trotter intercepted a Cole Miller pass to seal the win. … St. John’s Ben Alvord tossed three touchdown passes while Nathan Brinker recorded a sack and recovered a fumble on defense as the Johnnies topped Gustavus Adolphus, 56-10. … Hans Fortune completed 46-of-65 passes for 562 yards and four touchdowns in Puget Sounds’ 39-28 win over Lewis and Clark. Brennan Schon, Steven Branham and Dustin Harrison all went over 100 yards receiving. … Chapman recorded eight sacks, including 3.5 from Ben Wadors. Wadors also forced a fumble and broke up two passes as the Panthers topped La Verne, 30-7. … Riley Gray tied a school record with five touchdown passes, helping Central defeat Wartburg, 51-37. Also in the win, Sam Markham became the Dutch’s all-time leading receiver, racking up 202 yards for a career total of 2,638. …  UW-Whitewater’s defense intercepted Kyle Larson three times and held UW-Stevens Point’s offense scoreless in a 24-2 victory. … George Fox got a go-ahead score from Grant Schroder with 6:45 to play, beating Pacific Lutheran, 22-18. Schroeder rushed for two touchdowns and passed for 141 yards in the win. … Chazz Middlebrook exploded for 276 yards rushing and four touchdowns to lead MacMurray past Iowa Wesleyan, 37-21. Middlebrook’s 1,206 rushing yards this season ranks third nationally in Division III. … UW-Eau Claire picked up its first conference win under Dan Larson, defeating UW-La Crosse 20-14. JT DenHartog was an efficient 10-of-13 passing, throwing one touchdown and running for another. … Caleb Frye threw three touchdown passes as Simpson shutout Loras, 30-0. … BJ Foster gained 122 yards on the ground and scored twice to power Northwestern (Minn.) to a 28-6 win at Westminster (Mo.). … Foorever Campbell gained 115 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries to lift Cal Lutheran to a 34-9 victory at Whittier. … Greenville got a five-touchdown performance from quarterback George Harris and defeated Martin Luther, 63-12. … St. Olaf wideout Jorgen Salveson caught seven passes for 127 yards while Connor Yahn and Connor Henderson each hauled in scoring receptions to help the Oles beat Carleton, 32-25. … Michael Diggins rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns as UW-River Falls took down UW-Stout, 50-28. … Minnesota-Morries generated seven takeaways and defeated St. Scholastica for the first time in seven tries. Evan Guffey scored three touchdowns in the 34-24 win. … Landon Moline returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown and Concordia-Moorhead went on to pick off three more passes in a 43-13 win at Augsburg. … Pacific’s Brandon Boyd carried the ball 12 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns, including a 73-yard scamper as the Boxers topped Willamette, 21-12. … Drew Barth completed 18 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns in Eureka’s 17-3 win at Crown.

Rank ‘em

Seven teams from the West region were ranked in this week’s Top 25.

UW-Whitewater, which received two first place votes, and St. Thomas, which received one, remained ranked Nos. 2 and 4, respectively. Likewise, UW-Oshkosh remained ranked No. 5 for another week.

Linfield moved up one spot to No. 7 while St. John’s jumped two spots to No. 8.

UW-Platteville slid four spots to No. 11 in this week’s poll, and Coe climbed one spot to No. 18.

Whitworth (8), UW-La Crosse (7), Concordia-Moorhead (6) and Dubuque (5) received votes in this week’s poll.

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.

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