Staggered by a record-setting 41-point first half and trailing Wis.-Oshkosh 47-0 in the third quarter, the Central College football team regained its footing with four touchdowns in the final 18 minutes but suffered a 47-28 season-opening setback Saturday.
A precision Wis.-Oshkosh offense engineered by veteran quarterback Nate Wara rolled up 644 yards and 33 first downs, the most ever allowed by a Central team in either category. The 41-0 halftime deficit was also the largest in school history.
"Wis.-Oshkosh executed extremely well," coach Jeff McMartin said. "They've got a very good scheme."
Wara passed for four touchdowns and ran for two more before taking a seat midway through the third quarter. Wara completed 24 of 34 passes for 275 yards and was also the game's leading rusher with 118 yards on 14 carries, including a 67-yard sprint.
"He's a really good quarterback," McMartin said. "He's got a lot of experience. He made a lot of good plays and they did a good job up front. Their tempo was good. There really wasn't a lot they did wrong offensively."
Titans running back Cole Myrha rushed for 104 yards on 37 attempts while Caleb Voss had eight pass receptions for 137 yards and two scores.
Meanwhile Wis.-Oshkosh limited Central to just two first-half first downs.
"Defensively they did a great job," McMartin said. "They really controlled the line of scrimmage. That makes it tough."
Central showed some life in the second half. Jack Flaherty (senior, Burlington) made his starting debut at quarterback and got the Dutch on the board with a pair of scoring drives. His 7-yard TD run completed a six-play, 62-yard march with 2:27 left in the third quarter. He then led Central 74 yards in eight plays, scoring from the 2.
The Dutch used three signal-callers in the game. Sophomore Aaron Eiseler (Mesa, Ariz., Red Mountain HS) followed Flaherty and also engineered two scoring drives. His 12-yard scamper completed a seven-play, 71-yard drive with 7:49 remaining and then drove 49 yards in seven plays as running back De'Andre Currie (junior, Phoenix, Ariz., Mountain Pointe HS) picked up a 2-yard score with 2:16 left.
"The players did a really good job of just coming out, focusing on one play at a time and continuing to play hard and try to get better," McMartin said. "That's what our focus became, just going play by play, work on getting better and getting more game experience. That's all you can do at that point.
"I thought they fought hard and they never quit."
Wis.-Oshkosh outgained the Dutch 644 yards to 386. Central had 137 yards rushing and 249 through the air.
Eiseler was Central's top rusher with 60 yards and a TD on 10 carries. He completed six of 12 passes for 123 yards with two interceptions. Flaherty was seven-of-11 for 119 yards and rushed five times for 27 yards. Brendon Boerm (freshman, Traer, North Tama HS) completed one of three throws for 7 yards.
Strong safety Jason Breon (senior, Anamosa) had 10 tackles and a forced fumble while linebacker Seth Carson (senior, Woodridge, Ill., Downers Grove South HS) had nine stops and cornerback Spencer Boeyink (sophomore, Pella) had eight.
The Dutch play their home opener next Saturday at 1 p.m. against Augustana College (Ill.) at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium. Central outlasted the Vikings 31-23 last year at Pella. Augie opened with a 39-21 loss at the University of Dubuque Saturday evening.