Three second-half picks preserve Central road win

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A big-play Central College defense delivered when it counted, preserving a 30-19 Iowa Conference football road victory at Coe College with three second-half interceptions Saturday.
Linebacker Sam Norgaard (senior, Naperville, Ill., Neuqua Valley HS) racked up a career-high 22 tackles, tied for the fifth-most in school history, while linebacker Tyler Olson (senior, Mapleton, Minn., Maple River HS) picked off a pair of Coe passes deep in Central territory ending back-to-back fourth-quarter drives. Strong safety Tate Jensen (senior, De Soto, ADM HS) also recorded an interception in the final minute of the third quarter. Olson has a team-high four interceptions for the season.
Coming off last week's disheartening 44-20 loss to nationally ranked Wartburg College, coach Jeff McMartin said it was an important win for the Dutch (4-3 overall, 3-2 conference).
"You wonder how the guys are going to respond after a game like that, then you're going on the road to play a team that had two weeks to get ready for us and it's their homecoming," he said. "It was a big gut check for everybody and I thought our players responded very well."
It was another huge afternoon for all-America receiver Sam Markham (senior, Atlantic) as well, with nine catches for 188 yards and two scores. And freshman quarterback Blaine Hawkins (Ankeny) continued to find his collegiate footing, completing 16 of 27 passes for 246 yards and three scores with no interceptions while also leading the Dutch on the ground with 74 yards on 12 carries.
"Sam had a great day," McMartin said. "He made a lot of big catches. He caught some long passes but some important short ones, too. I also thought Blaine did a good job. He avoided the pass rush. They threw a lot of different coverages at him and he had to sort of think his way down the field.
And (S-back) Kyle Gritsch (senior, Brooklyn, BGM HS) did a good job of catching the ball, too. Everybody stepped up."
Central was outgained 463-391 yards, Coe controlled the ball for 37:36 of the game's 60 minutes and converted five of seven fourth-down tries, but the Dutch won the turnover battle, 3-0.
"Give the defense a lot of credit for stopping the run," McMartin said. "That was something we were concerned about and very focused on. And were able to keep them off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. Our defense was on the field a lot but they came up with some big stops. They kept giving us the ball back without giving up scores. That was huge."
Norgaard had 12 solo stops with 10 assists and moved into elite company on the Dutch single-game tackle charts. All-American linebackers Ron Saak (in 1988), Kris Reis (1989) and Rick Sanger (1994) share the all-time Central record with 24 stops while Reis also had 23 (1987). Norgaard is now tied with Saak (1988) and Reis (1989) with 22. Norgaard has a league-leading 92 tackles for the season while Olson has a team-high four interceptions.
"Our defensive coaches came up with some good schemes but it comes down to execution and I thought Sam and Tyler (Olson) both played much-improved games," McMartin said. "And our defensive line did a good job of getting penetration and filling the gaps, allowing our linebackers to make plays. The defensive line also got good pressure on the quarterback. I thought we had a good pass rush. I was really happy with our defensive effort."
Linebacker Josh Scheible (senior, Kansas City, Mo., Liberty HS) had 14 tackles, including eight solos and three tackles for loss while Olson had eight stops.
Dutch kicker Jon Alberts (sophomore, Huntley, Ill.) connected on field goal tries of 20, 38 and a career-long 40 yards. He's 11-of-11 on the year and just two away from the 2007 season record of Jake Viggers with 13, set over 13 games. Alberts entered the game 16th in the NCAA Division III with 1.33 field goals per game and upped that average to 1.57, likely vaulting him into the top 10. He started the day as one of four Division III kickers with eight field goals without a miss.
"Jon had a big day," McMartin said. "That first one was from a tough angle and that one from 40 right before the half was huge."
Coe quarterback Quentin White completed 33 of 48 passes for 281 yards while the Kohawks rushed 37 times for 178 yards. Central had 245 passing yards and 145 on the ground. But McMartin noted another key stat, as the Dutch were 4-of-4 in the Red Zone, with two touchdowns.
While Olson's late picks were huge, Jensen's was perhaps the game-changer. Central was up 23-12 at intermission, but Coe put together an 84-yard, 13-play touchdown drive on its first second-half possession and was in position to take the lead when Jensen snagged White's pass at the Central 33 and returned it 18 yards. On the next play, Hawkins fired a 49-yard TD strike to Markham and it was suddenly 30-19 as the third quarter expired.
"We decided to take a shot," McMartin said. "He threw the pass into a tough coverage but Sam beat it. It was probably Blaine's best pass of the day. It was spot-on. He throws the deep ball pretty well."
After a 3-3 first quarter, a 38-yard Alberts field goal gave Central an early second-quarter 6-3 advantage. But another pivotal play came at the 10:38 mark of the second quarter when a Central punt was blocked. In an end zone scramble, punter Tyler Bryant (junior, Donnellson, Central Lee HS) was able to recover the ball, thus giving up a safety instead of a touchdown and preserving the lead.
A late second-quarter flurry was also crucial. A 5-yard scoring pass to Gritsch put Central up 13-5 with 5:29 left, but just 47 seconds later, the Dutch surrendered a 52-yard Tyler Schamel scoring run. Central answered with a swift eight-play, 75-yard drive as Markham grabbed a 19-yard TD pass with 2:39 remaining and the defense was then able to stop Coe's final first-half drive at midfield. Taking over at their own 14 with just 55 seconds remaining, the Dutch weren't content to sit on their lead. A 23-yard Nathan Fitzgerald (junior, Elkader, Central HS) run got Central rolling, launching a seven-play, 63-yard drive that led to the Alberts 40-yard kick at the horn.
"We were going to try to feel it out but we got the good run early in the drive and then we got the ball close to midfield," McMartin said. "That made it a real option to try to score."
Central is off until Oct. 28, when Loras College visits for a 1 p.m. game at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium. The Duhawks slid to 3-4 overall and 2-3 in league play after a 42-11 loss at Wartburg College Saturday.

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Dec. 14: All times Eastern
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, Mount Union 16
@ Woodforest Bank Stadium; Shenandoah, Texas
Recap Photos Box Score