Central, Groezinger grind out road win

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Central College had to absorb some heavy blows but emerged with a 35-29 football road victory over Nebraska Wesleyan Saturday to remain unbeaten.
After taking a 35-16 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Dutch (6-0 overall, 4-0 American Rivers Conference) surrendered a pair of fourth-quarter scores but with the game on the line, forced a punt. Central was able to grind out the final 3:36 with 21 yards on eight plays to preserve the victory.
"It was a battle," coach Jeff McMartin said. "It's a thin line in our league. You have to do things right. We've seen that anybody in any week can win a football game in the A-R-C and today was another example of that. We had to battle all day but we found a way to win."
Running back Donny Groezinger (senior, Sulphur Springs, Texas, Eastland, Ill. HS) pounded out a career-best 145 yards on 23 carries to give the Dutch offense a much-needed boost.
"Donny did a great job," McMartin said. "He ran the ball very well. He found some seams and his timing was really good."
Central rushed for team season-high 287 yards, but for the first time this year was outgained overall, 478-477 yards, by Nebraska Wesleyan (1-5 overall, 0-4 conference). Central had allowed an average of 12.0 points and 351.6 yards in the first five games. Yet the defense delivered when needed, particularly on the last Prairie Wolves drive.
"We came up with some big stops," McMartin said.
Central made some uncharacteristic mistakes, giving up 12 plays of 15 yards or more, including four plays over 25 yards, while getting called for six penalties and throwing two interceptions.
"This will be a game we have to learn from and get better from," McMartin said.
But quarterback Blaine Hawkins (sophomore, Ankeny), who was picked off twice in the game's first 20 minutes, rebounded, completing 22 of 29 throws for 190 yards and three scores.
"Overall, Blaine had a good day throwing the football," McMartin said. "He made some key throws and some key runs."
After a sluggish first quarter that left Nebraska Wesleyan with a 3-0 lead, the teams began generating points at a frantic clip. Running back Nathan Fitzgerald (senior, Elkader, Central HS) powered in from the 1-yard line to complete a 12-play, 65-yard second-quarter drive, only to have Nebraska Wesleyan answer with a 10-play, 89-yard scoring possession. A blocked extra point by linebacker Tate O'Tool (junior, Fort Dodge, St. Edmond HS) kept the Nebraska Wesleyan lead at 9-7 with 5:59 left in the half. A 4-yard Hawkins toss to wide receiver Erik Knaack (sophomore, Reinbeck, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) made it 14-9 Dutch at the break.
The teams traded scores on the first three second-half possessions. An 8-yard Hawkins TD run on the opening drive stretched the advantage to 21-9. Nebraska Wesleyan followed with a nine-play, 75-yard TD effort. Then a 51-yard kickoff return by Connor Lewin (junior, Stillman Valley, Ill.) set up a 4-yard Hawkins pass to Fitzgerald and it was 28-16 Central. The Nebraska Wesleyan TD was the first third-quarter score allowed by the Dutch this season.
Hawkins hit S-back Caleb Schlatter (sophomore, Story City, Roland-Story HS) on a 5-yard scoring pass to start the fourth period.
But then the Dutch had to hang on. A 57-yard pass to powerful Prairie Wolves back Shaka Taylor led to one touchdown and a 25-yard scramble by quarterback Jonathan Curti helped set up another. Taylor ran for 123 yards on 18 carries and also caught six passes for 96 yards.
"We knew they wanted to get him the ball and they did," McMartin said. "He's big and he's got good moves. When he gets rolling, he's tough to stop."
Curti completed 23 of 39 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns. Central was unable to force any turnovers.
Hawkins rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Fitzgerald ran for 53 yards and a TD on 14 tries, and caught one pass for a score. Knaack and receiver Tanner Schminke (sophomore, Boone) each had six catches for 63 and 44 total yards, respectively.
Linebacker Jake Poster (senior, Davenport, Assumption HS) had 10 tackles, including six solos while linebacker Cade Humphries (sophomore, Geneseo, Ill.) had seven stops.
McMartin also cited Central's special teams.
"Our special teams were very good," he said. "We punted well, we made all of our extra points, we blocked an extra point, we had some big kickoff returns and we did a good job of covering kickoffs."
Yet the Dutch left the field with a lengthy to-do list for next week's practices.
"We've got to keep working at it and keep getting better," McMartin said.
Central returns home for a pivotal league contest next Saturday against Simpson College. After stunning preseason favorite Wartburg College at Waverly a week ago, 37-36 in overtime, Simpson tripped Coe 29-7 at Indianola Saturday to rise to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play. Last year Central defeated Simpson 35-17 at Indianola.

Dec. 14: All times Eastern
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, Mount Union 16
@ Woodforest Bank Stadium; Shenandoah, Texas
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Dec. 8: All times Eastern
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 31, UW-Whitewater 14
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at Mount Union 28, Johns Hopkins 20
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