/seasons/2018/contrib/201811077irj7e

Central eyes eight-win season

More news about: Central

Bidding for its third eight-win season in five years, the Central College football team closes the year at Loras College Saturday.
           
The Dutch, 7-2 overall and 5-2 in American Rivers Conference play, haven't played since a 27-24 overtime home-field loss to Coe College Oct. 27. Loras (4-5 overall, 3-4 conference) also suffered a down-to-the-wire loss to the Kohawks, 34-33 at Cedar Rapids Saturday. Game time is 1 p.m. at the Rock Bowl in Dubuque.
           
While idle last Saturday, Central was mathematically eliminated from the conference title chase. The University of Dubuque and Wartburg College are both 6-1 and meet in Dubuque Saturday to determine the championship as well as the league's automatic NCAA Division III playoff qualifier. Central and Simpson stand a game back and can tie for second place with the Wartburg-Dubuque loser.
           
The Dutch were 7-3 a year ago but posted 8-2 marks in 2014 and 2016.
           
On the air and online—
The Voice of the Dutch, Trevor Castle, will call Saturday's action on KRLS-FM (92.1), with retired assistant coach Don De Waard providing the color. The KRLS pregame show will air at 12:35 p.m. The broadcast can also be accessed through www.kniakrls.com or directly at rdo.to/krls. It's also accessible via mobile device with the KRLS app available through iTunes and other outlets.
On Mondays, Castle plays host to McMartin on the KRLS Coaches' Corner at 7 p.m. Those broadcasts are also available on demand through www.kniakrls.com.
Twitter users can follow Saturday's action through @CentralDutch.
           
The series—
Central raced past Loras 65-24 at Pella last year and last fell to the Duhawks in 2015. The Dutch hold a 33-6 advantage in the teams' all-time series, which began in 1932.
           
The DuhawksMcMartin is impressed with the Duhawks.
           
"Each week, when you watch them on film, they just get better and better," he said. "They're very well-coached and their players fit their scheme. They've really improved."
           
Sophomore quarterback Noah Sigwarth is the league's total offense leader with 285.0 yards per game. He's rushed for 401 yards on 121 carries while completing 152 of 282 passes for 2,180 yards with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, an average of 242.2 yards per game, which ranks fourth in the conference.
           
Senior wide receiver Brad Boelkow is tied for fourth in the league with 40 receptions for 665 yards—83.1 per game—and eight TDs. Senior running back Cody Mighell is averaging 69.1 yards on the ground with 622 yards and six touchdowns on 144 carries.
           
"Their quarterback is a playmaker," McMartin said. "He can run it and he can throw it. They've got tremendous receivers with great speed. They not only can catch the ball but they also block very well. Their tailback is a strong runner who runs really hard and makes people miss and I really like their tight end.
           
"A noticeable area of improvement is their offensive line. They've cut down on sacks and they're moving people up front."
           
Junior linebacker Chris Miller is tied for first in the league with six solo sacks and two assists and also is tied for first with 19 tackles for loss. He has 77 stops overall.
           
"Defensively, they've got a new coordinator," McMartin said. "They really work on disguising coverages and make it hard on you to get pre-snap reads. They're very physical and they do a great job against the run and they make plays in space. They really make you work hard to find answers."
           
Loras is dangerous on special teams with freshman running back Elijah Thomas. He ranks second in Division III in combined kick returns. He's averaging 10.67 yards on 12 punt returns and 27.9 yards on 29 kick returns, with a touchdown in both categories.
           
The Duhawks are averaging 33.0 points and 428.4 yards per game but giving up 36.7 points and 437.2 yards. They're averaging 247.9 yards a game passing and 180.6 rushing.                 
           
Senior sign-off—Saturday's game will be the last Central competition for 21 seniors.
           
"From the minute they got on campus, they played a lot of different roles," McMartin said. "Their character, their commitment and their leadership give them a lot to feel good about and be proud of. Collectively, they've taken on the mentality of proving to themselves and to others what they're made of and they've carried that throughout the season.
           
"The tremendous effort we've played with this year as a football team can, in large part, be attributed to these seniors, how they've played and the standard they've set."
           
The class includes tight end Spencer Barber (Fort Dodge), punter Tyler Bryant (Donnellson, Central Lee HS), S-back Daniel Coovert (Sycamore, Ill.), defensive back Colin Erickson (Gilbert, Ariz., Dobson HS), running back Nathan Fitzgerald (Elkader, Central HS), tight end Aaron Fogt (West Des Moines, Waukee HS), linebacker Thomas Fox (Stockton, Ill.), defensive lineman Tanner Gilliland (Red Oak), running back Pat Gray (West Des Moines, Waukee HS), running back Donny Groezinger (Sulphur Springs, Texas, Eastland, Ill. HS), defensive back Tate Jensen (De Soto, ADM HS), punter Cam Kiner (Craig, Neb., Oakland-Craig HS), linebacker Drew Kithcart (Atkins, Benton HS), linebacker Louis Kriegel (Victor, HLV HS), offensive guard Tylor Newhouse (Marion, Linn-Mar HS), linebacker Jake Poster (Davenport, Assumption HS), defensive back Trevor Smith (Audubon), linebacker Josiah Soderstrum (Story City, Roland-Story HS), linebacker Alex Tamerius (Creston), offensive guard Cody Tuttle (Oskaloosa) and offensive guard Dylan Tuttle (Oskaloosa).
           
Plenty to play for—McMartin said the team's focus remains on this week's game, not the league standings or the season record.
           
"We want to be 1-0 every week, that's our goal," he said. "The season's not over. This is a conference game and that's very important to us. We want to end the season with momentum and we want to honor our seniors and send them out on a good note. I think those are really important things. This week is all about our seniors and their legacy."
           
Not so perfect time—Regardless of when a team's off week falls on a team's schedule, the familiar refrain is that it came at a perfect time. Or, maybe not. The Dutch carried a lengthy injury list into the overtime loss to Coe that included quarterback Blaine Hawkins (sophomore, Ankeny) and could have used some additional recovery time then. But they at least got that time this past week.
           
"You never want to make injuries an excuse," McMartin said. "That's a part of the game and every team has them. But I think that hopefully for guys who needed a week to let the healing process take hold, for many of them, this week was good."
           
It was a low-key week for the Dutch.
           
"It gave some guys a chance to rest up," McMartin said. "But we got a lot done. I thought the players responded well and worked hard. I think our attitude all year has been really good and we've practiced well. I don't think last week was an exception."
           
Still questionable at quarterback—With Hawkins sidelined against Coe, Brayden Egli (freshman, St. Charles, I-35 HS) made his first collegiate start at quarterback. That experience, along with another two weeks of practice, should make him better prepared for Saturday if he gets the call again. Hawkins remains questionable.
           
"Each week you learn more about your players," McMartin said. "When you have somebody that hasn't started for you come in to the game and get snaps, you learn a lot about where your strengths lie and how you want to attack things."
           
And still young—While Central has 21 seniors, just seven are listed in the starting lineup. That includes a trio of running backs the Dutch frequently put on the field together, Fitzgerald, Groezinger and Gray. They've combined to rush for 1,006 yards and 10 touchdowns on 231 carries while catching 51 passes for 397 yards and three TDs.
             
Dutch numbers—Central is seventh in Division III in average kickoff returns (27.6 yards) and in Red Zone offense (94.0 percent), scoring on 30 of 32 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line with 27 touchdowns. The Dutch are 15th in pass completion percentage (65.7) and 25th in first downs (190).
           
Hawkins ranks seventh in completion percentage at 68.3 (127-186-4) and strong safety Jordy Borman (junior, Eagan, Minn.) is tied for third in interceptions with six.
           
Punting mark threatened--Late fall weather can make punting a challenge, but Cam Kiner (senior, Craig, Neb., Oakland-Craig HS) can make a run at the school season punting average mark of 41.8 yards set by Joel Buseman in 1996. Kiner is averaging 43.5 yards on 17 kicks. Tyler Bryant (senior, Donnellson, Central Lee HS) is averaging 35.0 yards on 20 kicks, seven of which he's dropped inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
           
Notes— Kiner is making a run at the school season punting record. He's averaging a league-leading 43.1 yards, ahead of Joel Buseman's 1996 mark of 41.8 yards…Kicker Jon Alberts' (junior, Huntley, Ill.) school-record 55-yard field goal at Wartburg Oct. 20 remains the longest in Division III this season. He's one of nine Division III kickers on the Fred Mitchell Award October Watch List and was on the September list as well…Central is still among those receiving votes in the AFCA Division III top 25 coaches' poll…The Dutch have posted a remarkable 32 eight-win seasons since 1964.

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