30 Iowa Conference titles
Those broadcasters and fans who were puzzled as officials huddled following Northern Iowa’s recovery of a blocked field goal in the final seconds of its game at Iowa Sept. 5, should have made a quick phone call to Central offensive coordinator Reid Evans.
Many Central fans recall that Evans was at the heart of a similar situation in one of the most talked-about plays in Dutch football history, “The Miracle in the Mud.” In the second round of the 2000 NCAA Division III playoffs, Central was at Linfield, Ore. on a typically rainy afternoon in the Pacific Northwest . Trailing 17-14 in overtime, Dutch kicker Tim O'Neil attempted a game-tying 38-yard field goal. But the field was more mud than turf. O'Neil slipped as he kicked the ball and it bounced off the leg of an offensive lineman. The Linfield crowd erupted because of the apparent Wildcat victory and players and fans alike began storming onto the field.
But Evans, the long snapper, saw the ball behind him and picked it up. A rugby scrum ensued. Evans was in the grasp of Linfield defenders, but eyed fullback Joe Ritzert, who grabbed the ball from Evans and raced untouched 21 yards to the end zone for the winning touchdown.
"The only people in the way were some of their fans," Ritzert said.
"If you’d asked me back then what the rule was exactly, I probably wouldn’ t have been able to tell you for sure,” Evans recalled. “But I knew that because it was behind the line of scrimmage, it was a live ball.” Picking up the ball was part knowing that rule and “part desperation.”
That playoff win extended Evans’ Dutch playing career by another week, but he found he had trouble walking away from Central, and Central football in particular.
After a three-month stint playing semi-professional football in Germany, Evans used his classroom expertise in computer science in a job with Pella Corporation and later in a company he and a friend developed. But eight years ago he started helping out as a part-time assistant at Central and eventually took a full-time position at the college as marketing Web programmer and assistant coach. He works with the offensive line and is now in his first year as offensive coordinator.
“It was an opportunity to be around great people and great coaches who challenge me in an environment where I can learn and grow,” Evans said.
Serving as offensive coordinator doesn’t differ dramatically from what Evans was already doing, but it increased his responsibility.
“I do more practice planning,” he said. “I do all the scripting. Before I helped with it but didn’t always do it.
“And on game days, I call the plays. In the past, I would suggest plays but (coach Jeff McMartin) would ultimately call them. Now I call them but if he wants to change them, he still has the option to do so.”
But it’s not as though Evans sits in a corner and develops a game plan on his own.
“We all meet and discuss and get a pretty good plan of what we want to do,” he said.
The initial focus is on identifying the things the team does well before considering the opponent.
“We have plays we like to run,” he said. “We don’t create a new offense for each opponent, although we will tweak things from time to time. We have some set formations and we decide what formations we want to run with an empty backfield or a one-back set or two-back set.
“We try to look at things we’ve done well. We ask is there something we need to add or take away? It’s some self-evaluation.
“Then we start watching film. We look at everything they run and get a feel for what they do. Then we chart every play, put it all in the computer and then go back and look at specifics.
“It involves a lot of meeting and a lot of discussing as a coaching staff. Ultimately we want to leverage the abilities of our players to help put them in position to be successful.”
Evans said the process goes smoothly because the coaches are knowledgeable and creative, and their core philosophies are similar. That’s at least partly because they believe in what Central football is all about. Evans is one of 11 Central graduates on the 12-man Dutch coaching staff.
“We’ve all had great experiences here,” he said. “We all appreciate one another and we work well together. There is a lot of enjoyment in our jobs and we’re winning, which makes it a lot easier to stick around.”
The coaches’ familiarity with the Central program benefits the players, he said.
“There’s so much consistency in where we’ve come from as players to us now as coaches,” Evans said. “We make some adjustments in strategies, but our players today are getting a similar experience to Central players from 20 years ago. The general philosophy is the same. Those who played for Coach (Ron) Schipper knew he wanted you to be a student, a gentleman and an athlete. I don’t think that’s changed. Bringing those together helps make the program great.”
That also makes Central attractive to high school athletes.
“As a recruit you should ask who do you want to surround yourself with?,” Evans said. “At Central you’re going to be around great people, have fun playing the game of football and you’re going to earn a degree and be successful. It’s also a chance to be a part of something much bigger than yourself because at Central, you’re part of a family. We have alumni all around the world who love Central College and love Central football. Our alumni are a big part of our football family.
“Whenever we have an alumni game we get 60 or 70 players who come back because they would do anything to suit up at Central one more time. That’s something pretty special.”