30 Iowa Conference titles
PELLA—Proving it can win with defense as well as its usually high-scoring offense, Central College clinched at least a share of its record 30th Iowa Conference football championship with a 17-0 shutout of Buena Vista Univ. Saturday.
The win also assures the Dutch (9-0 overall, 7-0 conference) of its 20th NCAA Division III playoff berth. Central has just one regular-season game remaining, taking on preseason league favorite Wartburg College next Saturday at Waverly. But Coe College is the only other squad with a mathematical chance of tying for the title and Central holds the tiebreaker over the Kohawks for the league’s automatic NCAA berth because of its 24-6 head-to-head victory at Pella Sept. 26.
Central, which entered the game averaging a league-best 39.2 points a game, scored touchdowns on its first two possessions, then relied on the Dutch defense, which recorded its second shutout of the season. Central limited the Beavers (4-4 overall, 3-3 conference) to 226 yards of offense, including minus 13 yards rushing. It’s the second time this season that Central has limited an opponent to negative rushing yards and the Dutch are surrendering just 64.6 yards rushing per game.
“Our defense played a large role in our success,” coach Jeff McMartin said. “Buena Vista doesn’t turn the ball over much and we were able to force a couple turnovers today, which was huge. We were able to get some fourth-down stops and third-down stops and made them punt the ball. It’s a credit to us as a team. We knew what we had to get done to win and the guys played really well.”
Central forced two Beavers turnovers, including a fumble at the goal line. The Dutch stymied Buena Vista on 11 of 14 third-down attempts and three of four times on fourth down. Central also recorded five quarterback sacks, including 2.5 by defensive lineman Brady Hill (sophomore, Carroll, Kuemper Catholic HS).
“We had a great pass rush,” McMartin said. “Our defensive coaches did a great job of creating blitz schemes. We hadn’t blitzed as much (previously) as we did in today’s game and it was effective for us. The guys up front did a great job of putting pressure on the quarterback on every play.”
Dutch defensive back Cody Baethke (junior, Williamsburg) had seven tackles with an interception and a pass breakup. Linebacker Zach Van Arkel (senior, Malcom, Grinnell HS) also had seven stops and Hill had six.
“A lot of it is everyone doing their job,” Baethke said. “The line got pressure on (the quarterback) and I was able to make the plays when they came my way. A couple of times I didn’t, but I bounced back and was able to make some plays after that.
“It’s a team game. The offense carries the team sometimes and sometimes the defense can.”
While the Dutch were scoreless in the second half, they contributed to the shutout as well by controlling the ball for more than 39 of the game’s 60 minutes.
Central had an eight-play, 61-yard scoring drive on its opening possession followed by a 14-play, 62-yard march. Running back David Zachary (senior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) scored on a 5-yard run and quarterback Nate Snead (sophomore, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) punched one in from the one. Jake Viggers (junior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) booted a 36-yard field goal with 5:19 left in the half and that ended the scoring.
Zachary topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the seventh time, gaining 125 yards on 26 carries while Snead rushed for 67 yards on 17 carries. The Dutch gained 182 yards rushing overall with 101 yards passing. Snead completed 6-of-13 for 66 yards with one interception while Zack Bandow (junior, Manilla, IKM HS) connected on 5-of-7 for 35 yards. Receiver Brett Wilkin (sophomore, Pleasant Hill, Southeast Polk HS) had three catches for 31 yards.
Punter Kurtis Brondyke (junior,Clinton) had a big day, averaging 49.4 yards on five punts, including a career-best 78-yarder. His previous long was a 76-yard boot at Dubuque in 2007. Three of his punts pinned Buena Vista inside the 20-yard line.
While Central gained a share of its fourth championship in the past five years, McMartin’s focus has already turned to next week.
"For a quick second you can feel good about it and we do,” McMartin said. “We're happy to have a share of the conference title, but as a team we want to win this thing outright. We do that by playing our best, taking care of business and going up there trying to find a way to win at Wartburg."