30 Iowa Conference titles
DECORAH — The first quarter was finally the Central College football team’s friend.
The Dutch have endured some sluggish starts in the season’s first six games, getting outscored 75-17 in the opening period, but Central burst out of the blocks Saturday with three first quarter touchdowns and outscored Luther College 31-14.
“We got off to a fast start today, which is something we needed to do,” coach Jeff McMartin said. “Luther’s done a good job in the first quarter and we hadn’t done that all year. It was a big part of the game.”
The start was fueled by the first of five turnovers forced by the Dutch (3-4 overall, 2-2 Iowa Conference). Linebacker Luke Geneser (junior, Granger, Woodward-Granger HS), who had two interceptions, picked off the first on the game’s opening series, setting up Central’s first touchdown, a 2-yard scramble by quarterback Aaron Eiseler (sophomore, Mesa, Ariz., Red Mountain HS). Then Eiseler completed a five-play, 61-yard march with a 19-yard TD pass to Brendon Boerm (freshman, Traer, North Tama HS). Eiseler finished the flurry by hitting tight end Jack Norgaard (sophomore, Naperville, Ill., Neuqua Valley HS) on an 11-yard strike, capping a nine-play, 74-yard drive and it was 21-0 with 2:19 still remaining in the period.
But a Dutch fumble on the last play of the quarter brought Luther (0-7 overall, 0-4 conference) to life. After being held without a first down in the first quarter, Luther quarterback Kody Moore threw a 22-yard touchdown pass. Still, a Kevin Sheldon (sophomore, West Des Moines, Valley HS) 31-yard field goal pushed the Central lead to 24-7 with 4:37 left in the half. And Central was poised to build on that following a third-down sack with just over 3 minutes remaining when a defensive holding penalty gave Luther another chance. The Norse then moved 72 yards in nine plays to make it 24-14 at the half.
Central was scoreless in the third quarter but made what McMartin called a game-changing play.
Luther blocked a Central punt and recovered it at the Dutch 5-yard line, in position to score and make it a 3-point game. But on the next play, defensive end Jack Shipley (junior, Tipton) forced a fumble that was recovered by the Dutch.
“Defensively we continued to make big plays,” McMartin said. “That fumble recovery may have been the play of the game.”
Central finally broke it open in the fourth quarter when linebacker Seth Carson (senior, Woodridge, Ill., Downers Grove South HS) picked off a Luther pass and returned it 44 yards to the Norse 21-yard line. The Dutch needed six plays before Eiseler took it in from the 1 for a 31-14 advantage with 8:13 remaining.
“It’s sort of the story of our season,” McMartin said. “When we take care of the football we’re a a pretty good team but when we don’t, it makes it really hard on us. Today we capitalized on Luther’s turnovers and took care of the ball. That’s why the score ended up the way it did.”
Central outgained Luther 396 yards to 209. Eiseler completed 15 of 22 passes for 204 yards with no interceptions and two touchdowns. Boerm had four catches for 78 yards.
“Aaron (Eiseler) did a nice job,” McMartin said. “He made some good third-down throws. And Brendon Boerm caught the ball well and was good on special teams. We knew we’d be running more spread sets this week and so we put him out at wide receiver. Brendon’s a playmaker.”
The Dutch had 192 yards rushing with 64 from Doehrmann on 19 carries. Eiseler ran for 43 yards on 12 carries despite being sacked three times for 25 yards. The Central backfield has also had to overcome injury, much like the Dutch defense.
“We went through the week with a lot of injured players but we battled through it,” McMartin said. “Some guys didn’t get a lot of reps during the week.”
Linebacker Jordan Wachter (sophomore, Clive, Waukee HS) had another strong game for the Dutch defense. He had eight tackles including a sack while Carson also had eight stops and linebacker Mike Young (junior, Country Club Hills, Ill., Hillcrest HS) made six tackles.
Central returns home to take on Loras College next Saturday in a 1 p.m. game at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium. The Duhawks are 2-4 overall and 1-2 in conference play after a 42-19 home setback against Buena Vista. Central outscored Loras 70-7 at Dubuque last year and holds a 28-5 advantage in the schools’ all-time series.
“We need to continue to improve and get ready for Loras,” McMartin said. “We need to make the most of every opportunity we have.”