30 Iowa Conference titles
PELLA — Twenty-one seniors get one more opportunity to compete in a Central College football uniform while bidding for an upper-division Iowa Conference finish as the Dutch take on Coe College Saturday.
Game time is 1 p.m. at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium in Pella.
Central (5-4 overall, 3-3 conference) narrowly missed a chance to force a five-way tie for the league top spot but instead fell into a tie for fifth place, as Wartburg College escaped 16-14 at Waverly Saturday. Coe (7-2 overall, 4-2 conference) rolled past Luther College 31-14 at Cedar Rapids.
“Our mantra every week has been to go out and play the best we can,” coach Jeff McMartin said. “We want to finish the season successfully.
“We talk about putting everything we have into each game and I think we’ve done that this season. We’ve had great effort from our players and now we want to help our seniors go out with a great game.”
On the air, on the Web—Trevor Castle calls the action for the Dutch on KRLS-FM (92.1) Saturday. The broadcast can also be accessed through Central’s website at www.central.edu/athletics or through www.kniakrls.com. A video webcast and live stats can also be viewed at www.central.edu/athletics.
KRLS radio also airs the Coaches’ Corner featuring Castle and Dutch coach Jeff McMartin at Applebee’s restaurant in Pella each Monday night at 7 p.m. The show can be accessed online, either live or on demand.
Meanwhile, the Central Chalk Talk will convene again Thursday, Nov. 21 at noon in the Central Market on campus. McMartin and the rest of Central’s in-season head coaches will provide updates on their squads and answer questions from fans. There is no charge for attendance and fans may purchase lunch through Central’s Dining Services if they wish.
The series—Coe and Central have split the last four games in the series, which the Dutch lead 13-8-2. Coe was a 34-13 winner at Cedar Rapids last year, when it won the league crown.
The Kohawks—Coe has settled on Josh Rekers, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, as starting quarterback. He’s completed 148 of 246 passes (60.2 percent) for 204.1 yards and 14 touchdowns with four interceptions. Senior running back Gage Mohs is second in the conference in rushing with 85.8 yards per game and five scores, while senior Keaton Juergens is third in pass receptions with 50 for 715 yards and three TDs.
“Coe is a good football team,” McMartin said. “They’re sound all the way across the board. They have a really good offensive line. They’re big and do a nice job of run blocking and pass protection. (Rekers) is a really efficient quarterback, they’ve got some good receivers and a couple of really talented running backs.”
Junior linebacker Gaetano Tartantino and senior cornerback Kris Schult are the top tacklers with 54. Schult has 42 unassisted stops. Senior free safety Jordan Atwater has 53 tackles.
The Kohawks rank first in pass defense, yielding just 176.6 yards per game. They’re also first in kickoff returns (24.6 yards) and second in scoring defense (15.4).
“They don’t give up a lot of big plays,” McMartin said. “They make you earn everything you get. Their defense has really good team speed and they’re really talented.”
Close again—All four of Central’s losses have been by four points or less. The Dutch have held second-half leads in all four games—with leads in the fourth quarter in three contests. Central was clinging to a 14-13 edge much of the day Saturday but a fourth-quarter field goal allowed Wartburg to pull out the decision and clinch a share of the league title.
Turnovers have helped prevent the Dutch from rising in the standings. Central has 14 turnovers on the season and 10 have come in the four losses, including four at Wartburg Saturday—although one was on a desperation pass as the game ended.
“To play good offensive football you have to do things consistently well,” McMartin said. “You can’t turn the ball over four times against a good football team.”
But dwelling on what ifs isn’t productive, McMartin said.
“Going home you think about all the things that happened and how close it was,” he said. “That’s hard. But you have to put that behind you. We have to focus on this week and what this game means to our seniors, to all of our players and to our program. Coe’s a very good team and if we spend too much time not looking at this game, we’re in trouble. We’ve got to be about right now.”
Big blocks—Central had three more blocks Saturday, giving them 10 for the year. Linebacker Nick Henry (junior, Solon) blocked a punt to set up Central’s first touchdown. Defensive end Danny Samson (senior, Baxter, CMB HS) swatted a field goal try and defensive end Jack Shipley (senior, Tipton) blocked an extra point attempt.
McMartin said a combination of factors make the Dutch effective kick blockers.
“We’ve got a lot of guys on special teams who can really run,” he said. “There’s kind of an art to it and there are some guys on the team who are good at that. But it’s also a lot of determination. Danny Samson had to break through the line to get his block and he did. It’s something that’s really helped the team.”
Dutch numbers—Central’s defense is dominating the league statistics as well as opponents. The Dutch are first in scoring defense (13.8 points per game), rush defense (114.0 yards), total defense (292.6 yards) and pass defense efficiency (99.6). Central is second in pass defense yardage (178.6).
“Our defense has got speed and they’re doing a great job,” McMartin said. “Our defensive coaches are doing a great job of preparing them each week and the players are carrying out the game plan. We’re getting a great effort up front, our linebackers are fast and our defense backs are able to do some good things in coverage.
“We’ve got a lot of really talented football players on this team and they’re giving a great effort.”
In league statistics Central is also first in net punting (34.7 yards), punt returns (10.8 yards) and kickoff return coverage (40.2 yards).
Individually, Kevin Sheldon (junior, West Des Moines, Valley HS) is tied for first in field goals, hitting 10 of 15. Samson is first in sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (19.0). Linebacker Keith Rush (senior, Griswold) is second in sacks (6.5) and third in tackles for loss (16.0). Linebacker Mike Young (senior, Country Club Hills, Ill., Hillcrest HS) is tied for fourth in tackles for loss with 12.5. Cornerback Eric Larson (junior, Waverly, Waverly-Shell Rock HS) remains the leader in passes defended with 12.
NCAA rankings—Central is second in the NCAA Division III in blocked kicks (10), third in tackles for loss (10.4 per game), fourth in punt return defense (2.67 yards) and 30th in total defense (292.6 yards).
Individually, Samson is ninth in sacks (1.2 per game) and 10th in tackles for loss (2.3). Rush is 25th in tackles for loss (1.8). Sheldon is 18th in field goals per game (1.1) and Larson is 35th in passes defended (1.3).
Record watch—Larson’s 11 pass breakups in a season rank fourth in school history and he’s third in blocked kicks with three. Samson ranks fifth on the all-time charts with yards on tackles for loss with 88 and is tied for fifth in yards on sacks with 67. He’s tied for seventh in total tackles for loss (19.0).
On the career records list, Samson is fifth in tackles for loss (39.5) while Rush is sixth (38.0). Larson is tied for third in blocks with four. Sheldon is third in extra points (98-100) and in field goals (29).