30 Iowa Conference titles
PELLA — Luther College’s Iowa Conference-leading rushing offense will challenge the top-ranked rushing defense of Central College Saturday in Pella.
Game time is 1 p.m. at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium.
After going 0-10 last year, Luther is 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the conference under new coach Aaron Hafner, and nearly knocked off rival Wartburg College at Decorah last Saturday before falling 24-21. Central is 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the league following a dramatic 23-13 victory over Buena Vista at Pella.
On the air, on the Web—Trevor Castle returns to call the action for the Dutch on KRLS-FM (92.1) Saturday after a week away. 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 at noon in the Central Market on campus. McMartin and the rest of Central’s fall sports 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 event will also be staged for fall sports Nov. 7.
The series—Central was a 31-14 winner over Luther at Decorah last year. The Dutch have won the last four games in the series, which they lead 51-22-1.
Norse—Hafner has installed an option rushing attack similar to what he employed during his tenure as offensive coordinator at William Penn, where he coached the past seven seasons. It’s a familiar look for the Norse, who have traditionally thrived on the ground.
Luther is averaging a league-best 299.7 yards per game on the ground and racked up 326 against Wartburg. Powerful junior running back Josh Vos (5-foot-11, 220 pounds) is second in the league with 91.3 yards per game rushing. He’s also second in scoring with 10.0 points per game.
Meanwhile Central tops the conference with a rushing defense that’s yielded only 109.5 yards per game.
But Luther junior quarterback JJ Sirios is a passing threat as well. He’s completed 16 of 30 passes for 228 yards and three TDs with one interception. Meanwhile he’s averaging 45.3 yards on the ground.
“Luther’s a very good football team,” coach Jeff McMartin said. “They’ve gotten better every week. Offensively they use a lot of options, counters and reverse boots and they can hit you with a pass as well. You have to defend everything.
“They’ve got a really good quarterback, they’re good up front, they have a very good fullback and a talented wide receiver. It’s a very complete offense. You can’t feel good about just stopping them on one play, you have to stop them for three because they’re going to pop some big plays.”
Sophomore defensive back Aric Elton tops the Norse tackle charts with 52, including seven tackles for loss and an interception. But McMartin is also impressed with junior defensive lineman Dan Wheelock, who has 23 tackles with 4.0 tackles for loss.
“He’s a very good defensive lineman,” McMartin said. “They’ve got a good pass defense, too.
“They’ve really taken to the new coaching staff. They’ve bought in to what they’re teaching.”
Dutch D coming up big—After a slow start, the Central defense kept the Dutch in the game Saturday against Buena Vista and the offense had a productive second half to score the come from behind victory.
Defensive lineman Danny Samson (senior, Baxter, CMB HS) had a huge day, with five tackles for loss, including four sacks, and 11 stops overall, along with a fumble recovery. He leads the league and ranks sixth in Division III in tackles for loss with 2.5 per game and is ninth nationally in sacks with 1.3.
“Danny had a great game,” McMartin said. “He’s putting together a really special season. Football’s a team game and it takes 11 guys going to the ball, but Danny has elevated his game every week. The strong image I have from Saturday is him sitting under the grandstands afterwards, totally exhausted. He put it all on the field.”
Meanwhile linebacker Mitch Schroeder (junior, Lowden, North Cedar HS) had 14 tackles Saturday. He’s the league leader with 54 overall, an average of 10.8 per game, which ranks No. 34 nationally.
“Mitch was flying around the football,” McMartin said. “He’s got great speed and he plays with passion. He’s helped us get better.”
After a pair of disappointing league losses, Saturday’s comeback gave the Dutch a much-needed lift.
“Finding a way to win is important,” McMartin said. “You need to play well to have confidence but you have to be confident to play well. It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg. But the way you build confidence is through consistent repetition. We need to use that game and build on that.”
Clutch offensive plays—Central had just three possessions in the second half but scored on two of them. The Dutch converted on five of seven third downs after intermission.
“We didn’t have a lot of opportunities to have possession of the ball but we made the most of it,” McMartin said. “BV did a good job of controlling the ball, but we made some big third down conversions. In college football, in every game there are going to be a few key plays that will win or lose the game. We’ve seen that every week.”
Dutch numbers—Central is second in the conference in scoring defense (15.5 points per game) and continues to make strides on special teams. The Dutch are first in net punting at 35.3 yards per kick, including just 0.7 yards allowed per return, and are first in kickoff coverage at 41.4 yards.
Brendon Boerm (sophomore, Traer, North Tama HS) is second in receiving with 35 catches for 307 yards and three touchdowns while running back Josh Osborn (junior, Burlington) is second in all-purpose yardage with 122.7 yards per game. He’s gained 483 yards on the ground, 119 in pass receptions and 134 on kickoff returns.
Kicker Kevin Sheldon (junior, West Des Moines, Valley HS) is tied for first in field goals with six and second in kick scoring with 5.8 per game.
Notes—Ike Hammerly, a 2004 Central graduate and former all-conference offensive lineman for the Dutch, is in his first season as an assistant coach at Luther. He’s working with the defensive line and also serves as a strength coach. He’s one of five Central graduates now serving as a strength and conditioning coach at a conference school. Josh Edwards ’03 serves at Loras College and Justin Snyder ’01 is at Simpson College while Kyle Johnson ’02 and Charles Friday ’12 head Central’s program…In six games the Dutch have scored just twice in the first quarter. But they’ve posted 61 points in the second period…Central has lost only two fumbles. That’s tied for 11th in Division III… Sheldon missed his first extra point since Nov. 12, 2011 Saturday, ending a string of 41 in a row. That’s only his second-longest streak. He hit his first 46 before his lone 2011 miss. Sheldon is 89 of 91 for his career. The school mark for most consecutive conversions is 56, set by Marcus Kroloff between Oct. 10, 1998 and Nov. 18, 2000.