Central takes on league football favorites in homecoming contest
PELLA— Eliminating mistakes is the focus for the Central College football team as it prepares for its Iowa Conference opener Saturday against last year’s champion, the University of Dubuque.
Kickoff for Central’s homecoming is 1 p.m. at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium.
Records—Both teams are 1-2 overall with wins against Augustana College (Ill.). Central outgained Albion College (Mich.) Saturday, but committed four turnovers in a 35-16 setback. Dubuque had a bye week Saturday. The Spartans were defeated earlier by No. 12 Wis.-Platteville, 53-35, and Wis.-Stevens Point, 55-14.
“Dubuque played a tough non-conference schedule and they’ve had two weeks to get ready for us,” coach Jeff McMartin said. “I’m sure they’ll have some new wrinkles.”
Spartan coach Stan Zweifel is in his third season. He posted a 9-2 record last year after going 4-6 in 2010. Zweifel has a 50-39-2 career mark.
“Dubuque is well-coached and their schemes are sound,” McMartin said. “They put players in the best position to be successful. They have a lot of experience back and they know how to win.”
The series—Dubuque snapped a string of 24 straight Central victories last year, erupting for 550 yards of total offense to rout the Dutch 56-28 at Dubuque, the most points Central has allowed in the past 60 years. But the Dutch hold a 54-16-2 lead in the all-time series, which started in 1930.
On the air, on the Web—Trevor Castle of KRLS-FM (92.1) will provide the broadcast, which can also be heard at www.kniakrls.com or accessed as part of a video webcast through Central’s athletics website at www.central.edu/athletics.
Red zone regulars —Dubuque is league’s most productive offense, ringing up 456.7 yards a game, including 337.7 yards passing.
“They’re just a powerful offense,” McMartin said. “They throw well and they run well. They’re multi-faceted. They come at you from every angle.”
Leading the air assault is first-team all-conference quarterback Wyatt Hanus. The 6-4, 220-pound senior has completed 80 of 118 passes for 1,009 yards without an interception and has six touchdowns.
“No question he’s one of the league’s best quarterbacks,” McMartin said. “He’s hard to stop.”
Halfback Kyle Acker is the biggest threat on the ground with 309 yards and three touchdowns on 70 attempts.
Don’t count out Dubuque’s defense, which returns eight starters. Two-time all-conference linebacker Trevor Runkle has 30 tackles with 14 solo stops.
“They’re stout on defense,” McMartin said. “They have a lot of experience in the front seven and they’re physical. Their linebackers create a lot of turnovers and their d-backs have good speed.”
Slow down the Spartans—Tough defense will be key for Central Saturday.
“We’ve got to find ways to keep them out of the end zone,” McMartin said. “Getting our defense off the field without giving up points is a big win for us.”
Central will also focus on cutting down mistakes. The Dutch have committed nine turnovers this year and 22 penalties.
“We’ve got to eliminate turnovers and eliminate penalties,” McMartin said. “We really want to create scoring opportunities and get into the red zone. We’ll need to stay focused and play our assignments.”
Dutch numbers—Opponents are barely outgaining the Dutch with 376 yards to 371.7. Central has a 187.3-174.3 edge on the ground, but are at a 201.7-184.3 disadvantage in the passing game. The Dutch are playmakers on fourth down, leading the league with a 55.6 conversion rate.
Running back Josh Osborn (sophomore, Burlington) is second in the league in rushing with 202 yards on 40 attempts. He posted career bests against Albion with 118 yards on 15 carries.
The Dutch defense has 22 tackles for loss, ranking 22nd in NCAA Division III statistics through Sept. 22. Linebackers Seth Carson (senior, linebacker, Woodridge, Ill., Downers Grove South HS) and Mike Young (junior, Country Club Hills, Ill., Hillcrest HS) each have 18 tackles, including 10 solo stops. Carson has three tackles for loss while Young has 5.5 along with two sacks. Defensive lineman Danny Samson (junior, Baxter, CMB HS) is second in the league with 2.5 sacks.
Central continues to lead the conference in net punting and ranks eighth nationally, averaging 39.14 yards per punt. Blaine Forsythe (sophomore, Pella) holds a 40.7 punt average and is second in the league and 23rd in the division. He’s booted six punts inside the 20 and has a long of 57 yards.