PELLA — Consistency is high on the agenda for the Central College football team this week.
Coach Jeff McMartin said his squad can’t afford any lapses when the Dutch (4-3 overall, 2-2 Iowa Conference) take on Simpson College (3-4 overall, 2-2 conference) at Indianola Saturday. Game time is 1 p.m. at Bill Buxton Stadium.
On the air and on the Web—The Voice of the Dutch, Trevor Castle, will call the action on KRLS-FM (92.1), along with Cory Houser and sideline reporter Andrew Schneider. The KRLS pregame show will air at 12:35 p.m. The broadcast can also be accessed through www.kniakrls.com or directly at rdo.to/krls. It’s accessible via mobile device as well with the KRLS app available through iTunes and other outlets.
Castle also plays host to Central’s Jeff McMartin on the KRLS Coaches’ Corner broadcast live from Applebee’s restaurant in Pella, each Monday throughout the season at 7 p.m. Due to high school football playoff coverage, next Monday’s show will be only carried via www.kniakrls.com, where the show is also available on demand.
The series—Central was a 17-0 winner over Simpson at Pella last fall and leads the all-time series 60-29-3. Simpson defeated the Dutch at Indianola in 2013. It’s Central’s longest active rivalry as the teams first met in 1905. William Penn is Central’s oldest rival, with the schools meeting in 1892.
Looking for more–Last Saturday, the Dutch scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and sprinted to a 27-6 halftime lead over Coe College before settling for a 27-13 victory.
“We played really good football in the first half,” McMartin said. “We ran the ball well and the defense got some stops early.
“In the second half, the defense still kept coming but the offense made too many mistakes. We had some penalties and dropped passes. Those are focus issues.
“Winning is the important thing. But we can play better and we’ll have to this week.”
Simpson— The Simpson offense is based on a power running game. Junior Jordan Beem ranks second in the league in rushing with 115.7 yards per game. Versatile sophomore quarterback Caleb Frye is a dual threat. He’s completed 83 of 147 passes for 138.3 yards per game. The veteran Simpson offensive line features three seniors and two juniors averaging 295 pounds each. The unit is tied for first in the league in fewest sacks allowed with five.
“Their quarterback is really athletic,” coach Jeff McMartin said. “He’s a playmaker. He makes good throws. He runs the ball well and is very elusive. He can drive defenses crazy.
“Jordan Beem is a really good tailback but they’ve got a number of good running backs. Up front, they are as big as any team we’ll face all year. They like to run the football and control the clock.”
Senior fullback Julius Foster isn’t listed as a starter but caught McMartin’s eye.
“He’s a good blocker and a good pass-catcher,” McMartin said. “He helps the offense go.”
Defense is where Simpson has shined recently. Notably, after the high-powered Loras offense scored 55 points against the Dutch Oct. 17, Simpson held the Duhawks to six points through the first three quarters last weekend before some late scores produced a 27-9 Loras win.
Junior defensive end Isaac Frazier is the conference sacks leader with six solos and two sack assists for 46 yards and is also tops in tackles for loss with 13 as well as forced fumbles with three. Junior cornerback Patrick Steffen is tied for third in passes defended with six breakups and two interceptions. Junior strong safety Adrean Johnson is the team tackle leader with 52, including 30 solos.
“They’ve got good defensive ends and good tackles, too,” McMartin said. “They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and force turnovers. They’re all over the place. Their linebackers have good speed and do a great job. Their defensive backs change up their pass coverages a lot so you’ve really got to be sharp on your reads. They don’t give you anything so you’ve got to make plays.”
Dutch numbers—Central remains first in the league in scoring defense (19.6 points per game), rushing defense (128.3 yards), red zone offense (23-26, 88.5 percent) and red zone defense (15-23, 65.2 percent), and shares the lead in sacks (16).
Special teams, a traditional area of emphasis for McMartin, are performing well for the Dutch again. Central is first in the league in punt return average (10.7 yards) and kickoff return average (22.9 yards).
Free safety Zach Matter (junior, Ankeny) is first in the conference in interceptions with four and cornerback Cael Halfman (senior, Manly, St. Ansgar HS) is tied for second with three. Defensive lineman Colin Blythe (sophomore, Williamsburg) is second in sacks (5) and receiver Sam Markham (sophomore, Atlantic) is second in catches (52).
Record watch—Markham’s four catches Saturday give him 52 for the year, moving him into a tie for third on Central’s all-time list with…Sam Markham. Markham also had 52 catches a year ago. Chris Johnson set the record with 63 in 1998. Markham’s 726 receiving yards rank sixth on the all-time list and his seven touchdown catches leave him one shy of the school’s top 10.
Unsung S-back—His name doesn’t show up much in the statistics, but McMartin likes the progress shown by S-back Kyle Gritsch (sophomore, Brooklyn, BGM HS)after getting thrown into the lineup as a freshman last year. Gritsch had a 14-yard pass reception Saturday and rushed twice for 5 yards.
“Kyle is playing great,” McMartin said. “He’s one of our best offensive players. He does a lot of the little things people don’t notice. We’ll continue to use him in a lot of different ways.”
Punter rotation—The Dutch used two punters Saturday. Aaron Marcellus (junior, Hudson), Central’s placekicker, punted twice against a stiff northwest wind and still averaged 31.5 yards. Regular punter Cam Kiner (freshman, Craig, Neb., Oakland HS) averaged 42.0 yards on two punts heading the other way.
“Both players did a good job,” McMartin said. “Aaron is very effective into the wind.”
National leader—While McMartin didn’t like his team getting flagged twice Saturday for penalties, he’s happy the Dutch aren’t making a habit of such mistakes. Central leads Division III in fewest penalties per game with 2.43.
Improvement on the ground—Running back Pat Gray (freshman, West Des Moines, Waukee HS) became the second Central player this season to top the 100-yard rushing mark Saturday with 112 yards on 15 carries. Quarterback Riley Gray (junior, West Des Moines, Waukee HS) had 46 yards on just five carries as the Dutch rolled up 211 yards on the ground. It’s the first time Central topped 200 yards rushing in a conference game this year after a shaky season start.
“Pat did a really nice job,” McMartin said. “Our offensive line continues to show improvement and we had others run well like Riley Gray, Adam Lindell (senior, Denver, Colo., Arapahoe HS) and Kohle Helle (sophomore, Guttenberg, Clayton Ridge HS). And Cory Archer (sophomore, Fremont, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont HS) had another nice run. When the backs get their hands on the ball, they’ve made some good plays.”
Story provided by Larry Happel