August 30, 2011

10 games to watch for 2011

Luis Villavicencio and Cal Lutheran have another early-season non-conference test.
Cal Lutheran athletics photo 

Hello and allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jason Galleske and I will excitedly be your columnist all things West football this season.

Even though I am new to this column, I certainly am no stranger to Division III sports. I have had the opportunity to cover the last three baseball World Series tournaments in Appleton, Wis., and have also covered some football playoff games in Iowa when I was in the Hawkeye State for the six years. I have also had the chance to produce feature stories on local athletes at various stops along the way.

I am really appreciative of this opportunity and I surely am looking forward to hearing anything I may not know about great stories (which there are plenty) out there. Email me at jason.galleske@d3sports.com or use the link to the right of this column.

Thank you again and here's 10 games with a thumbnail sketch of why they're important. 

Coe at Hardin-Simmons, Sept. 3: A big interconference game to open the season, chance for the IIAC to prove itself against one of the better conferences in Division III, the American Southwest Conference. The No. 10 Kohawks will have logged almost 2,000 miles and will spend their holiday weekend playing the No. 16 Cowboys and, of course, traveling. 

Wartburg at Monmouth, Sept. 3: Last year Wartburg beat Monmouth despite the Scots having Alex Tanney at quarterback. He struggled against the Knights, ranked 15th in this year's D3football.com preseason poll, and got injured in the next game. Monmouth struggled without him. A win by Monmouth would most likely catapult them into the Top 25.

Cal Lutheran at Linfield, Sept. 10: The teams met twice last year, once in the playoffs. No. 17 Cal Lutheran won the regular-season game with a big second half comeback but Linfield took the rematch handily. Linfield graduated a significant amount from last year but are still highly ranked at No. 9 lost a lot from last year. 

UW-La Crosse at Mary Hardin-Baylor, Sept. 10: UW-La Crosse nearly pulled off the upset over the Crusaders with the help of a big lead. UW-L has a daunting task as they play UMHB, the sixth-ranked team in the nation in the opening week and now because WIAC teams will now play one opponent twice, UW-L plays two-time defending national champion UW-Whitewater in a non-conference game the previous week. 

St. Scholastica at Greenville, Sept. 17: This could end up deciding the first UMAC automatic bid. St. Scholastica, in its fourth year of football has its first big senior class, and is very motivated to succeed. Greenville was the best team in the league last year. 

Coe at Wartburg, Sept. 24: It's the second of the Kohawks' toughest road games of the year, the first being at Hardin-Simmons to kick off the season. The IIAC title should be on the line on this game as both were the best two teams in the IIAC last year. 

Linfield at Willamette, Oct. 1: There is no love lost between these two programs, separated by less than 30 miles. Willamette beat Linfield in back-to-back seasons, 2007 and 2008, but lost a close game in 2009 and got blown out in 2010. 

St. John's at St. Thomas, Oct. 1: This is a  huge rivalry game. Last year 16,000 attended at St. John's, although it's likely to be much less at St. Thomas. The Tommies won 27-26 in double overtime, the first time St. Thomas won since 1997. These are two of the three teams likely to be key in the MIAC chase, the other being ... 

St. Thomas at  Bethel, Oct. 22: Another rematch of teams that played twice last year, with Bethel winning the national quarterfinal meeting. It's always smashmouth football between the two teams, including last year's 12-7 playoff matchup.

UW-Stevens Point at UW-Whitewater, Oct. 29: The Pointers are the last team to beat Whitewater in WIAC play, in 2008. There would be no doubt the Warhawks have this game targeted, even though they have won 41 of 42 conference games since starting their run of Stagg Bowls. 

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Josh Smith photo

Josh Smith covers high school and Division III athletics for the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wis. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and contributes to multiple publications in addition to his duties at the Daily Union, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He graduated from UW-Whitewater with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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