September 20, 2011

Tommies' journey gets harder

More news about: Coe | Dubuque | St. Thomas
Fritz Waldvogel
Fritz Waldvogel recently became St. Thomas' all-time leading receiver.
d3photography.com file photo by Ryan Coleman 

The recruiting trail has gotten much easier for Glenn Caruso.

Turn back four years when the first year St. Thomas coach was attempting to coax players to don Tommies garb after his new team was 2-8 the previous year.

"We had nothing but this weird little short Italian man walking in and promising a better tomorrow," Caruso said. That's the reason this group is so special to me. They bought in without anything, no facility. For nothing more than the promise of tomorrow. We're so ridiculously blessed well beyond our means. The reason we've grown every day, no matter what we have, is because the kids approach every single opportunity like they have nothing."

In four years, the Tommies have plenty of accolades including the school's first ever top three ranking as they are No. 3 this week in the D3football.com poll. As the St. Thomas coach, Caruso has led the Tommies to a 33-6 record, including two straight playoff appearances and a Minnesota Intercolleigate Athletic Conference title last year.

"I know we’ve come in three years from No. 200-whatever to 3, but I'm pretty sure the one from three to one is even tougher than the one we've made," Caruso said. "I can completely understand where those programs (UW-Whitewater and Mount Union) are. They should be on a pedestal. It's consistency and longevity. Right now, St. Thomas is just a blip on the radar; hopefully we can be a stalwart presence on the Division III landscape."

That being said, Caruso is thankful for the place where his team is currently, but is more concerned with Concordia-Moorhead this Saturday.

"It's an awfully nice visual, nice to the work that's done thus far." Caruso said. "I'd be crazy to say that I don't want to be ranked. We all understand, there's a lot of good football teams out there. It's an absolute honor that coaches and people think enough of our work to place in the upper echelon nationally. What we have to focus on is getting better this week and prepare for this game."

Helping the Tommies achieve their goals have been some of the guys that believed right away in Caruso such as wide receiver Fritz Waldvogel, the school's all-time receiving yardage leader and quarterback Dakota Tracy.

"There were some things that had to be done to find the types of players we looking for," Caruso said. "It was relatively painless. It happened relatively quick. We were thirsting for direction. These were great kids, ready to buy into blind faith. I'm forever endebted to their blind faith."

And the ability to continually strive for better things.

"We don't make the same mistake again and we get better," Caruso said. "That's why this program has consistently moved in a forward direction."

Spartans relishing 3-0 start

The University of Dubuque took care of business in its rivalry game with Loras in the annual 'Key Clash' with a 41-16 trouncing on Saturday, Sept. 17. Now it wants to see where it stacks up in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a huge battle with Central on Saturday.

"It's great to have a start in the way that we are," Dubuque coach Stan Zweifel said. "Central as successful a program as there has been in Division III. They've had 50 consecutive winning seasons, which in itself is unbelievable."

The fast start is the first time the Spartans have been 3-0 since 2007 and only the second time since 1984. A big reason has been the way the defense has played. In three games the defense has 10 takeaways and nine sacks.

Zweifel said Saturday's contest will really see what direction his team is heading in.

"(Central) plays with so much confidence, I think they believe they're going to win every contest they're in," Zweifel said. "They believe they can beat every team. We don't have it yet, we're looking to find it. Do you get it by winning, obviously that helps. It's one of those games Saturday that really will be fun, a measuring stick for our program."

Another big factor has been the offensive prowess for the Spartans. Quarterback Wyatt Hanus has completed 61 of 81 passes for 775 yards and nine touchdowns. His favorite targets have been, Zweifel's son Michael with 481 yards on 31 catches and five touchdowns receiving. Michael Zweifel also has been playing cornerback on defense and returned a fumble recovery 31 yards for a score.

Zweifel knows his son will be highly counted on both sides of the ball, especially defensively in defending the brother combination of Central quarterback Nate Snead and his wide receiver bother Jeremy.

"We will have to slow (Nate) Snead down," Coach Zweifel said. "He's a relentless competitor. We have to contain him and limit his brother from making big plays. We respect them as much as any team we play. We surely don't fear them, but we respect them. We're surely looking forward to playing this game."

Another big clash in the IIAC

The top two teams last season in the IIAC will square off this week as Coe (1-2) will be at No. 10 Wartburg (3-0) The Kohawks are on life support if they want to make the playoffs for a third straight season and must go into Waverly and knock off the Knights for a chance to have that happen.

"We just have to play with a lot of more intensity, play hard, try to improve from our game from Saturday and play with more intensity," Coe coach Steve Staker said. "Under the circumstances, it's one and done for us right now. We got to win out if we have any chances at all to make the playoffs, we've got our backs against the wall."

Coe stopped Simpson 35-27 last Saturday to stop a two-game losing streak.

"That was good medicine for us," Coe coach Steve Staker said.

Quarterback Brad Boyle, came back from two sub-par performances to complete 13 of 17 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown and no interceptions. In the previous two games prior to Simpson, Boyle was intercepted an uncharacteristic seven times.

"We're hopeful that this game turned things around for him and he has a little bit more confidence in the way he's running the team," Staker said. "That was just a vote of confidence for him."

Wartburg coach Rick Willis knows Boyle is a threat regardless if he's had a few off games.

"He's a proven player and certainly we have high regard for him as a player," Willis said. "We take the threat he brings very seriously. I don't put stock in him being off to a rough start. We're capable of seeing what he's doing and were working to be prepared for that."

We certainly know this is a big game every year, certainly expect that to be a case as well."

On the flip side, the Knights (3-0) have had solid play for the quarterback position as Dan Stiefel has completed 44 of 85 attempts for 739 yards and four touchdowns. 

"We've been getting consistent good play from our quarterback," Willis said. "Dan Steifel has been good in all three of our ballgames."

Overall, the Knights have been finding a way to win games according to Willis.

 "I think the biggest thing the guys are competing hard and have been able to persevere and battle through various challenges through the first three weeks and have been able to find a way to win," he said. "There are lot of things we need to do better. We're a work in progress for sure, our guys are playing hard and competing hard."

He did what?

 

Coe junior defensive end Frank Weymiller did just about everything he could for his team in a 35-27 win Saturday over Simpson. Weymiller broke Coe's single game record with six tackles for loss, produced four sacks and 13 tackles, including 10 solos.

"Life wasn't too much fun for their quarterback," Coe coach Steve Staker said. "He's quick, he's strong and he just turns it loose."

Weymiller was humble about his performance and wants to improve.

"It was a big pretty day for me I guess," he said. "I got in a situation where I got to rush the quarterback at the end of the game. There's always things you look back that you could've done better. Overall I'm pretty happy with it."

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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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