Recruited from on campus

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Sam Markham looks at home with a ball in his hands, regardless of whether or not it needs to be dribbled.
Central athletics photo

“Sometimes, you’ve just got to get a little lucky in recruiting. And I think we did there.”

The way head coach Jeff McMartin summarized wide receiver Sam Markham’s journey to the Central football team sounds simple, but it’s definitely accurate.

McMartin and his staff put in the required effort to recruit Markham to the Dutch football team, and respected the player’s wishes to play basketball at Central instead. But they had no problem welcoming the 6-2, 170-pound athlete to the program the following spring.

Since then, Markham has made a huge impact on the program, setting receiving records and propelling the team to a 4-0 start this year.

“Sam has some really special attributes,” McMartin said. “He’s the fastest player on our football team – he’s got great speed. He has an incredible vertical. He has a tremendous work ethic – he’ll just go and go and go. He’s very competitive.”

Markham is also very close with his teammates, which was the driving force that brought him to the football program.

McMartin and his offensive coordinator at the time recruited Markham out of high school after being impressed with his performance at a team camp hosted by Central.

However, Markham made it clear that he wanted to play basketball at Central instead.

“We wished him the best. We were excited when we heard he was coming to Central,” McMartin recalled. “We loosely stayed in touch. We weren’t going to bug him or anything like that – just kind of watched from afar.”

Markham played in 22 games during the 2013-14 season, stating three times for the Dutch basketball team that went 21-8 and won the IIAC championship. But he realized he missed playing football.

 “I thought about leaving to go elsewhere and play, but I had gotten to know a couple guys on the (football) team and I liked Central as a school,” Markham recalled. “I had a friend on the basketball team who also played football. I had a couple long talks with him, and he encouraged me to go talk to the coaches to see if there was a possibility.”

Markham was invited to come out for spring football practice to prepare for the 2014 season, which he said was a shock to the system.

“That was a little rough. I had been out of it for a while and I was just kind of thrown into it,” he said. “But it’s worked out.”

When the modest Markham says it’s worked out, he is referring to his prolific production at wideout.

He is coming off a 15-reception performance at Loras, breaking his own school-record of 13 catches in a game. He finished the 42-34 victory with 201 yards and pair of touchdowns.

After catching a school-record 69 passes last season, he already has 44 receptions this season for 512 yards and six touchdowns.

“A lot of it has to do with our quarterbacks being able to make good reads and putting the ball in places that only the receivers can get it,” Markham said.

“Our offense has changed this year. We’ve gone to an up-tempo, fast-paced offense,” McMartin said. “I think part of what we’re experiencing now is we’re running more plays. There’s more opportunities. And the plays we’re calling involve throwing the football as much as they involve running the ball.

“Sam’s success is twofold,” the coach continued. “One, he just has gifts. He’s a really special wide receiver. And the other part is he’s in an offense now that really can utilize what he does well and gives him a lot of opportunities to do those.”

The most important thing for Markham is having fun on the gridiron, which has the fourth-year junior contemplating sticking around to play one more season.

“I’m flirting with the idea a little bit,” Markham admitted, noting his future plans include attending dental school as well.

In the meantime, he will continue to help Central try to end a playoff drought. The Dutch, who last made the postseason field in 2009, is off to a 4-0 start – kicking off the season with a win over then-No. 19 Whitworth.

Markham said the team’s unity is the reason for this season’s success.

“I don’t think I’ve been on a team that’s as close as this one,” Markham said. “I think a lot of it has to do with the amount of seniors we have on our team right now.

“A lot of people may not have expected the start that we’ve had,” he added. “I don’t think we’re necessarily surprised by it just because we’ve been there the entire time. We’ve seen the process.”

Warhawks past first test

A season after squaring off as the Division III No. 1 and NAIA No. 1, UW-Whitewater and Morningside (Iowa) met as the No. 2 ranked teams in their respective levels of football.

The Warhawks won the game, 35-21, as Chris Nelson threw for 234 yards and four touchdowns while splitting time with Cole Wilber under center. Marcus Hudson caught four passes for 142 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown.

“Coming into this game, we knew it was going to be a heck of a battle,” UW-W head coach Kevin Bullis said. “To us, it was a great opportunity to get ourselves ready for our conference play.”

Saturday’s contest is the first of three straight games against ranked opponents for UW-Whitewater. The Warhawks will travel to No. 8 UW-Platteville Saturday before returning home to take on No. 5 UW-Oshkosh the following week.

Number of the week

16,514 – as in the announced attendance at Clemens Stadium during the annual Tommie-Johnnie game. That total marks the second-largest recorded figure in Division III football history. Last year, 17,327 turned out for the rivalry game between St. Thomas and St. John’s to set the record. Games between these Minnesota schools have now produced the top three attendance marks and five of the top 10. St. Thomas won this year’s game, 33-21. The Tommies forced five turnovers, including a pair of interceptions by Michael Alada, and the offense built to a 27-7 lead by the third quarter.

The rest of the West

Kenneth Jinkins returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown and took an interception 41 yards to the house to help St. Scholastica jump out to a 42-0 lead and eventually beat Crown, 49-13. … Hamline is 3-0 for the first time since 1988 after holding off Gustavus Adolphus, 42-40. Justin Spriggs set a school record with 475 passing yards and six TDs.  … Joe Mudie and Jacob Isabel combined to catch 12 passes for 221 yards, and Chapman topped Trinity (Texas), 19-17. … UW-Stevens Point’s defense scored twice in a 44-19 win at Adrian. Kevin Sanchez, who also had an interception, returned a fumble recovery 90 yards for a touchdown while Juleyan Givens returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown. … Trevor Heitland carried the ball 19 times, racking up 173 yards and two scores, in Coe’s 48-17 win over Nebraska Wesleyan. … Justin Masloski came off the bench to throw two fourth-quarter touchdowns to Evan Guffey, including the game-winner with 40 seconds to play, in Minnesota-Morris’ 28-27 win over Iowa Wesleyan. … JT Denhartog threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score to help UW-Eau Claire pick up its first win of the season – a 40-14 win at Wisconsin Lutheran. … The Dubuque defense limited Luther to three completions on 13 pass attempts in a 30-17 victory. On offense, Dwayne Allen Jr. and Maurece Herrion combined for 170 rushing yards and three touchdowns. … Joel Oxton caught eight passes for 145 yards and a touchdown as UW-La Crosse cruised past Carroll, 41-7. … Bridgeport Tusler rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns and Brady Bomsta chipped in 122 yard to lift Bethel over St. Olaf, 44-7. … Quarterback Trent White had scoring runs of 59 and 75 yards and Zach Benner returned a fumble 61 yards for a touchdown as Westminster (Mo.) defeated Greenville, 35-14. … As a team, UW-Oshkosh completed 8-of-12 pass attempts and five of them went for touchdowns. Dom Todarello caught two touchdown passes and finished with 90 yards receiving as the Titans shut out Morthland (Ill.), 77-0. … Caleb Frye passed for 243 yards and a touchdown to help Simpson take down Buena Vista, 17-9. … Sam Keis completed 21-of-29 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns to guide Augsburg to its first win of the year – a 48-17 triumph over Carleton. … Tim Jansen’s three receptions resulted in 164 yards and three touchdowns for UW-Platteville, which rolled to a 56-0 win over Lakeland. Kyle Whitman added three touchdowns on the ground. … Five different players recorded a rushing touchdown in Wartburg’s 56-0 win over Finlandia. Dylan Binion led the way with 121 yards and one touchdown on nine carries. … Ben Greener of Northwestern (Minn.) registered 15 tackles and recovered a fumble as the Eagles improved to 4-0 with a 38-20 win over Martin Luther. … UW-River Falls’ Rance Ashley had 115 rushing yards and two scores on just seven carries as the Falcons picked up a 42-22 win over Southwestern. … Colton Johnson threw two touchdowns to just three incompletions as Eureka beat MacMurray, 28-13. Johnson finished with 169 passing yards.

Rank ‘em

Seven teams from the West Region were ranked in the Top 25 once again this week. UW-Whitewater, St. Thomas and UW-Oshkosh remained ranked Nos. 2, 4 and 5, respectively. The Warhawks were given two first place votes and the Tommies received one.

Linfield and UW-Platteville both moved up two places this week. The Wildcats check in at No. 7 while the Pioneers are No. 8. Following its loss to rival St. Thomas, St. John’s slipped four spots to No. 10.

Central climbed one spot to No. 24.

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (29), Whitworth (19), UW-Stevens Point (12), Wartburg (7) and Dubuque (7) received votes in this week’s poll.

Be heard

Do you have a story idea for the Around the West column? Contact me about approaching milestones, broken records, breakout players or any other storylines in the region. Or just drop me a note to let me know what you think of the column. All ideas and feedback are welcome. Email me at josh.smith@d3sports.com or follow me on Twitter @By_Josh_Smith.

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Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated 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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