PELLA, Iowa—Another stout defensive effort let the Central College football team come away with a 38-10 homecoming victory over Simpson College Saturday, but the day's biggest play came from offensive guard A.J. Santon.
As the Dutch team room door opened following the team's postgame meeting, Santon dropped to one knee to propose to Central senior Catelin Bixby and got the answer he wanted.
"That was well orchestrated," coach Jeff McMartin said. "He came to me this week and said, 'I want to get engaged and propose to my wife.' We talked about how he was going to do it and I said, 'Why don't we do it after we get in here and do our little talk after the game and then you lead the way out and we will tell everyone after the game what was happening.'
"Most of the team did not know what was going to happen until we got done with the game. It was really cool, I was really happy for A.J. He is a great guy and he has a great fiancé, she is a really neat young lady."
Santon admitted being nervous but was glad his teammates were witnesses, he said.
"The guys were all excited for me," he said. "They are my brothers and it was neat to share something important in my life with them."
Central's victory was a bit more routine than Santon's theatrics. The Dutch overcame a slow offensive start and held a 403-131 yard advantage, yielding just 96 yards rushing and 35 yards through the air. Defensive lineman Shane Wong had four tackles for loss, including three quarterback sacks, giving him nine sacks for the year. He ranked third in the league in sacks heading into the game.
Ranked No. 19 in the AFCA Division III poll and No. 9 by D3football.com, the Dutch (5-1 overall, 3-1 Iowa Conference) clinched a 50th consecutive non-losing season with the victory. Central has won 11 of its last 13 meetings with Simpson.
Simpson's lone score came on a 34-yard blocked punt return by Matt Gregory with 3:51 left in the game. The biggest Simpson (1-5 overall, 1-3 conference) offensive play of the day, a 43-yard rush by Michael Chia, set up a third-quarter 33-yard James Gale field goal.
Otherwise it was all Central. After a scoreless first quarter, quarterback Nate Snead ran for two more touchdowns and passed for another, a third-quarter 61-yard strike up the seam to tight end Jordan Leuschen, who flashed some breakaway speed. It was Snead's longest career pass play, eclipsing by a yard a TD toss to Jeremy Snead and was a career long for Leuschen as well.
Running back Ross Doehermann's 18-yard dash on the opening play of the second quarter put Central on top. Snead followed 7 minutes later with a 5-yard TD run and a 27-yard Jake Viggers field goal made it 17-0 Central at the break.
Snead scored on a 10-yard burst in the fourth quarter and S-back Preston West completed Central's scoring with a 1-yard plunge with 7:45 left.
"Defensively we played pretty well," McMartin said. "For us, we did not get a few things going the way we wanted to in the first drive. They were able to stay on the field and get a couple of first downs. The whole first half we had a lot of great opportunities and we were not running enough plays. We ran 27 plays in the first half and that is not what we want. We want to get into the 30's and 40's in a half. We had a great opportunity and we were not out there enough offensively.
"Defensively we played well and we started to give ourselves more and more chances. It was just a matter of getting going. We have to get first downs."
Nine Central ballcarriers rushed for a combined 155 yards, with Nate Snead gaining 62 on 10 carries and Doehrmann going for 49 on 11 attempts. Three Dutch quarterbacks combined to complete 15 of 24 passes for 248 yards with Snead going 9-of-15 for 184 yards. Nine Central players had pass receptions with Jeremy Snead catching four for 45 yards.
Linebacker Greg Best and defensive lineman Brady Hill each had a team-high six tackles.
Central travels to Decorah to meet Luther College next Saturday in a 1 p.m. game. The Norse are 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the league following a 24-21 escape of Cornell Saturday.