ABERDEEN, S.D. – Eureka College junior quarterback Sam Durley (Roanoke, Ill./Roanoke-Benson H.S.) set single-game Eureka records with 29 completions, 478 passing yards and eight touchdown passes, leading the Red Devils to a 55-27 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference victory over Presentation, Saturday night at Swisher Field in Aberdeen, S.D. The victory improves the Red Devils to 2-0 in UMAC play, Eureka's first 2-0 conference start since 1994.
Durley's 478 passing yards and eight touchdowns through the air topped the previous school records of 467 yards and six touchdowns set by Mike Simpson in a 53-27 victory at Lakeland on Nov. 5, 1994. Durley's 29 completions were two better than the performance of previous record-holder John Furmaniak, who completed 27 passes at Dubuque on Oct. 21, 1995.
All eight of Eureka's touchdowns Saturday at Presentation came on a pass from Durley, who narrowly missed matching the NCAA Division III single-game record held by Ohio Northern's Joe Zarlinga, who completed nine touchdown passes versus Capital (Ohio) on Nov. 14, 1998.
Most of Durley's damage was done with senior wide receiver Wes Schmidgall (Eureka, Ill./Eureka H.S./Culver-Stockton), who set new career-bests with 13 catches and 257 receiving yards. Each total marked the best effort by a Eureka receiver since current head coach Kurt Barth made 20 receptions against Concordia (Wis.) on Sept. 28, 1996 and went for 289 yards at Lakeland on Nov. 5, 1994. Schmidgall also matched a career-high Saturday night with four touchdown receptions.
The Red Devils opened the scoring just six plays from scrimmage into the contest when Durley hooked up with Schmidgall on a 19-yard touchdown throw for a 6-0 lead. Following a defensive stop, the Eureka scored on what proved to be its longest scoring drive of the season when Durley hit senior Cody Myers (Ipava, Ill./V.I.T. H.S.) with a 10-yard touchdown, the first career touchdown for Myers. The drive took 15 plays and covered 5-minutes, 55-seconds. Eureka extended its lead to 20-0 on Durley's 42-yard pass to Schmidgall with one minute remaining in the first quarter.
Eureka made it 27 unanswered when junior receiver Matt Dawson (Goodfield, Ill./Eureka H.S.) scored his second career touchdown, a 27-yard strike from Durley with 6:49 remaining before halftime.
The Saints got on the board on the next possession when Will Vealy broke free for a 22-yard touchdown run, trimming the Red Devils' advantage to 27-7. Eureka carried that 20-point lead into intermission.
Like the first half, Eureka struck first in the second half when Durley tossed his fifth touchdown of the night to senior tight end Alex Hess (Washington, Ill./Washington H.S.), a 29-yard score that marked the fourth career touchdown reception for Hess and his first since he hauled in a 3-yard throw from Durley at Crown on Oct. 16, 2010. The 29-yard reception was also the longest of Hess's career.
Facing the large deficit, the hosts were able to take advantage of Eureka turnovers on three consecutive possessions to battle their way back into the contest. Following an interception by Justice Bald Eagle and an ensuing return down to the Eureka 6-yard line, Presentation trimmed its deficit to 34-13 when quarterback Cullen O'Brien hit Matt James with a 6-yard touchdown throw with 7:28 left in the third quarter.
Moments later on Eureka's first play from scrimmage on the ensuing possession, Bald Eagle picked Durley again, setting up Presentation's second touchdown in a span of 24 seconds. Jalanni James broke free from the Eureka secondary, scoring on a 47-yard strike from O'Brien to cut the Eureka lead to 34-20 with 7:04 remaining in the third quarter.
The Red Devils lost a fumble on their next possession, giving the Saints the ball at their 41-yard line with a chance to make their deficit a single possession. The Eureka defense rose to the occasion, however, forcing the Saints to turn the ball over on downs at the Eureka 25-yard line.
The Red Devils put the game out of reach less than three minutes into the fourth quarter when Durley found sophomore running back Corey Dawson (Farmington, Ill./Farmington H.S.) with a 24-yard touchdown toss, Dawson's fourth career touchdown and first through the air. Durley found Schmidgall two more times in the fourth quarter with touchdown throws of 77 and 37 yards to close the scoring for the Red Devils.
Eureka finished the night with 579 yards, its best offensive output since the Red Devils went for 744 yards versus Crown on Nov. 7, 2009. The 28-point margin of victory was Eureka's most lopsided win since dealing Principia a 47-19 defeat on Oct. 18, 2008. Corey Dawson carried 14 times for a career-high 92 yards. Matt Dawson set career-bests for the third consecutive game with six catches and 80 receiving yards.
Defensively, senior defensive backs Mike Minehan (Washington, Ill./Washington H.S./McKendree) and Rosney Beverly (Los Angeles, Calif./Normal West H.S.) each had interceptions. Junior defensive lineman Craig Wilson (Flanagan, Ill./Flanagan H.S.) recorded his first career sack when he dropped O'Brien in the second quarter.
O'Brien completed 10-of-35 passes for 117 yards and three touchdowns for the hosts, while Vealy carried 13 times for 67 yards. The Saints gained 252 yards of total offense.
The Red Devils will return home to McKinzie Field this Saturday versus unbeaten Westminster for Eureka's annual homecoming game. Kickoff against the Blue Jays is scheduled for 1 p.m.
NOTES: Eureka is 2-0 in league play for the first time since opening the 1994 Illini-Badger Football Conference schedule with five straight wins ... The Red Devils are 2-1 overall for the second time under Barth and third time since 2000 ... Eureka held possession for 30:38, the first time its had the edge in time of possession this season ... Corey Dawson's 49-yard run early in the fourth quarter was the longest of his career ... Eureka punted only once, its fewest punts in a game since punting once against Crown on Nov. 7, 2009 ... Junior kicker Travis Huber (Morton, Ill./Morton H.S.) made seven straight extra points after his first attempt of the night was blocked ... Durley's 77-yard touchdown pass to Schmidgall in the fourth quarter marked the longest play from scrimmage of both players' careers ... The attendance of 1,672 was the highest for a Eureka game since the Red Devils played in front of 2,007 at Wisconsin-Stout on Sept. 18, 2010.