In a game that featured more than 1,000 yards of offense, a pair of determined defensive stands allowed the Central College football team to outlast Coe College 38-35 in a homecoming shootout at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium.
It was the first Iowa Conference loss for Coe (2-3 overall, 2-1 conference), which upset league favorite Wartburg College with a late rally last week at Waverly. The Kohawks were on the brink of another comeback Saturday, as quarterback Brad Boyle's third touchdown run with 7:55 left pulled them within 38-35.
Coe quickly regained possession at midfield but was pushed backward and a fierce Dutch pass rush forced a fourth-down incompletion with 4:06 left. Still Central (3-2 overall, 2-1 conference) couldn't pick up a first down, giving Coe one more chance with 1:50 remaining. Again, the Dutch defense, which yielded 522 yards on the day, stepped up, recording a pair of sacks and then batting down a desperation fourth-down pass as time expired.
"To get those stops at the end of the game was huge," coach Jeff McMartin said. "That won the football game. The offense had a chance to finish it on the field and we couldn't. But the defense came out there and was just relentless.
"To win a game like that is a very important thing for a football team."
It was not as though McMartin was disappointed with a Dutch offense that churned out a season-high 500 yards. Quarterback Nate Snead was back on his game, completing 18 of 32 passes for 311 yards with one interception and four touchdowns. He added a fifth touchdown on the ground, running for a team-high 86 yards on 15 carries.
The game featured five lead changes and it was a win the Dutch desperately needed after an unsettling 56-28 setback at Dubuque a week ago.
"You have to give a lot of credit to our players," McMartin said. "They did a great job of responding, taking things one play at a time and keeping their focus. The game was back and forth. There was so much emotion and so many turns to that game. It's a true credit to the mental toughness of this football team and credit to our assistant coaches for doing a great job of getting these guys to take it up a notch, and we had to."
The Dutch rushed for 189 yards to Coe's 151. Boyle completed 23 of 40 passes for 371 yards and one TD with one interception, but was sacked five times.
After freshman kicker Kevin Sheldon got Central on the board with a 23-yard field goal with 14:53 left in the second quarter, freshman running back Josh Osborn snagged his first touchdown pass, darting 62 yards to give Central a 10-7 second-quarter lead. Tight end Cory Nikkel caught his second touchdown pass, a leaping grab of a 15-yard Snead toss that stretched the lead to 17-7.
Wide receiver Jeremy Snead had a team-high seven catches for 94 yards with TD receptions of 2 and 6 yards. The latter grab put Central back on top, 31-28 with 26 seconds left in the third quarter. He's Central's receptions leader with 24 for 340 yards and five scores on the season. Mike Furlong had four receptions for 71 yards and S-back Preston West had three catches for 55 yards and also rushed for 19 yards on four carries. Junior running back Ross Doehrmann had rushed for 69 yards on 14 carries.
Senior defensive backs Ryan Schmidt and Jake Petersen topped the tackle charts with 10 and eight stops, respectively. Linebackers Keith Rush and Ryan Steinkamp each had seven tackles and linebacker Seth Carson had six. Defensive lineman Brady Hill had two tackles for loss, including 1.5 sacks.
Central is home again next Saturday, meeting Buena Vista University. The Beavers, 1-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference, were idle Saturday.