SETTING THE STAGE
For the first time in three weeks, the Eureka College football team will play a game on its home field when the Red Devils host the Greenville Panthers Saturday in a 1 p.m. Upper Midwest Athletic Conference kickoff at Pete FioRito Stadium at McKinzie Field.
The Red Devils lost for the first time in more than a month last weekend, dropping a 40-7 UMAC decision at Minnesota-Morris. The defeat ended Eureka's four-game winning streak, the Red Devils' best stretch since 1995. Eureka is 4-2 overall and 4-1 against the UMAC, both marks remaining the Red Devils' best since the 1995 season.
Through six games, Eureka leads the 10-team UMAC in passing offense (291.5), passing defense (149.8) and first downs allowed (15.7). On the national stage, Eureka's passing offense ranks 18th in Division III, while the passing defense ranks 39th
The defending league champions and the preseason favorite to win the UMAC in 2011 according to a coaches' poll conducted in August, Greenville brings a 3-3 overall record and a 3-2 UMAC mark into Saturday's contest at McKinzie Field.
The Panthers opened the season with three consecutive losses to Millikin (51-13), St. Scholastica (30-26) and Westminster (45-28), but have since recovered with three straight wins to even their record at 3-3. Greenville has been outscoring its opponents by 35.6 points per game during its current three-game winning streak.
The Panthers' high-powered offense ranks fifth nationally in Division III in total offense (488.2) and rushing offense (325.5). Quarterback Brendan Chambers ranks second among league players in rushing yards per game (111.7) and is the reigning UMAC Offensive Player of the Week.
Greenville, which joins Eureka as a full-time member of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for other sports, is a Christian college with more than 1,600 total students in Greenville, Ill.
THE HEAD COACHES
Eureka College athletics Hall of Famer Kurt Barth is currently in his third season as the head coach of the Red Devils in 2011.
Since being hired as the 12th head coach in program history in December 2008, Barth has rejuvenated the EC football program and installed one of the most prolific passing offenses in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference and all of NCAA Division III.
Barth is in search of his first win against Greenville on Saturday. Greenville remains one of two UMAC teams Barth does not own a win against.
Ordell Walker became Greenville's sixth head coach prior to the 2010 season and promptly guided the Panthers to a 7-3 record and the 2010 UMAC title to earn the league's Coach of the Year award. His career record is currently 10-6.
Prior to his appointment as head coach, Walker was an assistant coach on Greenville's staff from 2004 until 2009. He is a 1999 graduate of Trinity International and was the defensive line coach for the Trojans for two seasons.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
One of Eureka's most familiar foes for nearly three decades, Greenville owns a 15-9 all-time record against the Red Devils. The two squads have met on the gridiron every season since the Panthers began fielding a team in 1987.
Greenville dominated the early stages of the rivalry, winning six of the first seven games from 1987 through 1993. The Red Devils controlled the next phase of the series, winning eight out of nine over the Panthers between 1994 and 2002. Greenville has regained momentum as of late, winning eight straight since 2003.
Saturday's contest marks the 13th time Greenville has traveled to McKinzie Field. The Panthers are 8-4 all-time in Eureka, including an active four-game winning streak. The Red Devils' last win in the series was a 22-16 triumph on Oct. 5, 2002.
Greenville will provide a live radio broadcast of Saturday's game on its student radio station, WGRN-FM 89.5. That broadcast can be found live online at the station's website, WGRN.net. Out-of-town Eureka fans can access that link by clicking "Listen Live" at the top of the station's website.
HOPING FOR REPEAT RESULTS
While Eureka came away empty-handed in its previous matchup with the Panthers, a 62-27 loss in Greenville last November, the Red Devils put together some solid individual performances they'll hope to repeat at McKinzie Field on Saturday.
Junior quarterback Sam Durley, who was making his eighth career start last season in Greenville, completed 19 passes for 358 yards last season against the Panthers, both career-highs at the time. He also threw three touchdowns.
Senior wide receiver Wes Schmidgall will also hope for another big day against the Panthers. Schmidgall made six catches for 146 yards and a pair of scores in last season's contest. In two career starts against Greenville, Schimdgall has made 11 catches for 216 yards and three touchdowns.
The Red Devils will put their four-game home winning streak on the line this Saturday, Eureka's longest win streak at McKinzie Field since 1997. The Red Devils haven't lost a home game since Minnesota-Morris topped Eureka, 47-29, on Sept. 25, 2010.
A win on Saturday for Eureka against the Panthers would give the Red Devils five straight wins at McKinzie Field for the first time since 1995. Eureka's longest home winning streak in program history is six between the 1991 and 1992 seasons.
CONTROLLING YOUR OWN DESTINY
Despite last weekend's defeat at Minnesota-Morris, Eureka still maintains full control of its destiny in seeking its first UMAC title and its first berth to the NCAA Division III national playoffs.
The Red Devils (4-1), in sole possession of second place in the UMAC, trail league-leading St. Scholastica (5-0) by one game in the league standings. Both teams have four UMAC games remaining on the schedule.
The Saints will visit McKinzie Field on Nov. 12, the regular season finale for both squads. If Eureka can keep pace with the Saints through the next three weeks, the winner of the Nov. 12 matchup would earn the UMAC's automatic bid to the playoffs.
SCHMIDGALL'S D-III RANKINGS
Through six games in 2011, senior wide receiver Wes Schmidgall is continuing to put up outstanding numbers in his final collegiate season.
The former Eureka High School star and Culver-Stockton transfer leads the UMAC with 714 receiving yards and ranks second among league players with 6.3 catches per game and 11 touchdowns.
In addition to his rankings in the league, Schmidgall's name also appears in the national rankings. His receiving yards per game average (119.0) is 11th among all Division III receivers, while his 11 receiving touchdowns tie for the third-most nationally.
Schmidgall is the active Eureka leader in receptions (161), receiving yards (3,098) and receiving touchdowns (38). His yardage total trails only Westminster wideout Carl Givens (3,167) for the active lead among UMAC players.
PETROVICS CHIPS IN
After making only four total tackles through Eureka's first five games, newcomer Mike Petrovics stepped up on Saturday at Minnesota-Morris to set or match individual career-highs.
Petrovics, who played his high school football at Metamora when current EC defensive coordinator Deric Linder held that same post for the Redbirds, made a career-best seven stops against the Cougars, including a game-high 2.0 tackles for loss.
Eureka College seniors Alex Hess, Mike Minehan and Wes Schmidgall have each been selected to the D3PRODAY.com Preseason All-America Third Team, according to an announcement from the website in late August.
D3PRODAY.com is the nation's first and only Division III Pro Day and Combine for seniors after the regular season. D3PRODAY.com Preseason All-Americans represent the board's best seniors in Division III. The selection board is made up of pro scouts, NFL and CFL agents and former NFL coaches and players.