A Central College defense that had to endure 100 plays on a warm fall afternoon made the one that counted the most Saturday.
Cornerback Spencer Boeyink (sophomore, Pella) raced 94 yards on a fourth-quarter interception with the decisive touchdown as the Dutch knocked off defending Iowa Conference champion University of Dubuque 31-24 before a sun-drenched homecoming crowd.
That tied the longest interception return in school history, a mark set by Jody Bandy against Upper Iowa in 1984.
Boeyink's score allowed the Dutch (2-2 overall, 1-0 conference) to withstand a 537-yard assault by Dubuque (1-3 overall, 0-1 conference). The Spartans controlled the ball for more than 37 of the game's 60 minutes as quarterback Wyatt Hanus completed 37 of 61 passes for 412 yards and two touchdowns. But Hanus, who had not thrown an interception in three previous games while passing for 1,009 yards, was picked off four times by the Dutch.
"The biggest statistic was us getting those four interceptions," coach Jeff McMartin said. "Dubuque's got a good offense with a good quarterback and a good scheme. They're going to get a lot of yards.
"But I can't say enough about what our defense did today."
Meanwhile the Dutch offense was dominant on the ground. Central completed just three of 10 passes for 28 yards with one interception. But the Dutch racked up 325 rushing yards on 44 carries, an average of 7.4 yards an attempt. Running back Josh Osborn (sophomore, Burlington) had 135 yards on 17 carries, including a 61-yard TD that let Central tie the score at 24-24 with 6:38 left in the third quarter. De'Andre Currie (junior, Phoenix, Ariz., Mountain Pointe HS) added 99 yards on just six attempts, including a 49-yard dash on Central's first play from scrimmage, setting up a tying score.
McMartin gave Brendan Boerm (freshman, Traer, North Tama) his first collegiate start at quarterback. He'd been used primarily as a receiver in the early going.
"We felt like this was going to be a game where we were going to run and they were going to throw," McMartin said. "We've got a quarterback who can run and we wanted to utilize that."
Boerm rushed for 65 yards on 12 carries, including a 23-yard TD score in the third quarter.
Central also unleashed defensive lineman Danny Samson (junior, Baxter, CMB HS) in its goal-line offense as the quarterback. He muscled his way into the end zone from 2 yards out for Central's first score and finished with 10 yards on three carries. Samson also had five tackles, including a sack.
"Danny had a sack and a touchdown and he was on the extra-point team," McMartin said. "We're getting everything we can out of him. He's a special athlete. He's fast and he's big so we thought we should use him. He was a quarterback in high school who played in the shotgun, so taking snaps isn't an unnatural thing for him to do. He's a big body and it can't be fun trying to tackle him."
Central's longest touchdown drive was five plays, and after a roughing the kicker penalty let Dubuque retain possession on an early 18-play drive, McMartin was relieved his weary defense had the Dutch within 17-10 at intermission.
"We put the defense in some bad spots so to be where we were only down seven at halftime, I actually felt like we were in pretty good place," McMartin said.
And after yielding a TD on Dubuque's first possession of the second half, the Dutch posted a shutout the rest of the way.
Linebacker Andrew Weaks (senior, Fulton, Ill.) had 12 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss. Strong safety Jacob tune (sophomore, Mesa, Ariz., Red Mountain HS) had 12 stops with a tackle for loss, three pass breakups and an interception, while free safety Jake Edleman (junior, Mechanicsville, North Cedar HS) had 12 tackles, including a tackle for loss and a breakup. Linebacker Seth Carson (senior, Woodridge, Ill., Downers Grove South HS) had 10 stops with an interception while outside linebacker Mitch Schroeder (sophomore, Lowden, North Cedar HS) had nine tackles with one tackle for loss. Cornerback Eric Larson (sophomore, Waverly, Waverly-Shell Rock HS) also had an interception.
Central must take on high-flying Simpson College at Pella next Saturday. The Storm (3-1 overall, 1-0 conference) toppled Wartburg for the second year in a row Saturday, 20-19. Game time is 1 p.m. at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium.
"We've got a tough road," McMartin said. "But this was a good win for our players. We've got to get some guys healthy but this shows our players what they're capable of when they play hard for four quarters. That's what they did. They battled."