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Memorable night in Austria for Central in down-to-the-wire setback

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Quarterback Blaine Hawkins (freshman, Ankeny) guided the Central College football team to the red zone but the Dutch ran out of time in a 31-26 exhibition loss to the Swarco Raiders Tirol, a top Austrian club team Friday night in Innsbruck.

Competing with a partial squad before a boisterous Gernot Langes Stadion crowd, the Dutch nearly pulled off the comeback after trailing 31-20 early in the fourth period. Central pulled within 31-26 on a TD strike from Hawkins to tight end P.J. Norem (senior, Iowa Falls) with 7:03 left. The Dutch defense got a late stop after a big third-down sack, allowing Central to take over at its own 25-yard line with 1:47 left.

Hawkins completed 14 of 28 passes for 155 yards and two scores. He also rushed 16 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Pat Gray (junior, West Des Moines, Waukee HS) gained 50 yards on 12 carries. Freshman S-back Caleb Schlatter (Story City, Roland-Story HS) had four catches for 42 yards.

Linebacker Tate O'Tool (sophomore, Fort Dodge, St. Edmond HS) had five unassisted tackles for the Dutch defense.

Swarco coach Shuan Futah said his team wasn't prepared for Hawkins as a running threat.

"They did a lot of stuff we didn't see before," he said. "We had a hard time adjusting. They did some nice things."

Central, which trailed at halftime 10-8, was outgained 349 yards to 302, but held a 25-19 advantage in first downs. There were five lead changes. The Dutch were forced to play with several players out of position due to their limited roster.

Swarco running back David Oku, a former Arkansas State University player and one of five Americans on the Austrian squad, was named the game's outstanding player. He rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries.

"We knew they were a very good football team," Dutch coach Jeff McMartin said. "We watched the film and thought this was the best team we've ever played when we've gone overseas, so we knew we were in for a great battle. Some of the players on their team were very challenging."

But the experience was a memorable one, according to McMartin, who said his squad enjoyed the game despite the outcome.

"How could you not?" he said. "It's a beautiful setting in a beautiful city and a beautiful country. We could not have been treated any better by the owner, the general manager, the coaches and the media. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these guys. They've all sacrificed a lot to come here and we were going to come here and have a great experience."

The Dutch leave Innsbruck Saturday morning, traveling through Lichtenstein to Interlaken, Switzerland, spending a couple days in the Swiss Alps before leaving for the U.S. Tuesday.

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