The Simpson football team renews its oldest conference rivalry Saturday, Oct. 13 when the Storm travel to face the Central Dutch with sole possession of first place in the American Rivers Conference on the line. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium.
The last remaining unbeaten teams in the conference, the Storm (4-1, 3-0) are coming off a 29-7 win over Coe while the Dutch (6-0, 4-0) held on to beat Nebraska Wesleyan 35-29. The Dutch rose to No. 20 in the most recent American Football Coaches Association national poll earlier in the week.
"It's a big game," head coach Matt Jeter said. "It's a rivalry game, but what makes it more important is that we're both undefeated (in the league). There hasn't been a lot on the table in my first two years as head football coach .... now we're undefeated and they're undefeated."
WATCH THE STORM IN HD: Storm football fans can enjoy all five Simpson home games in high definition, all free of charge! Logon to SimpsonAthletics.com to access Simpson's video streaming portal through Stretch Internet.
LISTEN TO THE STORM: For the fourth straight season, KNIA is the radio home of Storm football. The team of Andrew Swadner and Rick Wilson will have the call on 95.3 FM and 1320 AM or online at kniakrls.com. Fans can also download the KNIA app, available on iTunes and Google Play. Pregame coverage begins at 12:35 p.m.
FIRST AND 10: Simpson is off to its best start since also going 4-1 to begin the 2012 season … the Storm scored 26 unanswered points in last week's 29-7 win over Coe, holding the Kohawks to their lowest point total in the series since 1991 … special teams came up big for the Storm, as a blocked punt led to a touchdown and Joey Gale made 3 of 4 field goals in less than ideal conditions … a win Saturday would give Simpson sole possession of first place in the American Rivers Conference .
CENTRAL SERIES NOTES: Simpson and Central are meeting for the 97the time in a series that began in 1905 … the Dutch lead the all-time series 67-26-3 and have won the last four meetings, including a 35-17 win last season in Indianola … the last time the teams met in Pella, Central walked away with a 49-14 win in 2016, head coach Matt Jeter's first season with the Storm.
ABOUT THE DUTCH: The 20th-ranked Dutch improved to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in American Rivers play with last week's 35-29 win over Nebraska Wesleyan … Central is among six teams nationally at 100 percent in red zone offensive efficiency, scoring on all 24 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line, including 23 touchdowns … led by dual-threat quarterback Blaine Hawkins, Central boasts the No. 1 scoring offense in conference play, averaging better than 48 points per game … Hawkins leads the A-R-C and ranks fourth in Division III with a 73.4 completion percentage … Erik Knaack is the go-to receiver, hauling in 26 passes for 489 yards and six touchdowns … Donny Groezinger and Nathan Fitzgerald make up the one-two rushing combination as the duo has combined for 602 yards … strong safety Jordy Borman is tied for second in the nation with six interceptions.
LEADING THE A-R-C: Entering Saturday's game, Simpson leads the American Rivers Conference in five team and individual categories:
Team Passing Offense — 279.0 yards/game
Team Punting — 36.6 net yards/punt
Individual Passing — Tanner Krueger, 279.0 yards/game
Individual Total Offense — Tanner Krueger, 283.4 yards/game
Individual Field Goals — Joey Gale, 3
GALE BOOSTS KICKING GAME: Storm placekickers had missed four straight field goals going into the Coe game, and Joey Gale missed his first attempt of the game from 32 yards. But the coaching staff stuck with Gale, and the move paid off as the senior made his next three field goals, including a 39-yarder in the fourth quarter. His other makes came from 27 and 37 yards.
BARTLETT JOINS CENTURY CLUB: Senior wideout Sam Bartlett became the third different Storm receiver to go over 100 yards in a game this season when he made six grabs for 109 yards in last week's 29-7 win over Coe. Austin Hronich had 114 yards receiving in the opener against Bethel and Joe McNally had 111 yards at Chicago and 137 at Wartburg.
BIG PLAY JOE: Sophomore wide receiver Joe McNally has developed into the Storm's big-play threat in the passing game thanks to his 6-foot-4 frame, strong hands and great leaping ability. He leads the team with 416 receiving yards and four TDs, averaging almost 19.8 yards per catch. Of his 21 catches on the season, 16 have gone for either 15-plus yards or TDs. He has five catches of 30 yards or more.
MICHAEL CONNOR, MASTER OF DISRUPTION: Senior linebacker Michael Connor has a knack for disrupting opposing offenses. In every game this season, Connor has either recorded a sack, a tackle for loss, forced a fumble, intercepted a pass or broken up a pass. In Saturday's game against Coe, he finished with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2.0 tackles for loss.
BUNTING SUPERLATIVES: Since taking over as the Storm's starting running back at the beginning of the 2017 season, senior running back Cam Bunting has been one of the most reliable players for the Simpson offense. Throughout his career he has 1,600 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns, both good for 11th in school history. He also has a host of other noteworthy accomplishments, including:
- Running for 100-plus yards in eight of the last 12 games, including two in 2018
- Scoring a rushing TD in 10 straight games dating back to the 2017 season
- Carrying 355 straight times without losing a fumble. His last lost fumble came on his sixth carry in the 2017 season-opener against Wis.-Stout.
SAFETY TANDEM PICKS OPPONENTS: Junior strong safety Ryan Lehr and junior free safety Brendan Holmes make up arguably the best pass defending duo in the conference. The pair has combined for 19 career interceptions and both rank among the best in Simpson history. Lehr's critical interception against Coe gave him 10 for his career, moving him into sole possession of sixth place in school history, just ahead of Holmes' nine. Prior to the Nebraska Wesleyan game, Simpson had gone four straight games with either Lehr or Holmes making an interception.
PLAYING BY THE RULES: Simpson is among the nation's best when it comes to playing clean football. The Storm rank seventh in the country in fewest penalties committed, getting flagged an average of four times per game. Simpson has accumulated just 199 penalty yards on the season.
VALUING THE FOOTBALL: Simpson lost its first fumble of the season last week but still ranks No. 8 in Division III for fewest fumbles. This week's matchup with Central features the two best teams in the American Rivers as far as turnover margin is concerned. The Dutch lead the league with a plus-4 turnover margin (12 gained, 8 lost) while the Storm are second at plus-3 (13 gained, 10 lost).
TURNOVERS TELL THE TALE: Winning the turnover battle is an emphasis for any football team, and Simpson is no different. In the two-plus seasons since Matt Jeter has taken over as head coach, Simpson has won the turnover battle eight times, going 7-1 in those games. Simpson has tied its opponents in turnovers 10 times, going 5-5. And in the seven times Simpson has lost the turnover battle, the Storm are 0-7.