KANSAS CITY, Mo. - All 10 Heart of America Athletic Conference football teams are in head-to-head matchups this Saturday, October 27 for the first time this season as the 2012 regular season heads into its final few weeks of play.
WEEK TEN PREVIEWS
#21 Benedictine (5-3, 3-3 HAAC) at Avila (2-6, 1-5 HAAC), Zarda Athletic Complex, Kansas City, Mo., 1:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: Benedictine leads, 11-0
Last Season: Benedictine 25, Avila 10 (Oct. 29, 2011 - Atchison, Kan.)
Last Time Out: MNU 28, Benedictine 17; Evangel 54, Avila 21
About the Ravens: The dominating 4-0 start to the season has been replaced by a 1-3 stretch over the next four games for Benedictine, which was unable to overcome four turnovers last week against MNU despite a defensive effort that included four forced turnovers and just 104 yards passing allowed. Cameron Fore rushed for a pair of touchdowns among his 17 carries, but the Ravens were held to under four yards per rush. The Ravens have been dealing with injuries at quarterback the last few weeks as both Bill Noonan and Jerrin Walton are banged up. The duo were sacked a combined six times against the Pioneers and have been taken down in the backfield 10 times over the past two weeks. John May led the defensive effort with 12 tackles (nine solo) as the Ravens turned around an early two-score deficit with a solid final 45 minutes of play. Taking away the 92 yards by Sean Ransburg on the opening drive of the second half, the Ravens limited the Pioneers to under four yards per rush and 12-of-27 passing.
About the Eagles: Avila knew going into its matchup against Evangel last week that its defense needed to be ready for the big play. The defense was breached on the second play of the game by a 59-yard run, setting the tone for in a 54-21 loss. After closing to within a touchdown after a Harley Kreisman touchdown run from 14 yards out late in the first quarter, the Eagles allowed 40-unanswered points before Justin Davies fell on a blocked punt by Nicholas Muder for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The Eagles allow a league-worst 466.5 yards per game and are 9th in scoring defense with 38.3 points allowed on average. The offense continues to excel on third downs, converting over 40 percent of its opportunities and averaging 370.6 yards per game. However, the Eagles have committed 21 turnovers on the season and have a minus-two turnover margin. Da'Veion Sullivan leads the conference with 5.6 receptions per game while Kreisman has eight of the team's 15 rushing touchdowns.
#15 Evangel (6-2, 5-1 HAAC) at Central Methodist (2-6, 2-5 HAAC), Davis Field, Fayette, Mo., 1:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: Evangel leads, 23-4
Last Season: Central Methodist 38, Evangel 7 (Oct. 29, 2011 - Springfield, Mo.)
Last Time Out: Evangel 54, Avila 21; Peru State 40, Central Methodist 23
About the Crusaders: On its way to a 48-7 halftime lead last week, Evangel scored in a number of different ways. Denzel Billy blocked a punt that Zach Reed returned for a touchdown while Denzel Pernell returned an interception for a touchdown. Those came after Tommy Meyer raced 59 yards on the second play of the game and on either side of a 70-yard pass from Andrew Brimhall to Jesse Vaughn. Meyer finished with 151 yards on just 15 carries while Brimhall was 14-of-25 for 221 yards and three touchdowns. The Crusaders are averaging 45.3 points over their four-game winning streak with Brimhall averaging 257 yards through the air and Meyer tallying 118.5 on the ground. The Crusaders are 8th in the conference against the run, allowing 211.8 yards per game and will be up against an offense that averages a league-leading 261.5 yards per outing. The offense could have limited opportunities if Central Methodist is able to control the clock, putting even more importance on Brimhall to be efficient with his possessions. A win would give the Crusaders their first five-game winning streak since 2001.
About the Eagles: After three-straight losses by a touchdown or less, Central Methodist was never in its game last week at Peru State. The Eagles fumbled the opening kickoff of the game and were behind by three touchdowns inside the first eight minutes of the game. The Eagles had a season-high 433 yards, including 318 on the ground, but gave the ball away five times to spoil the offensive output. Skyler Jameson had his most effective game at quarterback, throwing for 115 yards and two touchdowns while also tallying 44 yards on five carries. Ryan Restemayer and Bryan Plenge each had 10 tackles last week to lead the team. Plenge is second on the team with 48 tackles with a team-best three interceptions while Restemayer is not far behind with 46 tackles and one interception. The Eagles' secondary will face its most daunting task of the season and will have to keep tabs on deep threat Jesse Vaughn while attempting to keep the Crusaders close to the 3.8 per carry average the Eagles allow to opposing teams on the season.
Graceland (4-4, 3-3 HAAC) at #13 MidAmerica Nazarene (5-2, 5-1 HAAC), Olathe District Activities Center, Olathe, Kan., 1:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: MNU leads, 18-14
Last Season: MNU 72, Graceland 14 (Oct. 29, 2011 - Lamoni, Iowa)
Last Time Out: Missouri Valley 39, Graceland 7; MNU 28, Benedictine 17
About the Yellowjackets: The October portion of the 2012 schedule has been a gauntlet for Graceland as a third ranked team comes up in the last four weeks. Despite a lopsided loss last week, the Yellowjackets hung close with Evangel for three quarters and have not lost consecutive games all season. This week's opponent, however, has had Graceland's number as MNU has scored at least 52 points in each of the past four meetings, including a 72-point outburst last season. The Yellowjackets have not allowed more than 20 points in any of their four victories this season, but have also not scored more than 28 points in any contest. The offense has been efficient enough despite being outgained by over 80 yards per game. Matt Fink has stayed away from turnovers as he has just five interceptions this season and has converted four of his five touchdown passes in the red zone. Andrew Gayles has taken charge of the ground game and is averaging over 100 yards in the past three contests. The defense has been very good on third downs, allowing just 28.9 percent conversions.
About the Pioneers: There was no letdown for MNU following its last-second loss to Gardner-Webb two weeks ago, In fact, the Pioneers faced another 4th-and-1 situation at the end of the game last week against Benedictine, albeit at the Ravens' 1-yard line instead of in their own territory. Still, head coach Jonathan Quinn has shown confidence in his team and they responded in a difficult environment last week. Though the Pioneers committed four turnovers last week and gave away a 14-0 lead, the defense had four takeaways of its own, including a fumble return for a touchdown to close out the win late in the fourth quarter. Sean Ransburg scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a one-man scoring drive, rushing for 74 and 18 yards after MNU was pinned to its own 8-yard line on the opening kick of the second half. Joe Camacho earned NAIA Defensive Player of the Week honors after tallying 14 tackles (six solo), including one sack and a forced fumble as the defense yielded just three points in the second half.
Peru State (4-4, 2-4 HAAC) at #3 Missouri Valley (7-0, 6-0 HAAC), Gregg-Mitchell Field, Marshall, Mo., 1:30 p.m.
All-Time Series: Peru State leads, 4-3
Last Season: Missouri Valley 13, Peru State 0 (Oct. 29, 2011 - Peru, Neb.)
Last Time Out: Peru State 40, Central Methodist 23; Missouri Valley 39, Graceland 7
About the Bobcats: The final game played at the Oak Bowl in its current standing was a smashing success for Peru State, jumping out to a 40-0 lead midway through the third quarter on a record-breaking day by Ryan Ludlow. The conference's leading rusher set a school record with 18 rushing touchdowns as he crossed the line three times on the ground while also scoring on a 53-yard pass play. The Bobcats were outgained by almost 200 yards last week, but the defense forced five turnovers that gave the offense a number of short fields. Zach Lempka tallied a team-high 10 tackles last week, a performance that needs to be duplicated against one of the nation's best rushing attacks. Bo Shepard is averaging just 91.3 yards passing per game, putting even more pressure on the running game to keep the Bobcats out of longer conversion attempts on third down plays. Shepard averages 68.5 yards on the ground per game, but carried just three times last week as three other rushers besides Ludlow tallied at least five totes.
About the Vikings: There are plenty of numbers that confirm the domination that every opponent of Missouri Valley can attest to through seven games this season. Two that stand out are that the Vikings have led by at least 28 points in every game since the season opener at McPherson and holding a top 15 statistical ranking in 20 different categories. The Vikings are #2 in the NAIA in total defense (238.1), #3 in opponent 3rd down conversion (22.9), #4 in opponent 4th down conversion (25.0) and scoring defense (11.9), and #5 in scoring offense (40.3) and rushing defense (86.0). Ty Phillips leads a pass rush that is averaging over three sacks per game while Tyler Davis anchors the secondary with four interceptions. Zavier Steward has turned in back-to-back career-best rushing performances the last two weeks, including a 173-yard, 4-touchdown outing last week against Graceland. Bruce Reyes has just two interceptions in 116 attempts and is completing almost 63 percent of his passes. The running game has opened plenty of space in the secondary for the receiving corps, led by Seth Martinko with 20 catches for 465 yards.
#14 Baker (5-2, 4-2 HAAC) at Culver-Stockton (1-7, 0-7 HAAC), Ellison Poulton Stadium, Canton, Mo., 2:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: Baker leads, 29-3
Last Season: Baker 71, Culver-Stockton 21 (Oct. 29, 2011 - Baldwin City, Kan.)
Last Time Out: Baker 42, Avila 13 (Oct. 6); Culver-Stockton 21, Lindenwood-Belleville 14
About Baker: A scheduling quirk brought upon by a request from Culver-Stockton has seen the Wildcats on the sidelines for the last two Saturdays. Despite a lack of game action, Baker has seen its ranking move up to #14 and still with a chance at a NAIA postseason berth. Baker had a busy opening to the season, so a few weeks to let some injuries heal was not the worst thing for head coach Mike Grossner. Andre Jolly leads the conference and is third in the NAIA with 9.0 sacks among his 13.5 total tackles for loss. The defense should be well rested and ready for a three-week sprint to the end of the regular season. The player who may benefit the most from the time off is QB Jake Morse, who has been playing on an injured knee since the season opener at Ottawa. Along with Sam Vossen, the two have combined for a 93-of-158 passing line for 1,318 yards and 13 TDs while Jermaine Broomfield and Dillon Baxter have rushed for a total of 159 carries for 758 yards and nine touchdowns.
About Culver-Stockton: The home fans saw an exciting game last week as the Wildcats came from behind to earn their first win of the season, a 21-14 triumph over Lindenwood-Belleville. Desmon Phillips rushed for a career-high 127 yards on 21 carries, including a 28-yard scoring run with 59 seconds remaining. His performance was the first 100-yard output by a Wildcat rusher since Blake Jackson eclipsed the century mark on Sept. 10, 2011 against Peru State. The revolving door at quarterback kept moving as Allen Overton became the third different player to earn a start. He hit 14-of-21 for 175 yards and a TD before leaving the game with an ankle injury. Overton is still listed as the starter, but Curtis Widener should be available after sitting out last week with concussion symptoms. The Wildcats allowed 224 yards on the ground to the Lynx, but limited the passing game to a 7-of-25 clip for 75 yards and two interceptions while shutting down four 4th-down attempts. Freshman LB Stephon Williams had a breakout game with a game-high 13 tackles.