|Sept. 5 (Thu.)||William Jewell College (Mo.)||Liberty, Mo.
|Sept. 14||* Hastings College||Seward, Neb.||W, 26-21|
|Sept. 21||* Midland University||Fremont, Neb.||W, 35-14|
|Sept. 28||Dakota State University||Madison, S.D.||W, 24-0|
|Oct. 5||* Dordt College||Sioux Center, Iowa||W, 32-0|
|Oct. 12||* (22) Nebraska Wesleyan University (Homecoming)||Seward, Neb.||W, 19-3|
|Oct. 19||* Northwestern College||Orange City, Iowa||L, 28-30|
|Oct. 26||* Doane College||Seward, Neb.||L, 7-28|
|Nov. 2||* (1) Morningside College (Parent's Day)||Seward, Neb.||L, 31-48|
|Nov. 9||* Dakota Wesleyan University||Mitchell, S.D.||L, 13-24|
|Nov. 16||* Briar Cliff University (Senior Day)||Seward, Neb.||W, 45-7|
|1||Mark Bender||DB||6-0||175||Fr.||Humphrey, Neb.|
|1||Sandy Fisher||WR/P||6-0||185||So.||Lakewood, Colo.|
|2||Nakemm Evans||LB||6-2||245||Jr.||Lincoln, Neb.|
|2||Mitch Walkup||K||6-0||190||Jr.||York, Neb.|
|3||Matt Keener||DB||5-9||180||Fr.||El Segundo, Calif.|
|3||Devon Samuels||WR||5-11||185||Fr.||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|4||Hunter King||WR||5-8||160||Fr.||Kearney, Neb.|
|4||John Lee||DB||6-0||185||Sr.||Milpitas, Calif.|
|5||Jeff Balz||WR||5-11||195||Sr.||Elkhorn, Neb.|
|5||Adam Meirose||K||5-10||190||So.||Lincoln, Neb.|
|6||Michael Hedlund||QB||6-0||185||Fr.||O'Neill, Neb.|
|6||Ryan Moraniec||WR||6-0||185||Fr.||San Antonio, Texas|
|7||Deshawn Eure||WR||5-9||180||Jr.||Vallejo, Calif.|
|7||Zach Moje||K||5-10||165||So.||Pilger, Neb.|
|8||Eddie Narvaez||DB||5-10||185||Fr.||Panorama City, Calif.|
|9||Cameron Christiansen||QB||6-3||200||Fr.||Palmer, Alaska|
|9||Darnell Woods||DB||6-4||210||Sr.||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|10||Bruce Hicks||DB||5-11||170||Fr.||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|10||Von Thomas||QB||6-2||190||Jr.||Miami, Fla.|
|11||Ryan Coffey||DB||6-0||190||Sr.||Columbus, Neb.|
|11||TJ Austin||QB||6-0||210||Fr.||Angleton, Texas|
|12||Justin Haun||FB||6-0||215||So.||St. Louis, Mo.|
|13||Brandon Namuth||WR||6-1||195||So.||Lawellen, Neb.|
|14||Chase Murman||QB||6-3||205||RS-Fr.||Glenvil, Neb.|
|14||Nathan Scoggins||WR||6-0||175||Fr.||Prosper, Texas|
|16||Garrett Folchert||QB||5-11||190||So.||Ogallala, Neb.|
|17||Jonathan Foster||FB||6-1||215||Fr.||Concordia, Mo.|
|18||James Ferguson||WR||5-9||190||Jr.||Columbus, Neb.|
|19||Josh Brown||TE||6-4||215||Sr.||Aurora, Colo.|
|20||Mitch Reed||RB||5-10||200||Sr.||Genoa, Neb.|
|21||Derek Blessing||CB||5-10||195||Sr.||Ogallala, Neb.|
|22||Jake Gieselman||LB||5-8||205||Sr.||Malcolm, Neb.|
|23||Demarques Saulberry||RB||5-10||205||Fr.||Beaumont, Texas|
|23||Spencer Zysset||DB||6-0||170||Sr.||Hastings, Neb.|
|24||Chavarius Curry-Felix||WR||6-1||200||Fr.||Estill, S.C.|
|25||Landon Oelke||CB||6-0||190||Jr.||Dalhart, Texas|
|26||Ricky Jones||DB||5-10||185||Jr.||Gilroy, Calif.|
|27||Luke Glenn||RB||5-9||185||Fr.||Shelton, Neb.|
|27||Tyler Michael||DB||6-4||190||Fr.||Whittier, Calif.|
|28||Bryce Collins||RB||5-9||205||Fr.||Boerne, Texas|
|29||Christopher Agee||OLB||6-2||210||Fr.||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|29||Tait Sibbel||S||6-2||205||So.||O'Neill, Neb.|
|30||Collin Christiansen||LB||6-1||190||Jr.||Palmer, Alaska|
|31||Connor Kayton||DB||5-11||190||Fr.||Palisade, Neb.|
|31||Jerad Leifeld||FB||5-10||220||RS-Fr.||Humphrey, Neb.|
|32||Taylor Dudley||P||6-0||180||So.||Loungmount, Colo.|
|33||Drew Baxter||OLB||6-0||210||Jr.||Rockwall, Texas|
|33||Landon Stouffer||RB||5-11||195||Fr.||David City, Neb.|
|34||Trey Barnes||RB||6-1||215||Fr.||Seward, Neb.|
|34||Brandon Luetchens||WR||6-3||195||Fr.||Murdock, Neb.|
|35||Devin Elley||FB||5-11||220||Jr.||Hastings, Neb.|
|36||Joe Marshall||P||6-0||195||Sr.||Malcolm, Neb.|
|37||Clay Mauro||LB||6-1||220||So.||Ely, Nev.|
|38||Michael Winters||DB||5-11||185||Fr.||Perris, Calif.|
|39||Christopher Hendricks||DB||5-9||165||Fr.||Cedar Park, Texas|
|40||Tyler Broekemeier||OLB||5-11||210||Sr.||Elk Point, S.D.|
|41||Michael Carroll||LB||5-10||215||Jr.||Aliso Viejo, Calif.|
|42||Langston Jones||LB||6-2||225||Sr.||Loveland, Colo.|
|43||Brandon Groseth||FB||6-1||220||Fr.||North Platte, Neb.|
|44||Joseph Scott||LB||5-10||215||Fr.||Highland, Calif.|
|45||Geoff Kleinschmit||S||6-1||205||Jr.||Crofton, Neb.|
|45||Patrick Skwara||LB||6-10||205||Fr.||Boerne, Texas|
|46||Brennan Talcott||OLB||6-1||205||Jr.||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|47||Guillame Cerfontaine||DB||5-9||155||Fr.||Vilvoorde, Belgium|
|47||Josh Slechta||TE||6-5||250||So.||Kennard, Neb.|
|48||Tobias Martin||OLB||6-0||205||Jr.||Wahoo, Neb.|
|49||Seth Fitzke||TE||6-4||230||Fr.||Seward, Neb.|
|50||Denzel Lewis||OLB||6-0||210||Fr.||Lancaster, Texas|
|50||Josh Powell||OL||6-0||270||Jr.||Kennesaw, Neb.|
|51||Jadon Schneider||LB||6-1||205||So.||Millarville, AB, Canada|
|52||Deiondre Lewis||OLB||6-0||225||Fr.||Spring, Texas|
|53||Adam Aschenbrenner||OL||6-1||265||Jr.||Malcolm, Neb.|
|54||Lane Johnson||OL||5-10||250||Fr.||Stilwell, Okla.|
|54||Colton Schneider||LB||6-3||230||Sr.||Millarville, AB, Canada|
|55||Colin Elley||DL||5-10||245||Jr.||Hastings, Neb.|
|56||Dylan Heithoff||OLB||6-4||265||Sr.||Elgin, Neb.|
|57||Travis Newgard||LB||6-1||200||Fr.||Omaha, Neb.|
|59||Cody Hawk||DL||6-2||265||Sr.||Dodge, Neb.|
|60||Seth Schlenger||LS||6-0||285||So.||Colorado Springs, Colo.|
|60||Corey Washington||OL||6-0||240||Fr.||Houston, Texas|
|61||Trey Anderson||OL||6-0||230||Fr.||Lincoln, Neb.|
|61||Dylan Pierquin||LB||6-0||215||Fr.||Vilvoorde, Belgium|
|62||Hallick Lehmann||OL||6-4||245||Fr.||Albion, Neb.|
|63||Dylan Klassen||OL||6-1||270||Sr.||Humphrey, Neb.|
|64||Coleman James||OL||6-2||235||Fr.||Ponder, Texas|
|65||Keddrick Fuselier||OL||6-2||285||Fr.||Humble, Texas|
|66||Andrew Crist||OL||6-1||230||So.||Springfield, Mo.|
|66||Nolan Schroeder||DL||6-3||230||Fr.||Davenport, Neb.|
|67||Austin Faulstich||OL||5-11||250||Jr.||Concordia, Mo.|
|68||Glennon Manninger||OL||6-2||280||Jr.||Omaha, Neb.|
|69||Justin Kathman||OL||6-1||280||Jr.||Juniata, Neb.|
|70||Sawyer Birtell||OL||6-6||300||So.||Madison, Neb.|
|71||Michael Fox||DB||6-0||190||Fr.||Nixa, Mo.|
|71||Adam Lueders||OL||6-6||290||Sr.||Johnson, Neb.|
|72||Theo Sheridan||OL||6-1||260||So.||Long Beach, Calif.|
|73||Jimmie Bunting||OL||6-3||255||Sr.||Brock, Neb.|
|74||Brian Gorman||OL||6-0||245||So.||Colorado Springs, Colo.|
|75||Ben Balduc||OL||6-3||290||So.||Roanoke, Texas|
|76||Darvin Woods||OL||6-4||295||So.||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|76||Christopher Weitman||DB||6-0||150||Fr.||Yerington, Nev.|
|77||Philipp Mancuso||OL||6-2||270||Fr.||Nolanville, Texas|
|78||Aaron Watson||OL||6-4||285||Fr.||Mims, Fla.|
|79||Mitchell Cherney||OL||6-7||310||Sr.||Burnsville, Minn.|
|79||Jose Garcia||DL||6-1||215||Fr.||Ogallala, Neb.|
|80||Devin Gilbert||WR||6-1||170||Fr.||Angleton, Texas|
|80||Mitch Kreifels||WR||6-5||200||Jr.||Lincoln, Neb.|
|81||Riley Herren||WR||6-0||175||So.||Lone Tree, Colo.|
|82||Joel Newton||TE||6-3||235||Sr.||Rockford, Ill.|
|83||Brian Serra||WR||6-2||195||Jr.||Monterey, Calif.|
|84||Paxton Folkerts||TE||6-4||215||Fr.||Milford, Neb.|
|85||Brian De Caluwe||OLB||6-2||210||Fr.||Dilbeek, Belgium|
|85||Jordan Larrington||TE||6-3||220||Sr.||Elm Creek, Neb.|
|86||Demarcus Hollier||WR||5-10||165||Fr.||Houston, Texas|
|87||Derek Klaus||WR||6-0||200||Sr.||Beatrice, Neb.|
|88||Cody Eitzmann||WR||5-10||155||Jr.||Deshler, Neb.|
|89||Clinton Gardels||TE||6-4||220||So.||Wilcox, Neb.|
|91||Kinser Gergen||OLB||6-0||200||Fr.||Geneva, Neb.|
|91||Michael Grau||DL||6-0||230||So.||Lawton, Iowa|
|92||Dylan Helberg||TE||6-1||210||So.||McCook, Neb.|
|93||Ronald Jackson||DL||5-10||285||Fr.||Houston, Texas|
|95||Michael Winckler||DL||6-0||250||Fr.||Fremont, Neb.|
|96||Michael Gill||DL||6-0||265||So.||Ogallala, Neb.|
|97||Kyle Rakow||DL||6-3||250||Jr.||Pleasant Dale, Neb.|
|98||Alex Melius||DL||6-3||245||Jr.||Lincoln, Neb.|
|99||Casey Johnson||DL||6-1||275||Fr.||Battle Creek, Neb.|
|99||Caleb Wehling||DB||5-11||175||Fr.||Liberal, Kan.|
|RS||Dakota Coon||LB||5-10||190||So.||North Platte, Neb.|
|RS||Alonzo Garcia-Byrd||DB||5-10||200||Fr.||El Paso, Texas|
|RS||Trent Good||WR||5-8||200||So.||Gothenburg, Neb.|
|RS||Davon Hodge||ATH||5-10||185||So.||Lancaster, Texas|
|RS||Demetrius Hood||WR||6-1||195||Fr.||Leander, Texas|
|RS||Brett James||WR||5-8||165||Fr.||Kearney, Neb.|
|RS||Roland Youngling||OLB||6-0||190||Jr.||Tucson, Ariz.|
Head Coach: Vance Winter
Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator: Curran White
Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs: Patrick Daberkow
Defensive Line/Special Teams/JV Head Coach: Corby Osten
Wide Receivers/Strength & Conditioning: James Landers
Defensive Backs: Wade Halvorsen
Running Backs: Reggie Corbin
Offensive Line: Greg Welch
Kickers/Punters: Courtney Meyer
Tight Ends: Harold Pester
Assistant Coach: Karl Miller
4 JAN 2013
The Concordia football schedule for 2013 has been announced. This fall’s slate includes a non-conference season-opening trip to NCAA Division II William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., and a total of five games at Bulldog Stadium – all within the GPAC.
Head coach Vance Winter’s squad will host rival Nebraska Wesleyan for homecoming on Oct. 12 and also welcome in neighboring Doane on Oct. 26. NAIA national runner up Morningside will travel to Seward on Nov. 2 for Concordia’s Parent’s Day and Briar Cliff will serve as the visitor for Senior Day on Nov. 16.
Winter will once again lead his team on the road at his alma mater of Dakota State in a game that will take place on Sept. 28. Then on Oct. 19 the Bulldogs will attempt to knock off Northwestern on the road after upsetting the Red Raiders 17-16 this past season on homecoming at Bulldog Stadium.
Concordia’s 11 2013 opponents combined for a record of 58-62 (.483) in 2012. Morningside’s 13-1 mark tops the list while Briar Cliff’s 1-10 record falls at the bottom of the spectrum. William Jewell, the only team new to the 2013 schedule that did not face Concordia in 2012, went 2-9 overall, 1-7 in Great Lakes Valley Conference action and 1-3 on its home turf at Greene Stadium.
The Bulldogs will look to build upon a 2012 season in which they went 5-6, capturing the program’s most victories since a 5-5 campaign in 2004 under then head coach Courtney Meyer. First team all-conference performers Derek Blessing and Darnell Woods headline Concordia’s core of 2013 returnees.
6 FEB 2013
With today marking national football signing day, head coach Vance Winter and his Concordia football staff have secured 20 recruits for the class of 2013. These student-athletes range from local talent like Seward High School linebacker Trey Barnes to Ronald Jackson, a physical lineman from Houston, Texas.
“I think this is a great initial group of signees,” Winter said. “We’ve made our team better at a lot of key positions. I’m really excited about Trey Barnes and rest of our linebacker group. Overall it’s a class that also fills needs on the defensive and offensive lines. We still have some more to do. We’re still looking for more guys that are the right fits, but we’re very pleased with where we’re at and the types of guys we’re bringing in.”
While some of the team’s top targets are still waiting to make final decisions, defensive coordinator/recruiting coordinator Patrick Daberkow likes the way the 2013 crop is shaping up.
Barnes, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound standout from Seward, enjoyed a huge senior season and was made a high priority for the Bulldog coaching staff. With Barnes coming from their own backyard, Winter and company know exactly what they are getting.
“Trey Barnes is going to be a great talent here at linebacker for us,” Daberkow said. “I think he has great size potential. He’s got a pretty good frame on him right now. We’ll probably try to add 15 or 20 pounds to him. With the way he scrapes at linebacker, plays downhill and beats blocks – that’s something we’re really looking forward to seeing here.”
Jackson, who attends the same high school as former Concordia all-GPAC linebacker Jerrod Fleming, projects well at both offensive and defensive line at the college level. At 5-foot-10, 260 pounds, he has the size and strength to be an early contributor. Winter describes him as an explosive athlete who is a great fit for the university.
The class includes plenty of other intriguing prospects with 12 of the 20 currently on board hailing from the state of Nebraska. Of the other eight, four are from Texas, two are native Californians and one each come from Arkansas and Missouri.
With facility renovations that give Concordia some of the best in the NAIA, the Bulldogs have a lot to offer. Winter, Daberkow, White and special teams coordinator Corby Osten have been ecstatic to show off the sparkling new locker rooms, weight room and of course Bulldog Stadium, one of the GPAC’s top stadium venues.
“The response has been great. We really feel like the facilities set us apart here,” Daberkow said. “For kids looking for top-notch facilities, that’s something we definitely can offer. We also feel like it’s not the facilities alone that make it great, it’s the people that make up the university that really make our (recruiting) visits special.”
The presence of a complete coaching staff has also made recruiting this collection of student-athletes much smoother. Last offseason Winter and company worked without an offensive coordinator before bringing White aboard in April. Since then Osten has also been promoted to full-time, providing another boon to recruiting in addition to the efforts of coaches James Landers and Trent Laune.
“It’s incredible how helpful it is to have a full football staff,” Daberkow said. “Last year it was just Coach Winter and I as the only full-time guys. Now we’re able to hit a lot more markets and scour the state of Nebraska a lot better.”
Even with a solid group of additions already set to join the Bulldogs this fall, Daberkow stresses that work still must be done to complete the class. National signing day does not mark an end to recruiting for 2013 at the NAIA level.
“It’s not complete at all. We’re still hot on the trail of a lot of guys,” Daberkow said. “We’ve got a lot of big visits these last few weekends. We’ll have some decisions being made over the next couple weeks whether we decide to offer certain scholarships. We think a lot of things will drop in the next week or so.”
3 APR 2013
Spring practice begins: April 3
Spring practice open to public: Friday, April 26, 7 p.m., Bulldog Stadium
Head coach Vance Winter, 16-27 overall (enters fifth season in 2013)
Offensive Coordinator: Curran White (second season)
Defensive Coordinator: Patrick Daberkow (fourth season as DC; seventh season on defensive staff)
Special Teams: Corby Osten (sixth season on football staff)
2012 Record: 5-6 overall; 4-5 GPAC (7th)
2013 Returning starters:
Special Teams: 3
Sept. 5 (Thu.) – at William Jewell (Mo.), 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 – vs. *Hastings, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 – at *Midland, 1 p.m.
Sept. 28 – at Dakota State (S.D.), 4 p.m.
Oct. 5 – at *Dordt, 1 p.m.
Oct. 12 – *Nebraska Wesleyan (Homecoming), 1 p.m.
Oct. 19 – at *Northwestern, 1 p.m.
Oct. 26 – vs. *Doane, 1 p.m.
Nov. 2 – vs. *Morningside (Parent’s Day), 1 p.m.
Nov. 9 – at *Dakota Wesleyan, 1 p.m.
Nov. 16 – vs. *Briar Cliff (Senior Day), 1 p.m.
*Class listed for each key returner updated for 2013-14 athletic season
-Derek Blessing, Sr., 5-10, 205, CB/PR/KR, 2012 First Team All-Conference; paced the entire NAIA with 388 punt return yards and three punt return touchdowns while averaging 18.5 yards per return in 2012; topped the Bulldogs in tackles (75), pass breakups (6) and forced fumbles (3).
-Dylan Heithoff, Sr., 6-3, 245, OLB, 2012 Second Team All-Conference; recorded 71 tackles (9.5 for loss) and four sacks in 2012.
-Langston Jones, Sr., LB, 6-2, 225, 2012 Honorable Mention All-Conference; ranked second on the team with 73 total tackles (6.5 for loss) while also recording one interception, two fumble recoveries and two blocked kicks.
-Dylan Klassen, Jr., 6-1, 270, C, 2012 Honorable Mention All-Conference.
-Josh Powell, Jr., 6-0, 260, RG, 2012 Honorable Mention All-Conference.
-Tait Sibbel, So., 6-2, 195, S, 2012 Honorable Mention All-Conference; made 67 tackles (fifth on the team) and also posted one interception, two fumble recoveries and three pass breakups.
-Von Thomas, Jr., 6-2, 200, QB, Honorable Mention All-Conference; tallied 2,300 all-purpose yards (1,840 passing, team-leading 460 rushing) and 20 total touchdowns (14 passing, six rushing) while starting all 11 games at QB.
-Darnell Woods, Sr., 6-3, 205, S, 2012 First Team All-Conference; led the team with 5 INTs and ranked seventh with 58 tackles; moved to safety after starting the opening game at corner.
-Adam Faulstich, 6-1, 270, LG, 2012 Second Team All-Conference.
-Kyle Little, 6-2, 230, LB, 2012 Honorable Mention All-Conference; made 72 tackles (third most on the team) and picked off one pass and broke up six passes.
-Tom Malander, 6-0, 200, LB, 2012 Honorable Mention All-Conference; posted 52 tackles and two forced fumbles in 2012.
-Colten Quinabo, 6-0, 190, WR, 2012 Second Team All-Conference; caught 47 passes for 567 yards and four touchdowns to lead Concordia in all three categories.
-Michael Voelker, 6-3, 255, DL, 2012 Second Team All-Conference; made career high 63 tackles (8.5 for loss) and also recorded two sacks and four pass breakups in 2012.
-Kenny Zoeller, 6-0, 185, K, 2012 NAIA All-America; 2012 First Team All-Conference; 15/20 FGs, 27/28 PATs, 72 points in 2012.
Key newcomers: Read more about the 2013 recruiting class HERE.
The Bulldogs improved from 4-7 in 2011 to 5-6 in 2012. Five of the team's six losses this past fall came by 10 points or less. After starting the season 0-3, Concordia won four in a row, and five of six, including a stunning 17-16 upset of No. 11 Northwestern on Oct. 13. With playmaking quarterback Von Thomas' skills fully on display in new offensive coordinator Curran White's spread attack, Concordia went from 16.7 points per game in 2011 to 24.0 in 2012.
The Bulldogs' also boasted the most electrifying return man in the NAIA with Derek Blessing, who topped the nation with 388 punt return yards and three punt return touchdowns. Blessing also moved from running back to cornerback last season and thrived. He will be part of an experienced secondary in 2013 that brings back all four starters.
Concordia also had several other great success stories such as the emergence of Darnell Woods as a ballhawking safety and Tait Sibbel’s smooth transition from high school to stellar college defensive back. In addition, Kenny Zoeller earned All-America honors and fellow seniors Colten Quinabo, Adam Faulstich and Michael Voelker finished out solid Concordia careers.
26 APR 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Fans in attendance at Friday’s open spring practice got a glimpse at the 2013 edition of head coach Vance Winter’s Bulldog football squad. A team complete with a fast, athletic defense with an experienced secondary and an improved offense under second-year offensive coordinator Curran White was on full display. These components made for a fiery last outing of the spring.
“I love the competitiveness of our group,” Winter said. “I think our group came out here and competed tonight. You saw a little scuffle here or scuffle there. Guys were competing and fighting, enjoying this weather and playing football.”
Friday evening’s scrimmage under the lights at Bulldog Stadium included position drills, special teams work and a full-contact scrimmage for the final 30 minutes or so of action. Fans also were treated to grilled hot dogs and refreshments at the conclusion of the scrimmage. The showcase signaled the end of the spring practice season which began on April 3.
The open session allowed for a first look at some of the team’s new skill talent. After struggling offensively down the stretch in 2012, Concordia knows it must find guys who make plays with the ball in their hands. One athlete who may fit that bill is redshirt freshman John Nunes, a Baltimore, Md., native who has impressed with his big-play ability at the running back position.
“I really like how our running backs ran the ball,” Winter said. “I think we have some guys that have some elusiveness and can break some tackles and run physically.”
Quarterback Von Thomas also looks increasingly comfortable after starting all 11 games and taking nearly every meaningful snap in 2012. Thomas, who put up 2,200 total yards and 20 total touchdowns last season, should take his game to another level with more dangerous skill talent around him.
“One of his main weapons is his feet and running,” Winter said. “I thought he managed things OK out here today. He completed all the short passing game stuff and did some good things. He had a good spring and really improved throughout. He’s got a great grasp of the offense. I’m excited about his development this spring.”
While the offense figures to continue to make leaps forward, the defense under coordinator Patrick Daberkow may end up serving as the backbone of the team. All four starters are back in the secondary, led by first team all-conference choices Darnell Woods and Derek Blessing.
“There’s a good group of guys on defense,” Winter said. “I’m fired up about our defense. We’ve got to stay healthy, but I love how they’re playing. I love the intensity they bring every day. Coach Daberkow has them going. Our defensive staff does a great job.
“I love our athleticism defensively. I love how they compete and run.”
Concordia football players will report to campus in August to begin fall practice in preparation for the season opener on Sept. 5 at William Jewell College (Mo.).
29 MAY 2013
Since announcing the addition of 20 recruits on national college football signing day (Feb. 6), Bulldog football has secured 27 more student-athletes for the class of 2013 (view complete list above). That brings the total number to 47.
The 47 players come from seven different states. Twenty of the prospects hail from the state of Nebraska. Head coach Vance Winter’s staff has also worn a path down south and out west, nabbing 11 players each from Texas and California.
Position-wise, the class is heavy on defensive backs and linebackers with nine recruits apiece. Three players are listed at the quarterback position.
Two recruits come right from the Bulldogs’ backyard, as both linebacker Trey Barnes and tight end Seth Fitzke are Seward High School products.
While nearing completion, Winter and his staff are still putting the final touches on the class.
2013 recruiting class by state:
2013 recruiting class by position:
20 JUN 2013
Coming off terrific junior seasons in 2012, Bulldog football standouts Derek Blessing and Darnell Woods have been named to Beyond Sports Network’s (BSN) preseason NAIA All-America list. Blessing netted first team honors as a punt returner, while Woods placed on the honorable mention list as a safety.
Blessing burst onto the scene last season with his electrifying punt returns. The Ogallala, Neb., native led the NAIA and set school records with 388 punt return yards and three punt return touchdowns. He also made a smooth transition from running back to cornerback, topping the team with 75 tackles. He earned first team all-GPAC and BSN first team All-America accolades, among other honors in 2012.
Woods also blossomed in his junior year, proving to be a perfect fit at safety after beginning the season at corner. He plucked a Bulldog best five interceptions, one of which went for a touchdown at Doane. Woods was selected to the GPAC’s first team and received Omaha World-HeraldAll-Nebraska honors in 2012.
Blessing and Woods will form the backbone of one of the nation’s most talented secondaries this fall. The 2013 season will kick off Sept. 5 when Concordia plays at NCAA Division II William Jewell College.
1 AUG 2013
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – A day after attending the funeral of former Bulldog football player and Concordia alum Derek Rodine, head coach Vance Winter spent most of his time at GPAC Football Media Day discussing the impact of Rodine’s death.
“The Bulldog football family has some heavy hearts this week,” Winter said while delivering an emotional speech inside the Sioux City, Iowa, Convention Center on Thursday afternoon. “I’ll admit we’re all in a state of shock with the death of Derek Rodine Saturday evening.”
Rodine, 23, started for four seasons along the Bulldog defensive front and served as a student assistant coach in 2012. He died over the weekend as a result of a car accident. Rodine’s visitation and funeral services were held Tuesday and Wednesday in Polk, Neb., where a throng of Concordia staff, friends, family and alums gathered in support of Rodine.
“This week has been so tough,” Winter said. “But I’m more proud than ever before to be the head coach at Concordia, to be able to work with the young men I’m privileged to coach and the great men I’m privileged to coach with. After this week and the tragedy that we’ve all struggled to deal with, I’m so proud of our group and how our group of men has come together in tough times to remember Derek, to support each other and Derek’s family and loved ones.”
Winter went on to answer questions from Lincoln’s 1011 News about Rodine. For Winter, it was hard to talk about X’s and O’s or position battles a day after a player he had coached and greatly admired was laid to rest.
“When a teammate passes away, it transcends a lot of trivial things – the X’s and O’s, the recruiting battles, the wins and losses,” Winter said. “It really becomes about the team, the brotherhood and the family that happens within a team. I’ve been reminded this week of how strong a brotherhood exits on our football team. I’m proud of the group and I’m just honored to coach these men.”
Winter went on to discuss why Rodine’s death hurt so much.
“Rowdy lived an impactful life,” Winter said. “He impacted so many people without probably even knowing it. We are so grateful for the time we were able to have with him. Selfishly, we all wanted more time, much more time. But God’s timing is not our time and we have to trust his plan out of all of this.”
Bulldog football is still in the process of formulating a means of honoring Rodine’s memory throughout the upcoming season. Rodine was the second former Concordia football player to die of tragic circumstances since the end of the 2012 season. Concordia graduate Drew Ekart died late this past May as a result of brain cancer.
GPAC coaches express sympathy: Several GPAC coaches provided well wishes to Bulldog football in the wake of Rodine’s death. Coaching staffs at Doane, Midland and Northwestern have also dealt with recent deaths to current or former players. Said Doane defensive coordinator Chris Bressler, “Our condolences go out to the Concordia football program. We know exactly what it’s like.” Last spring Doane football lost Cody Fanning, 20, in a similarly tragic incident.
Strong lineage of linebackers continues: “It’s good to talk about football,” Winter first remarked when asked about his team’s linebacker group. The unit will be led by seniors Dylan Heithoff (2012 second team all-conference), Langston Jones (2012 honorable mention all-conference) and converted safety Drew Baxter.
Concordia has come to be known for steady ballhawking linebackers in the mold of 2012 graduate Jerrod Fleming, a 2011 first team all-conference backer.
“We’re really excited about how that group performed in the spring,” Winter said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who have played a lot of football, a lot of experience. That says a lot. These guys have went through the tough times and have worked very hard.
“Dylan Heithoff – he’s been a four-year starter ever since he showed up from Elgin, Nebraska. He’s a guy I’m really excited about with him going into his senior year. Langston Jones is another guy – one of the linebackers you’re talking about. We’ve had a run of very good linebackers. Langston is right in there. We really believe a lot in his ability.”
Winter sees improvement over 2012 squad:Concordia’s five victories in 2012 were the most for the program since 2004, but Winter is hoping for more in 2013 as the team builds around returning quarterback Von Thomas, the NAIA’s top punt returner in Derek Blessing and first team all-conference safety Darnell Woods.
“I will admit that this week has been tough to think about football,” Winter said. “That does not diminish our excitement about the 2013 season. We are a much improved football team. We’re a much improved football program. Our competitiveness level and our amount of depth is increasing yearly.”
Large contingency remains in Seward for summer workouts: About 20 players have spent the entire summer working out on campus. Winter and his staff have been impressed with the work ethic displayed by their squad this offseason. Standouts such as Jones, Thomas and Woods are among those who have conditioned in Seward this summer. Winter believes this hard work will pay off in the form of greater consistency in 2013.
“We have a group that has had a great offseason,” Winter said. “We’ve had our largest summer turnout ever in our program’s history. We are improving daily, weekly, yearly, and we’re excited about the 2013 season. We have plenty of very good football players. Now it’s time to prove it on the field consistently. And that’s the big word – consistency. We’ve had our moments, and last season for certain we had our moments, but we need to be more consistent.”
Bulldogs picked to finish seventh in GPAC: Coming off a seventh-place finish in the GPAC last season, Concordia has been pegged to place in exactly the same slot by both the coaches’ and media preseason conference polls. Check out the complete results of these polls below.
NOTE: Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
Coaches’ Poll (first-place votes in parentheses)
Vance Winter GPAC Media Day Transcript
Thank you to the Sioux City Convention Center and to (GPAC Commissioner) Corey Westra for all his work at this event. Big thanks to all the media here for representing the GPAC Conference.
The Bulldog football family has some heavy hearts this week. I’ll admit we’re all in a state of shock with the death of Derek Rodine Saturday evening. Derek was a four-year starter from 2008 to 2011. He was an all-conference defensive lineman and a student assistant coach for us last fall.
You’re never really prepared for something like this. There’s no doubt it hurts. I’m so grateful to the coaches in this league who have reached out to me, especially (Doane’s) Coach (Matt) Franzen. Coach’s Franzen’s back – really happy days with a new daughter. His words of comfort – I know what they dealt with last year with Cody Fanning. I heard how Cody was described by so many people in their program. “Rowdy” was that type of guy in our program and a man that was universally loved by the entire campus, and a guy who was an amazing an amazing teammate and friend.
The death of a young man who was so vibrant, strong and so seemingly invincible and so tough to handle – for a bunch of 18-to-25 year-old guys – it’s been really tough. It really makes you think about the frailties of life and making the most of your time on Earth. And Rowdy definitely did that.
Rowdy lived an impactful life. He impacted so many people without probably even knowing it. We are so grateful for the time we were able to have with him. Selfishly, we all wanted more time, much more time. But God’s timing is not our time and we have to trust his plan out of all of this.
This week has been so tough, but I’m more proud than ever before to be the head coach at Concordia, to be able to work with the young men I’m privileged to coach and the great men I’m privileged to coach with. After this week and the tragedy that we’ve all struggled to deal with, I’m so proud of our group and how our group of men has come together in tough times to remember Derek, to support each other and Derek’s family and loved ones.
When a teammate passes away, it transcends a lot of trivial things – the X’s and O’s, the recruiting battles, the wins and losses. It really becomes about the team, the brotherhood and the family that happens within a team. I’ve been reminded this week of how strong a brotherhood exits on our football team. I’m proud of the group and I’m just honored to coach these men.
I’m still in awe also of the communities of Polk, Nebraska, and Hordville, Nebraska, and Immanuel Lutheran Church for their support of the Rodine family. It’s just an amazing show of support – an amazing show of support for that family. It makes you appreciate the love and compassion of a small community and it was inspiring to see. I know our program and everyone associated with the Concordia family will never forget.
Please keep Derek’s family – the Rodines – his fiancé Ashley and our team in your prayers. I will admit that this week has been tough to think about football. That does not diminish our excitement about the 2013 season.
We are a much improved football team. We’re a much improved football program. Our competitiveness level and our amount of depth is increasing yearly. We train and perform in first-class facilities. We have a coaching staff and coordinators that I feel are excellent men of character and excellent coaches.
We have a group that has had a great offseason. We’ve had our largest summer turnout ever in our program’s history. We are improving daily, weekly, yearly, and we’re excited about the 2013 season. We have plenty of very good football players. Now it’s time to prove it on the field consistently. And that’s the big word – consistency. We’ve had our moments, and last season for certain we had our moments, but we need to be more consistent.
Like I said, this is a tough day to really talk too much about football and our individual guys and things like that.
We’re very excited about this season. We’re excited about our group and I can talk about the names, but I’m just going to say that I love our group. And that’s what I’ve dealt with all this week is our group. Those guys that are really hurting right now back in Seward and across the country – the football part seems pretty inconsequential right now. But for me today it is about the entire Bulldog family and the group of young people that are really hurting back in Seward and across the US. I’m proud to be their coach.
These are tough days, but we look forward to the 2013 season and we love our team.
Question: Coach, I understand it’s very difficult to talk about your players, but if I could get you to talk about your defense, especially your linebackers. You’ve got a couple guys that have some really good leadership there. They seem like they really get things going. Could you touch on them a little bit?
Coach Winter: Yeah, it’s good. It’s good to talk football. We’ve got some good guys. Defensively we return a great group. We’re really excited about how that group performed in the spring. We’ve got a lot of guys who have played a lot of football, a lot of experience. That says a lot. These guys have went through the tough times and have worked very hard.
Dylan Heithoff – he’s been a four-year starter ever since he showed up from Elgin, Nebraska. He’s a guy I’m really excited about with him going into his senior year. Langston Jones is another guy – one of the linebackers you’re talking about. We’ve had a run of very good linebackers. Langston is right in there. We really believe a lot in his ability.
9 MAR 2012
SEWARD, Neb. - Derek Blessing and Darnell Woods have been named to the College Football America 2013 NAIA Preseason All-America team, as announced late Thursday night. Blessing receives recognition as a punt returner, while Woods collects the honor as a defensive back.
Both Blessing and Woods were also placed on the Beyond Sports Network’s (BSN) preseason NAIA All-America list on June 20. They are coming off 2012 campaigns in which they earned first team all-conference laurels.
Bulldog football opens the season Thursday, Sept. 5 at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
14 AUG 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Because of a friendly challenge between school presidents, Concordia’s opening football game at William Jewell in Liberty, Mo., on Thursday, Sept. 5 will come with some added zest. Concordia president Brian Friedrich hopes it comes with a side of baked beans and perhaps some burnt ends.
If the Bulldogs claim victory that day, William Jewell president David Sallee must provide Friedrich with Kansas City barbecue. If the Cardinals win, Sallee will be dining on Omaha Steaks courtesy of Friedrich.
Since agreeing upon the challenge several weeks ago, the presidents have engaged in some friendly banter.
“He told me how good it will be to have some of those fresh Omaha Steaks,” Friedrich said. “And I told him how much we’re going to enjoy the Kansas City barbecue.”
While Friedrich says they have not discussed the exact quantities of food that must be offered up by whoever comes up on the short end, Bulldog football coaches were hoping to secure some KC barbecue for themselves when informed of the challenge.
“When I told our coaches that, they got all excited,” Friedrich said. “Coach (Vance) Winter and Coach (Patrick) Daberkow think this might be an event for the whole team, but I don’t know. President Sallee and I haven’t talked about quantity – whether he’s signed up to feed the whole Bulldog team or not. I might have to chip in and make sure the Bulldogs get fed some of that good KC barbecue.”
The wheels first got turning on a possible challenge when Concordia alum and regent Barry Holst, now a resident of Kearney, Mo., visited with Sallee at a civic club meeting at William Jewell. Holst relayed his conversation with Sallee, which included mention of the opening football game, back to Friedrich, who then proposed the challenge. Sallee agreed, giving an added element of fun to the game.
The deal between the school presidents would seem to put more pressure on both sides, but Friedrich says that’s not the case. While he may be more nervous than he has been for past Bulldog football games, Friedrich feels confident that Winter’s squad is up to the task.
“No, not at all,” Friedrich responded when asked if he was trying to put more pressure on the team. “They said, ‘hey, we’re willing to take on that kind of challenge.’”
From Winter’s perspective, the focus is all on the football field.
“I’m glad there’s excitement for this game,” Winter said. “I know our guys are excited and we’ll be able to feel that on campus.
“We need a great couple of weeks of preparation to get ready. We’re very excited to play a Division II team on a Thursday night. We’re looking forward to it.”
In addition to working towards the desired result on the scoreboard, Winter added that he would love to chow down on some barbecue.
Alumni, fans and friends pre-game gathering: All alumni, fans and friends of the Bulldogs are invited to attend a pre-game gathering on Sept. 5 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Conrad’s Restaurant & Alehouse in Liberty, Mo. Concordia originally hoped to plan a gathering on the William Jewell campus, but President Sallee has orchestrated a tailgate for the entire Cardinal campus community.
For more information on the Bulldog pre-game gathering, check out the event page on Facebook, HERE.
The Opponent: William Jewell, a former NAIA member, resides in the Great Lakes Valley Conference of NCAA Division II. The Cardinals went 2-9 last season with victories over Kentucky Wesleyan College and South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. William Jewell sported a record of 1-3 on its home turf at Greene Stadium in 2012.
16 AUG 2013
By Jacob Knabel, Sports Information Director
Head Coach: Vance Winter (16-27, four years)
2012 Record: 5-6 overall; 4-5 GPAC (7th)
Returning Starters: OFFENSE – 7; DEFENSE – 8; SPECIAL TEAMS – 3
Key Returners: Jeff Balz (WR), Drew Baxter (OLB), Derek Blessing (CB/PR/KR), Dylan Heithoff (OLB/DE), Langston Jones (LB), Dylan Klassen (OL), Josh Powell (OL), Tait Sibbel (S), Josh Slechta (TE), Von Thomas (QB), Darnell Woods (S)
Key Losses: Victor Brown (RB), Adam Faulstich (OL), Kyle Little (LB), Tom Malander (LB), Colten Quinabo (WR), Michael Voelker (DL), Kenny Zoeller (K)
2012 GPAC All-Conference: Derek Blessing (first team – PR), Darnell Woods (first team), Kenny Zoeller (first team), Adam Faulstich (second team), Dylan Heithoff (second team), Colten Quinabo (second team), Michael Voelker (second team), Langston Jones (honorable mention), Kyle Little (honorable mention), Tom Malander (honorable mention), Josh Powell (honorable mention), Von Thomas (honorable mention)
2012 AFCA NAIA All-America: Kenny Zoeller
Head coach Vance Winter’s Bulldogs enter the 2013 season determined to turn last season’s close losses into victories. While the 2012 campaign produced the program’s most wins since 2004, Concordia suffered five losses by 10 points or less as part of a tightly-grouped middle of the GPAC.
“We did have our opportunities,” Winter, a fifth-year head coach, said. “That’s what’s kind of disappointing about last season. We were closer in a lot of ways. It was a few plays here or there in every football game. A lot of our close losses came down to turnovers and missed opportunities, whether it be dropped passes, dropped interceptions or whatever. We had an opportunity to finish that play and we didn’t do it.
“That’s the theme this year – finish.”
Still, several great stories emerged in 2012. After dropping their first three games of the season, the Bulldogs won four in a row, including a signature 17-16 upset of No. 11 Northwestern on homecoming at Bulldog Stadium. Electrifying punt returner Derek Blessing spearheaded the win with a 50-yard punt return touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Blessing would go on to lead the NAIA in punt return yards (388) and touchdowns (3), setting school records in both categories.
Under the direction of new offensive coordinator Curran White, Concordia’s pistol spread attack allowed for an improvement from 16.7 points and 249.5 yards per game in 2011 to 24.0 points and 306.5 yards per contest in 2012. The Bulldogs found a consistent playmaking threat with Von Thomas taking over under center as a sophomore last season.
Blessing and Thomas return along with first team all-conference safety Darnell Woods in 2013 to give the team three bona fide stars. The key will be to find depth around the standouts. Winter believes the depth of the program is in as good a shape as it’s been during his tenure, especially with an incoming recruiting class well north of 50 names providing fortification.
“I feel like our talent level has improved,” Winter said. “I feel like we’ve always had good players, but depth has always been an issue. A few key injuries here or there have cost us big time. I feel like we’re developing more and more depth. We have guys who have worked their way up through the program in a three or four year period that have continued to get better year after year, and that helps your talent level.”
Thomas’ talent is undeniable. The signal caller from Miami, Fla., led the team in both passing (1,840) and rushing yards (460) as a premier dual threat. Now with his mastery of the offense, and an emphasis placed upon putting more speed around Thomas, the unit could see another significant bump in production in 2013.
“I am 100 times more familiar with the offense so I’m a lot more comfortable,” Thomas said.
“We’re probably going to see an even greater leap than last year, just for the simple fact that we’re more comfortable in our offense now. Just being able to go out and play and not think about it will benefit us greatly.”
The biggest question marks offensively come at running back and receiver – units that both lose their top two yardage producers from last season. After unexpected losses to the backfield following the spring, senior Mitch Reed (32 rushes, 177 yards) is left as the most experienced ball carrier. That makes for plenty of opportunity for a number of incoming freshmen backs.
While second team all-conference receiver Colten Quinabo (47 catches, 567 yards) has graduated, the Bulldogs feel good about the duo of Jeff Balz (21 catches, 238 yards) and Derek Klaus (10 catches, 99 yards) at the position. In addition, Winter raves about sophomore tight end Josh Slechta (14 catches, 193 yards), who could morph into Thomas’ most reliable target this season.
“I feel like that’s my core group of receivers so I’m very comfortable with them,” Thomas said. “We’ve been through thick and thin. I know if I throw the ball up in the air they will go up and get it to help out the team the best they can.”
Up front, Concordia must replace its best offensive lineman in left guard Adam Faulstich, a 2012 second team all-conference choice. The good news is that junior right guard Josh Powell and senior center Dylan Klassen are back to form a solid interior. Winter also liked what he saw this spring from junior guard Glennon Manninger and senior tackle Mitchell Cherney.
While the offense figures to make continued strides, the defense has fewer question marks. Fourth-year coordinator Patrick Daberkow will trot out a unit with experience at every position group, particularly in a loaded secondary.
Blessing made a smooth transition from running back to corner last season, leading the team in tackles (75), pass breakups (6) and forced fumbles (3). He is likely to team with junior Landon Oelke at the two corner spots this season. Oelke brings the least amount of starting experience to the secondary group, but he was a special teams regular who made 11 stops last season.
Woods became the star of the defense last season after switching from corner to safety early on. The ball-hawk from Phoenix, Ariz., picked off five passes, and like Blessing, is dangerous with the ball in his hands. He returned one pick for a touchdown and totaled 176 interception return yards. He will be flanked by free safety Tait Sibbel, who ended up starting 10 games while more than holding his own as a true freshman. Says Winter, “Our defense kind of took off after those moves.”
“We’ve got a lot of guys returning back,” Woods said. “As many core guys as we’ve got coming back, we feel very connected. It builds our chemistry. We’ll be very solid.”
Despite losing key contributors Kyle Little and Tom Malander at the linebacker position, Concordia is well-stocked with backers that fit the team’s 3-4 scheme. Dylan Heithoff (71 tackles, 4 sacks) and Langston Jones (73 tackles) provide senior leadership and stability along with Drew Baxter, a converted safety. Winter called Baxter the team’s defensive MVP of the spring. Another senior, Colton Schneider, is primed for a starting job after serving as a special teams ace the past couple years.
The defensive line loses second team all-conference choice Michael Voelker but counters with holdovers in senior Cody Hawk (45 tackles) and juniors Alex Melius (24 tackles) and Kyle Rakow (15 tackles). This gives the Bulldogs plenty of seasoned veterans at the position.
Special teams, coordinated by Corby Osten, figure to be a strength again in 2013. Kickers Adam Meirose and Zach Moje will compete to take the place of departed All-American Kenny Zoeller (school record 15 made field goals in 2012). Senior Joe Marshall comes back for his third season as the team’s punter, while the return units are strong with Blessing.
Considering the sum of these parts, the Bulldogs will aim for the program’s first above .500 season since sharing the conference crown in 2001. The key will be to more consistently bottle up the type of performance that allowed Concordia to shock Northwestern last season.
“We showed glimpses of it last year,” Winter said. “The thing we’re looking for this year is consistency week in and week out. We know what we can be. We know how we can play. We did it in spurts. We played at a high level at times. I want us to really on a consistent week-by-week basis, to show that talent level and show our improvement.”
Added Woods, “We’re going to shoot for the top. We want to be in the top two or three contenders with teams like Northwestern, Morningside and Doane. It’s going to be a battle to the top. We’re ready for it.”
The Bulldogs kick off the 2013 season on Thursday, Sept. 5 when they travel to Liberty, Mo., for a non-conference collision with NCAA Division II member William Jewell College. The Cardinals went 2-9 in 2012.
6 SEPT 2013
LIBERTY, Mo. – Behind a second-quarter splurge, the visiting Bulldog football team silenced the William Jewell College faithful on the way to a 30-15 season-opening victory. The Bulldogs kicked off the 2013 season in style under the lights at Greene Stadium in Liberty, Mo., on a rare Thursday night clash.
“It was a good win,” Winter said. “There were so many ebbs and flows in the game. We really started off well. We had a lull from the end of the second quarter to midway through the fourth quarter. I thought our defense really stepped up and made some huge plays.”
On this night there were no gaudy individual statistics as many Bulldog players came through with big plays. There was Derek Blessing’s long punt return, Jeff Balz’s touchdown on a trick play, Darnell Woods’ one-handed interception in the red zone and Von Thomas’ key third-down connection with junior Deshawn Eure on the final touchdown drive.
“I hope we can continue that,” Winter said, referring to the team’s second-quarter play. “We caught some breaks. We made a big play on special teams. Derek made a big return. We got a few turnovers. That was where the momentum changed. We did a good job capitalizing on some things in the second quarter.”
For the game, Concordia outgained William Jewell 362-301, led by an efficient night for Thomas (15-for-22 with 168 yards passing). The Bulldogs also showed off a nice stable of young backs with freshmen Trey Barnes and Bryce Collins combining to score three of the team’s four touchdowns.
“Bryce Collins running the ball at the end was just physical,” Winter said. “He’s got a great future. Mitch Reed got hurt early and I thought our two running backs – Trey Barnes and Bryce Collins – played outstanding and were very physical running the ball.”
Concordia took a 3-0 lead into the second quarter, and that’s when the fun really began. On their third offensive possession, the Bulldogs used 12 plays to drive 70 yards, capping it off with a two-yard touchdown plunge by freshman running back Trey Barnes at the 9:23 mark of the quarter.
Sophomore tight end Josh Slechta, a potential breakout star in 2013, caught a key 14-yard pass on the game’s first touchdown drive following a Barnes 12-yard scamper that converted on a third and three. Senior wide out Jeff Balz also turned a short pass to the flat from quarterback Von Thomas into a 18-yard gain that set up a first and goal.
Barnes, a product of Seward High School, got on the board again with another two-yard touchdown run with 5:34 left in the half, making it 17-0. The bruising Bulldog barreled into the end zone as Concordia took advantage of Blessing’s 38-yard punt return that set up a first and goal.
But the Bulldogs weren’t done yet. Offensive coordinator Curran White pulled out his bag of tricks with a wide receiver reverse that resulted in a nifty 14-yard touchdown run by senior Jeff Balz to finish off a swift four-play, 49-yard drive. A stunned home crowd saw Concordia up 23-0 with 3:25 remaining in the first half in a dominant quarter by Winter’s squad.
“It’s something we’ve been practicing for a while,” Balz said of the reverse. “We just got out there and Coach White had confidence in it. My blockers got out there in front and I just wasn’t going to be denied.”
However, the Cardinals eventually settled in and even made it a one-score game late in the third quarter when Thomas Cook raced 70 yards up the left sideline for a punt return touchdown. William Jewell added a two-point conversion, suddenly pulling within 23-15.
Concordia finally put the game away with a terrific 12-play, 76-yard drive on its final possession. It ended when Collins broke the goal line on a two-yard run with only :53 left on the clock. That score provided the final 15-point margin.
The key play of the drive came on a third-and-eight from the Concordia 36. Thomas dropped back and fired a 39-yard completion to Eure, a junior college transfer, to help put the game on ice.
The game-clinching drive came on the heels of another important stop from the defense, which showed off a playmaking secondary. Woods made a highlight reel interception with one hand in the red zone and senior John Lee thwarted a fourth-quarter drive with a pick of his own.
“I didn’t even know it was one-handed,” Woods said of his interception. “I just saw the ball, saw the intended receiver and made a play on it. The ball just popped up and my eyes were big for it and I snagged it.”
Winter improved to 2-3 in season openers. His previous season opening win came on Aug. 28, 2010, when the Bulldogs upset then No. 22 Peru State on the road.
Slechta had a big first half with four catches for 57 yards. Defensively, Concordia was led by Woods' 11 total tackles. Linebacker Langston Jones made eight stops.
William Jewell College is a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference of NCAA Division II. The Cardinals went 2-9 overall last season.
UP NEXT: Concordia will host its home opener on Saturday, Sept. 14 with Hastings College serving as the opponent. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on a night that will feature the first usage of the new video board inside Bulldog Stadium. The late Derek Rodine, a Concordia football alum who died in a car accident in late July, will be honored with a special tribute video.
Friedrich wins president’s challenge: As a result of the Bulldog victory, Concordia president Brian Friedrich claimed his own victory in a friendly challenge with William Jewell president David Sallee. Friedrich will be treated to Kansas City barbecue courtesy of Sallee.
15 SEPT 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – The final minutes of Saturday’s GPAC football clash between Concordia and Hastings gave fans at a jam-packed Bulldog Stadium all the drama they could ask for – and then some. Sudden despair turned into a jubilant victory for the host Bulldogs, who rode the roller coaster to a 26-21 triumph over the visiting Broncos under the lights on a perfect September evening.
After Concordia (2-0, 1-0 GPAC) saw a 20-7 fourth-quarter lead evaporate, the Bulldogs came through with a clutch nine-play, 63-yard drive to regain the advantage. Senior receiver Jeff Balz raced 14 yards untouched to pay dirt on a reverse for the game-winning touchdown with :59 left to play.
The Bulldog defense forced a turnover on downs on the ensuing possession to seal an emotional win on a night in which former Concordia football player Derek “Rowdy” Rodine was honored in a home-opening tribute. Rowdy, a defensive lineman from 2008-2011, died in late July as a result of injuries suffered in a car accident.
This was a Concordia win Rowdy could be proud of.
“I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it,” Bulldog head coach Vance Winter said of the win. “Our guys showed a lot of character.
“I’m very proud of them. We really showed a lot of character and there was a lot of relief in the locker room afterwards.”
A rash of turnovers forced by an opportunistic Bulldog defense emerged as one of the key storylines of the game. Concordia picked off three of Hastings quarterback Matt Overmiller’s passes and also recovered a fumble. The Bulldogs ended the night plus-four in turnovers, a week after finishing plus-three in turnover margin at William Jewell.
“I thought our defense really played well,” Winter said. “Hastings is a good offensive team. Defensively we limited a lot of big plays there until the end and created some turnovers. Offensively we didn’t capitalize on enough things. We had some opportunities with short fields and didn’t capitalize on it.”
Senior linebacker Drew Baxter led the charge for a dogged defensive effort that limited Hastings to 35 yards rushing on 21 carries. Baxter was active all night, recording nine total tackles, including a sack, while recovering a fumble.
“I’m real excited to see the effort from the defense,” Baxter said. “Guys really showed great character from start to finish. We had contributors from freshmen to seniors – kind of all over the board with the turnovers. We showed a lot of heart and a lot of discipline tonight.”
The Bulldogs persevered in spite of a stunning comeback by Hastings. The Broncos pulled within 20-14 when backup quarterback AJ Palazzolo found Tevor Bohn for a 34-yard touchdown hook up with 6:16 left in the game. Hastings then took the lead with its second blocked punt of the night.
A low snap gave the Bronco rush time to bat Joe Marshall’s punt into the end zone, where Stewart Washington scooped the ball up for a score. Suddenly Hastings led 21-20 with 3:23 to play.
Bulldog quarterback Von Thomas then took charge in leading the game-winning drive. He completed a 21-yard pass to Brian Serra and ran for 23 of his 89 yards on the drive. That set up a second-and-four from the Hastings 14-yard line, where offensive coordinator Curran White dialed up the reverse to Balz. The play resulted in a touchdown much like the one Balz scored last week against William Jewell.
Balz also caught an eight-yard touchdown toss from Thomas in the first quarter. That play allowed the Bulldogs to cash in on a Cody Hawk interception of a tipped pass that pin-balled around until the Concordia defensive lineman finally controlled it at the Hastings 33.
After the Broncos tied it 7-7 early in the third quarter, Concordia built a 20-7 lead thanks to Thomas’ 27-yard touchdown scamper in the third stanza and then a 24-yard Thomas scoring strike to a wide open Jerad Leifeld with 11:33 left in the fourth.
Thomas finished 16-for-31 with 145 yards and two touchdowns through the air. His 89 rushing yards led a Bulldog ground attack that came up with 248 yards on 56 attempts. Winter again got solid production from his freshmen backs – Trey Barnes (20 carries for 70 yards) and Bryce Collins (14 rushes for 79 yards).
Sophomore safety Tait Sibbel and sophomore linebacker Clay Mauro also came up with an interception apiece. Mauro’s interception led to the Leifeld touchdown seven plays later.
The Bulldogs finished with 393 total yards to Hastings’ 269. The Broncos got 234 of their yards in the passing game.
After losing several close games last season, Winter’s program has appeared to take another huge step forward. The game-winning drive could prove to be one that defines the season.
“Last year, the second game of the season we had the same opportunity against Dakota Wesleyan,” Winter said. “And we didn’t finish the deal. We had the same opportunity – the same exact kind of thing. This year we did (finish).”
The Bulldogs will play their first GPAC road game of the season next Saturday when they travel to Fremont, Neb., to take on Midland (2-0, 1-0 GPAC) at 1 p.m. The Warriors knocked off Dordt, 21-18, in what was also a conference opener for both teams on Saturday.
“I’m really looking forward to Midland,” Baxter said after Saturday’s victory. “That’s always a great game for us – always a great challenge, a formidable foe there. We’re going to go and get back to the grinder. We’re going to have a short celebration for this one and go get back to work.”
19 SEPT 2013
By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director
SEWARD, Neb. – This week’s renewal of the annual high school football rivalry game between Seward and York High Schools comes with a unique storyline. With Jamie Opfer replacing 19-year Bluejay head coach Greg Welch this season, both Seward and York now feature former Bulldog standouts running the show on their respective sidelines.
York third-year head coach Glen Snodgrass, a 1999 Concordia graduate, will match wits with Opfer, class of 1998, when their teams meet on Friday night on Levitt Field at East Hill Park in York, Neb.
Snodgrass, also the strength coordinator for York Public Schools, played four years of basketball under head coach Grant Schmidt for the Bulldogs from 1994-98. He then starred on the football field as an all-conference defensive end for head coach Courtney Meyer for one year – his fifth and final at Concordia.
Snodgrass says he learned valuable lessons from both Schmidt and Meyer.
“You take a little bit from every coach you play for and coach under,” said Snodgrass, a native of Scotia, Neb. “From Coach Schmidt I learned a lot about toughness and hard-nosed work ethic. He was very intense and hard-nosed. He didn’t allow any horse play.
“Coach Meyer was also a very good coach. He taught me about building relationships with athletes. When you run into Coach Meyer he treats you like the most important person in the world.”
Opfer, now in his 14th year as both a PE teacher and member of the football staff at Seward High, employs many of the values that were reinforced in him by Concordia University and Meyer. Opfer played football for four years from 1994-98, earning all-conference honors as a linebacker.
“Coach Meyer influenced me with the way he lives faith first,” Opfer said. “I try to bring that same faith into my coaching and my everyday life. Coach Meyer also had a great passion for football and a love for the game.”
Now the two friends stand at the helm of Nebraska high school Class B programs located less than 30 miles apart along highway 34.
Both have already compiled impressive résumés. Snodgrass guided Overton High School to a state championship and a record of 96-31 record over 12 seasons and has the Dukes off to a 2-1 start and a No. 10 ranking in Class B. Meanwhile, Opfer served as a key staff member during Welch’s successful tenure before being promoted to head coach. Opfer is already generating buzz in the Seward community with his Bluejays sporting an identical 2-1 mark.
Their former college football coach is not surprised by their accomplishments.
“They’re both good coaches that I’m very happy for,” Meyer said. “Above all, they are the right people for dealing with young men and influencing their lives.”
Said Meyer of Opfer: “When I watched him coach he seemed like a different guy because he was emphatic, he really coached hard and he was more verbal than he was as a player. As a player he did his talking with his pads. He’s a guy that’s really going to be good for players. He’s a relational coach. He’s sharp defensively and he’s doing some good things with the offense. I know the program is in good hands.
“As far as Glen Snodgrass, Glen had played four years of basketball. We could have recruited him as a football player too, but he devoted himself to basketball. His last year he played football and he was an outstanding defensive end. He was a guy who had a lot of ability and made a difference. He’s a great coach and he got it done at Overton. I’m really happy for him.”
On Friday at 7 p.m., Opfer and Snodgrass go head-to-head for the first time. Both the Bluejays and Dukes steamrolled their first two opponents of the season before suffering defeats in week three. In a rivalry game like this one, there’s no telling what may happen.
“We’re 30 minutes apart. The kids all know each other. Being in the same conference and district, it’s a big deal,” Opfer said. “It’s a big rivalry game like all games between teams within the conference.”
Snodgrass has quickly turned around the fortunes of a York program that had been in the midst of a lengthy losing streak upon his arrival. Now attendance is way up and the Dukes expect to win every time they take the field. They pulled off a stunner in last year’s Class B playoffs when they upset No. 1-seeded Scottsbluff, 28-9, as the 16th seed.
Snodgrass and the Dukes hope to avenge last season’s 39-21 loss to Seward, but know it won’t be easy. Snodgrass says containing Seward quarterback Keith Wolverton is crucial.
“Seward has a much better team than they’ve had in recent years,” Snodgrass said. “Their quarterback is a good player. They’ve got very physical lines. On defense we have to play smart and disciplined football. With the read option they run, one mistake and their quarterback can take it the distance. Our biggest keys will be on defense.”
Opfer’s creativity from an offensive standpoint has allowed Seward to take advantage of Wolverton’s skills and is a big reason why the Bluejays have already equaled their win total from last year. Opfer, whom Snodgrass says was “exactly the right guy for the job” at Seward because of his enthusiasm and highly energetic style, says his team will need to play smart in order to defeat York once again.
“We’ve got to play good football and control the ball,” Opfer said. “We have to make sure we don’t have the penalties and turnovers that can turn a game. We have to be fundamentally sound.”
Whether Friday brings a victory for the Bluejays or the Dukes, a Bulldog is certain to come out on top.
“It’s going to be fun,” Snodgrass said. “It’s two good friends competing against each other.”
Says Opfer, a Geneva, Neb., native: “The kids play the game. The coaches do nothing but coach.”
And boy can they coach.
21 SEPT 2013
Lincoln Journal Star: Concordia cruises past Midland
FREMONT, Neb. – For the first time since sharing the GPAC championship in 2001, Concordia football is undefeated after three games. Featuring a punishing power run game and smothering defense, the Bulldogs bowled their way to a 35-14 road victory over Midland (2-1, 0-1 GPAC) on Saturday afternoon in Fremont, Neb.
“It’s a good first road conference win,” Concordia head coach Vance Winter said. “I’m proud of our guys. We dealt with some adversity early in the football game after we had some unfortunate plays.”
The Bulldogs faced an early 7-0 hole but that proved mostly insignificant thanks to another big day from Concordia’s prolific freshmen running back tandem. Bryce Collins (24 carries for 121 yards and two touchdowns) and Trey Barnes (19 attempts for 101 yards and three touchdowns) both went over 100 yards rushing and combined to score all five Bulldog touchdowns on the afternoon.
“First thing’s first, it starts up front,” Winter said. “Those guys have done a great job in our first three games. I think it’s a great testament to those guys that we get better and better as the football game goes on and a great testament to their conditioning. They just did an outstanding job. There were great holes today and our backs did a nice job busting some runs.”
Concordia finished with an edge of 493-214 in total yardage. Defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit limited Midland to just one offensive touchdown and only 89 yards on the ground after giving up a meager 35 rushing yards to Hastings last week.
“We were physical,” Winter said. “That was kind of our mantra going into the game. Midland does a lot of flashy things and they run a real fast-paced offense. It comes down to, for us, a few simple things and I thought we really tackled well. We were very physical tackling.”
The Bulldog defense came away with its biggest stop of the game early in the second quarter. The Warriors, leading 7-0 at the time, forced and recovered a fumble by Concordia quarterback Von Thomas at the Bulldog 15-yard line. On the next possession, a pair of incompletions and then a sack by Dylan Heithoff forced Midland to attempt a 49-yard field goal that hit the cross bar, keeping Concordia within a touchdown.
The Bulldogs went 67 yards on seven plays to tie the score on the ensuing possession. Barnes finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown plunge to give Concordia the momentum it needed to swing the game.
“From that point on I felt very comfortable about how the game was going to go,” Winter said of the key defensive stop.
The physical running game eventually wore Midland down and allowed Concordia to pad its lead. Winter’s squad iced the game with fourth-quarter touchdowns by Collins (eight-yard run) at the 14:55 mark and by Barnes (25-yard run) with 2:56 to play. The duo has a combined for eight touchdowns on the season (five for Barnes and three for Collins).
The Bulldogs took a 14-7 lead to the halftime break only to have Midland tie it up again at 14-14. Warrior quarterback Michael Karls found Kyle Morris for a three-yard touchdown hook up to cap a 13-play, 67-yard drive ending with 8:26 left in the third. However, Concordia would come right back with a 75-yard touchdown drive of its own to regain control.
Thomas finished the day an impressive 21-for-28 passing with 241 yards. He attempted only six runs a week after rushing 19 times for 89 yards in the win over Hastings.
On Saturday, Thomas distributed the ball to eight different receivers. Freshman Chevarius Curry-Felix led both teams with five catches for 68 yards.
For Winter, the only negative offensively were the three turnovers. Concordia was minus-two in turnover margin in week three after combining for a plus-seven margin the first two games.
“It was an efficient game overall for us offensively,” Winter said. “I’m disappointed in the turnovers, but it was a really efficient game. We were really pleased with how we threw the ball and ran the ball. We were very balanced offensively.”
Concordia’s latest game marked the first time two Bulldog runners went over 100 yards rushing in the same game since Oct. 13, 2007, when JaMaine Lewis (133 yards) and Jeff Neujahr (110) both topped the century mark in a 30-14 win over Nebraska Wesleyan.
Backup defensive back Bruce Hicks, a freshman from Los Angeles, ended Midland’s final offensive possession by coming down with his first career interception. The Concordia defense has six interceptions already this season.
The Bulldogs remain on the road next Saturday when they take on Winter’s alma mater, Dakota State University, in Madison, S.D. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. as the Trojans (1-3) celebrate their homecoming. Dakota State defeated Presentation College 35-28 on Saturday to pick up their first win of the season.
23 SEPT 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – After more than a decade’s absence from the national rankings, Bulldog football is once again ranked amongst the nation’s elite. On the strength of Concordia’s first 3-0 start since 2001, head coach Vance Winter’s squad has checked in at No. 20 in the second regular season NAIA Football Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, released on Monday afternoon.
It’s Concordia football’s first appearance in the national poll since garnering a No. 22 ranking in the Sept. 10, 2002, edition of the poll. The Bulldogs began the 2002 season ranked 12th following a 2001 season that included a 10-2 overall record, a GPAC co-championship and a berth in the NAIA Football Championship Series. The 2001 Bulldogs, guided by head coach Courtney Meyer, rose as high as No. 6 in the polls and spent each of the final nine weeks of the season inside the top 25.
Last week the Bulldogs were listed under the “others receiving votes” portion of the poll. Concordia leaped up into the rankings on Monday thanks to an impressive 35-14 victory at Midland on Saturday combined with losses to several teams ranked just ahead of the Bulldogs.
The 20th-ranked Bulldogs are back in action on Saturday when they travel to Madison, S.D., to take on Dakota State University (1-3). Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m.
28 SEPT 2013
MADISON, S.D. – Once again Concordia football used a stifling defensive effort to win its third road game already this season. Newly minted as the 20th-ranked team in the NAIA, the Bulldogs moved to 4-0 with a 24-0 victory over Dakota State University in Madison, S.D., on Saturday. The GPAC championship team of 2001 is the last Concordia squad to win four-straight to begin a season.
“Dakota State came out with a lot of energy and emotion,” Bulldog head coach Vance Winter said. “We struggled to get going offensively again, but our defense was there all day. I thought our defense stepped up and played great all day, especially in the second half. They made some big plays.”
Freshman defensive back Matt Keener put a bow on the victory by picking off quarterback Cole Whisenhunt’s pass and taking it 23 yards to the end zone to make it 24-0 with 12:17 left in the fourth quarter. That allowed the Bulldogs to breathe easier after leading just 7-0 at halftime.
Similar to last year’s game at Dakota State, Concordia got off to a slow start offensively. Giveaways played a role in those struggles as quarterback Von Thomas committed a couple of turnovers in a first half in which the Bulldogs totaled 162 yards of offense.
The Bulldogs still managed to outgain the Trojans, 310-214 for the game.
“Credit goes to their defense,” Winter said. “They have some good defensive linemen that caused us some problems. We were not in sync on offense all day. Our defense picked us up and our special teams did some nice things. We just didn’t play up to our capability offensively.”
Concordia got on the board with freshman running back Trey Barnes’ scamper over the goal line from eight yards out with 2:07 left in the first quarter. The touchdown was the team-leading sixth of the season for the Seward native, who finished with a game high 74 rushing yards on 13 carries.
But the Bulldog defense emerged as the biggest story of the game. Defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit stuffed a fourth down plunge from Whisenhunt towards the middle of the fourth quarter to preserve the shutout. Saturday’s game marked Concordia’s first shutout since a 10-0 win over Hastings on Sept. 17, 2011.
The score remained 7-0 until Thomas found fullback Jerad Leifeld for an eight-yard touchdown connection with 8:56 to go in the third quarter. The Bulldogs added three more points before the end of the third with Adam Meirose’s 28-yard field goal to make it 17-0.
Thomas finished 14-for-27 through the air with 129 yards and a touchdown. He also added 63 yards rushing on 12 attempts. Freshman running back Bryce Collins carried seven times for 23 yards.
Senior defensive end Dylan Heithoff wreaked havoc upon the Trojan offense for much of Saturday’s game. The Elgin, Neb., native registered nine tackles, two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss in one of his best performances as a Bulldog.
Sophomore safety Tait Sibbel plucked Concordia’s other interception on the day. The native of O’Neill, Neb., snagged a Whisenhunt pass and returned it 19 yards to the Bulldog 24-yard line. The turnover thwarted a Trojan drive that had marched near the red zone late in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs entered the game first in the GPAC in both total defense and scoring defense. After the stellar effort at Dakota State, Concordia lowered its season averages to 249.0 yards per game allowed and 12.5 points per contest on average. The Bulldogs have yet to allow an opponent to reach 300 yards of offense in a game this season.
Winter noted that Concordia struggled with the wet field conditions on the grass surface at Trojan Field. Rain prior to the start of Saturday’s affair made for a “muddy, wet surface” as Winter described it. The Bulldogs’ fifth-year head coach, a Dakota State alum, says his team will have to learn to deal with similar conditions moving forward. The Bulldogs will play on a grass field for the third-straight week next Saturday.
The Bulldogs will complete their string of three-consecutive road games when they take on Dordt (1-3, 0-3 GPAC) next Saturday in Sioux Center, Iowa, at 1 p.m. Last season Concordia defeated the Defenders 52-12 inside Bulldog Stadium. Dordt fell, 54-14, at Briar Cliff on Saturday afternoon.
Winter says it won’t be hard to motivate his team for next week’s game despite the Defenders’ winless GPAC record.
“We didn’t play well today,” Winter said. “We’ve got to play better. Every game is a different animal. The team that shows up and is ready to play is usually the team that wins.”
5 OCT 2013
SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – Seventeenth-ranked Concordia continued its dominant ways defensively in recording a second-straight shutout victory on the road. The Bulldogs pulled away in the second half and won 32-0 over host Dordt (1-4, 0-4 GPAC) in Sioux Center, Iowa, on a breezy and chilly Saturday afternoon. Head coach Vance Winter’s squad remains unbeaten at 5-0 overall and 3-0 in conference play.
“It’s been a great run for our defense,” Winter said. “They really played well again today. We had a little bit of a slow start but then we really clamped down. It was a nice job by our players and coaches to make the adjustments against the option. Dordt has a great rushing attack.”
The Defenders entered play ranked third in the GPAC with an average of 235.3 rushing yards per game, but were held to only 131 yards on the ground and just 2.7 yards per carry by Concordia. Sophomore defensive lineman Michael Gill enjoyed one of his best games as a Bulldog, making nine total tackles (2.5 for loss) and a sack to lead the charge.
“The whole group played well,” Winter said. “Michael Gill battled the flu bug on the bus ride to Sioux Center and ended up having an outstanding game. We were very physical once again and tackled real well.”
Despite the smothering defensive effort, Dordt trailed only 14-0 at the halftime break. But the Bulldogs quickly put to bed any thought of a potential upset bid when dangerous return man Derek Blessing took the second half’s opening kickoff 85 yards to the Defender 15-yard line.
That set up a two-yard touchdown plunge for Trey Barnes – his team-leading seventh touchdown of the season. Concordia added a two-point conversion with backup quarterback and holder Garrett Folchert finding Clinton Gardels in the end zone to make it 22-0 with 12:32 left in the third.
The game remained scoreless for most of the first quarter until quarterback Von Thomas scampered 15 yards into the end zone to make it 7-0 at the 1:40 mark, capping a six-play, 59-yard drive. Thomas finished as the team’s leading rusher on the day with 74 yards on 11 attempts.
Thomas, a Miami, Fla., native, fired his only touchdown pass of the afternoon early in the fourth quarter when he connected with senior receiver Jeff Balz on a score from four yards out. Thomas wound up 12-for-22 for 131 yards through the air on a day when 20-plus mile-per-hour winds affected throws of significant depth.
“It was an efficient day for offense,” Winter said. “Our offensive line played well. We had good pass protection all game, we ran the ball well all game and Von played well. The weather made it difficult to do some things. It was tough to throw down field, but we ran it well against their loaded fronts.”
The Bulldogs racked up 372 total yards – 241 on the ground. Barnes ran for 53 on 13 carries and fellow freshman Bryce Collins added 39 yards and a touchdown on 10 totes.
For the second-straight game, freshman defensive back Matt Keener came up with an interception. Last week he returned a pick 23 yards for a score in the win at Dakota State. His two interceptions on the season are tied with sophomore Tait Sibbel for the team lead.
Junior defensive lineman Kyle Rakow joined Gill to make life tough for Dordt up front. Rakow added six total tackles (2.5 for loss) and a pass breakup.
Concordia came into play boasting a defensive unit that ranked first in the GPAC in scoring and total yards. After Saturday’s sterling performance, the Bulldogs lowered their season averages to 10.0 points per game allowed and 238.2 yards per contest given up.
In addition, Patrick Daberkow’s unit has not given up a single point in the last nine quarters. Concordia also remains the only NAIA team not to allow a rushing touchdown this season. Opponents have gone 23-straight quarters and 225-consecutive attempts without reaching the goal line on the ground.
After playing four of their first five games on the road, including the last three in a row, the Bulldogs return home next Saturday when they host Nebraska Wesleyan (2-2, 2-1 GPAC) for homecoming. The Prairie Wolves came away with a 16-6 victory in last year’s meeting in Lincoln, Neb. Concordia won its 2012 homecoming battle, earning a 17-16 upset of then No. 11 Northwestern.
“We’re excited to play at home,” Winter said. “If feels like we’ve been on the road a lot. We’re ready to wear blue again for the first time in a while. We know Nebraska Wesleyan is a good football team.”
9 OCT 2013
By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director
The NAIA’s top-ranked defense currently resides in Seward, Neb., where Concordia’s stifling defense has the Bulldogs off to a 5-0 start and No. 15 national rating in the coaches’ poll. Behind a multitude of savvy and talented senior leaders, defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit has produced staggering numbers.
Back-to-back shutouts in dominant road wins over Dakota State and Dordt vaulted Concordia to No. 1 nationally in total defense (238.2) and scoring defense (10.0 ppg). The ballhawking unit has been the driving force behind the program’s best start since 2001.
“I feel like it has a lot to do with our leadership,” said senior linebacker Langston Jones. “We have a lot of returners on defense and we know what to do for practice and how to prepare for everything. We just show the younger guys what we need to do and just keep excelling.”
Stylistically, Concordia runs the same 3-4 defensive front that it has employed for several years under Daberkow, now in his fourth season as a coordinator. With a couple of important positional switches and tweaks designed to let their athletes be free to make plays, the Bulldogs have thrived.
“We’ve put an emphasis on simplicity with certain game plan aspects,” Daberkow said. “We have good athletes and we don’t want them to have to think really hard. It’s not easy because the schemes that we face week-to-week require a lot of you. We have smart players on defense. It’s just a matter of getting them to play like it’s second nature when they’re on the field.”
In the spring, head coach Vance Winter and his staff moved senior Dylan Heithoff, who played linebacker as a junior, back to his more comfortable spot at defensive end. In order to fill the vacancy at linebacker, Concordia also converted safety Drew Baxter, who missed almost the entire 2012 season due to injury, to the ‘Dog’ linebacker slot. All this came in an effort to get the best 11 guys on the field.
Heithoff has been a disruptive force, leading Concordia with four sacks, while Baxter has teamed with Jones and company to form a physical and disciplined linebacker group.
“Everything we do is in terms of plus speed,” Daberkow said. “So we moved a defensive back to a linebacker and we moved Dylan Heithoff from a linebacker his junior year back to the defensive line as a senior. We feel like we’re gaining speed with those position moves.”
These adjustments are made smoothly by a personnel grouping long on experience. Heithoff joins corner Derek Blessing, safety Darnell Woods and Jones to form an accomplished quartet of senior starters. The Bulldogs also have a nice core of juniors with Baxter, defensive lineman Kyle Rakow and corner Landon Oelke.
“It’s huge,” Blessing said of having a dearth of veterans. “I just remember as a freshman looking up to the older guys. Even as a sophomore I remember looking up to the seniors. It’s something where the seniors have had a lot of playing time so we can help out some of those younger guys and show them how we have to do things to be successful. It’s a big part of it.”
Not surprisingly, Bulldog defenders typically find themselves in the right place. Seven different players have combined on nine interceptions on the season and Concordia remains the only NAIA team yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season.
For Baxter, a native of Rockwall, Texas, cohesiveness as an 11-man unit has been a vital ingredient in a tremendous first five games.
“We’ve really come together as a group this fall going through two-a-days and everything,” Baxter said. “It’s crucial having a core group of guys who have been together playing the last four years. We know the system and we know how to prepare with each other. We’ve really gotten good at being able to count on every person to do their job. That frees everybody up as an entire unit to be dominant. I feel like we’ve really got an assignment-sound defense.”
The defense has remained sound even when some of the veterans have gotten a breather on the sideline. Freshman defensive back Matt Keener already has a pair of interceptions, including one that went for a touchdown. Sophomore nose guard Michael Gill has developed into a major pain for opposing interior offensive lineman. And freshman linebacker Joseph Scott has stepped into the starting lineup in place of the injured Colton Schneider and filled in admirably.
The defensive line, which features a five-to-six man rotation, is a prime example of the depth throughout the entire defense.
“We can rotate those guys because we all feel comfortable that they’re all going to do their jobs,” Heithoff said. “Michael Gill and Kyle Rakow have really stepped up and also Cody Hawk, Alex Melius and Ron Jackson have rotated in. Every time we’ve had to rotate people out because of injury or endurance or stamina issues, those guys come in and there’s no drop off as a whole unit.”
Concordia’s depth will come in handy down the stretch as many of the GPAC’s top-rated offenses remain on the 2013 slate. Baxter and the defense have yet to face much adversity through five games, but that will likely change in the near future.
“This stuff’s fun right now, but eventually someone is going to score on us – someone is going to get a big play,” Baxter said. “We’ve got to be able to bounce back from that and say, ‘that’s not going to define this game. That’s not going to define anything else that’s going on.’ It’s got to be like water off a duck’s back and we have to get back to the very next play.”
Right now, Daberkow is focused only on the very next game and what it will take to slow down a Prairie Wolf attack led by 235-pound quarterback Tyler Francis.
“The only offense we’re worried about right now is Nebraska Wesleyan,” Daberkow said. “They do some pretty tough things as far as their run game. They’re a very smash-mouth team and they’ll spread out five receivers as well. It’s all about taking one thing at a time and it’s very important especially right now as we have continued to win, each game that we play has more and more significance and carries more weight. We want to make sure we take care of just today. And tomorrow we’ll worry about that then.”
NAIA Football Game of the Week: Through an online vote in which the game with the most Facebook ‘likes’ got the nod, the Concordia versus Nebraska Wesleyan tilt has been tabbed as the NAIA Football Game of the Week. Thanks to all who voted by giving this Facebook photo a like.
Outlook: Concordia will look to end a two-game losing streak against Nebraska Wesleyan and move to 6-0 on the season. The Prairie Wolves are coming off an emotional 20-19 upset over then No. 13 Doane last week in an intense rivalry game. Like the Bulldogs, Nebraska Wesleyan features a punishing defense, which is led by the NAIA Player of the Week in defensive lineman Phil Latimer. Concordia head coach Vance Winter expects a slugfest between two teams who embrace physical play at the line of scrimmage. The game carries significant implications in regards to the conference standings as Concordia attempts to keep pace with top-ranked Morningside, while the Prairie Wolves can put themselves back into the GPAC title race with a win. The Bulldogs carry active streaks of nine-straight quarters without allowing a point and 23-consecutive quarters without surrendering a rushing touchdown.
Last five meetings
2012: Nebraska Wesleyan 16-6
2011: Nebraska Wesleyan 10-7
2010: Concordia 3-0
2009: Nebraska Wesleyan 27-13
2008: Nebraska Wesleyan 44-0
Passing: Von Thomas – 814 yards, 78/130 comp/att (60.0 %), 4 td, 2 int, 119.7 eff.
Rushing: Bryce Collins – 77 att, 336 yards, 4.4 avg, 4 td
Receiving: Derek Klaus – 14 catches, 134 yards, 9.6 avg
Tackles: Darnell Woods – 37 (22 solo, 15 ast)
Passing: Tyler Francis – 969 yards, 96/177 comp/att (54.2 %), 4 td, 4 int, 103.2 eff.
Rushing: Dustin Bryant – 86 att, 404 yards, 4.7 avg, 3 td
Receiving: Connor Zumpfe – 16 catches, 226 yards, 14.1 avg, 1 td
Tackles: Taylor TeKolste – 35 (17 solo, 18 ast)
12 OCT 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – The unbeaten ride continued on Saturday as No. 15 Concordia knocked off rival and No. 22-ranked Nebraska Wesleyan, 19-3, in a tilt billed as the NAIA Football Game of the Week. Behind another dominant effort from a defense that has not given up a single touchdown in the last 13 quarters, Concordia improved to 6-0 overall and remains tied with No. 1 Morningside atop the conference at 4-0.
The stout Concordia defense, led by the nine total tackles from sophomore safety Tait Sibbel, made Nebraska Wesleyan one dimensional. The Bulldogs held the Prairie Wolves to 250 total yards – 142 on the ground – and allowed them to convert only 3 of 12 third downs as the Wesleyan passing game struggled.
“It was just a phenomenal effort,” Bulldog head coach Vance Winter said. “I thought our guys were flying around. I thought we tackled pretty well. We gave up more rushing yards than we’d like to but when you give up 250 yards of total offense that’s a pretty good performance against a good offense.”
Offensively, the Bulldogs played keep away for much of the afternoon, chewing up 37:32 in time of possession with 338 total yards (181 rushing) behind junior quarterback Von Thomas. The signal caller from Miami, Fla., racked up 157 yards passing, including two touchdown tosses, and a team best 67 yards rushing. With Thomas leading the way, Concordia kept the chains moving with conversions on 10 of 19 third down attempts.
“We stuck with the running game,” Thomas said. “Our running backs were huge this game. Our line did an excellent job of creating holes for them. Even if there weren’t holes, our backs were good enough to bounce it and get extra yards off it.”
Host Concordia seized momentum early in the game when senior safety Darnell Woods blocked a 19-yard field goal attempt by Nebraska Wesleyan’s Aaron Lorraine after a high snap threw off the timing of the play. That ended a promising first possession of the game for the Prairie Wolves who marched 56 yards on seven plays.
“I thought we were just a little bit tentative early,” Winter said. “That block was a huge turning point in the game.”
The Bulldogs delivered the dagger in the third quarter when they put together their most impressive drive. Led by Thomas, Concordia covered 70 yards on 11 plays. Thomas found Jeff Balz wide open in the end zone for a score from four yards out. That gave the Bulldogs and their stifling defense a commanding 19-3 advantage with 10:29 remaining in the third quarter.
That crucial scoring drive came on the heels of a 13-yard touchdown catch by junior Brian Serra on the toss from Thomas late in the first half. Serra caught the ball on the left sideline and reached the ball over the goal line before going out of bounds. The first career touchdown grab for the Monterey, Calif., native allowed the Bulldogs to go to the halftime break with a 13-3 lead.
Serra’s touchdown capitalized on a muffed punt by the Prairie Wolves’ Corey Jones that gave Concordia a first and 10 at the Wesleyan 15-yard line. The Bulldogs scored three plays later.
Concordia got out to a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter when sophomore kicker Adam Meirose nailed his second field goal – this one from 34 yards away.
With Aaron Lorraine’s 34-yard field goal at the 7:04 mark of the second quarter, Nebraska Wesleyan ended a streak of 10-consecutive scoreless quarters by Concordia’s opponents. However, the Bulldogs carry active streaks of 27-straight quarters (251 rush opponent rush attempts) without allowing a rushing touchdown and 13 quarters in a row without surrendering any touchdowns.
Senior corner Derek Blessing became the eighth different Bulldog to intercept a pass this season. He came up with a pick late in the first half and then another one in the fourth quarter that essentially sealed the victory. Blessing, freshman Matt Keener and Sibbel each have two interceptions apiece on the season.
Some may have questioned the Bulldogs’ No. 15 national ranking considering their first five opponents had only six combined wins entering the weekend, but Saturday’s win left little doubt about this squad’s legitimacy.
Still, Blessing and company are not up for boasting.
“We’re going to look at it as just another game,” Blessing said. “We’re going to start studying film tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday and come out and try to go 1-0 next week and focus on the opponent next week.”
The six wins guarantee Concordia’s first winning season since 2001 when the Bulldogs started the season 8-0 on the way to a 10-2 finish and a co-GPAC title. Winter, now in his fifth season, has set a new personal watermark for wins a season. He has led Concordia to a record of 11-3 with two wins over ranked teams over the past 14 games.
The schedule does not relent for the Bulldogs, who travel to Orange City, Iowa, to take on Northwestern next Saturday at 1 p.m. The Red Raiders (2-2, 1-2 GPAC) were ranked 13th in the preseason coaches’ poll. Last season, Concordia upset then No. 11 Northwestern, 17-16, in Seward to halt a nine-game losing streak in the series.
“We know their players and how good their players are and how tough they are to beat at their place,” Winter said of Northwestern. “It’s going to be another slugfest-type game.”
14 OCT 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Another dominant defensive effort from undefeated Concordia has yielded the team’s first weekly GPAC honoree of the season. On Monday afternoon the league cited senior cornerback Derek Blessing as the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Defensive Player of the Week. Last season Blessing twice earned GPAC Special Teams Player of the Week accolades.
The Ogallala, Neb., native picked off a pair of passes and broke up a total of three tosses from Nebraska Wesleyan quarterback Tyler Francis in Concordia’s 19-3 win over the then No. 22 Prairie Wolves in the NAIA Football Game of the Week. Blessing led a secondary that held Nebraska Wesleyan to just 108 passing yards on Saturday.
On the season, Blessing and company have held opponents to an average of only 125.5 passing yards per game (second fewest in the NAIA) while limiting opposing quarterbacks to a pass efficiency of a mere 81.9. Concordia is first in the nation in scoring defense (8.8).
Blessing has 19 total tackles on the season to go with his two interceptions, which are tied with freshman Matt Keener and sophomore Tait Sibbel for the team lead.
The 14th-ranked Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0 GPAC) return to action on Saturday when they play Northwestern (3-2, 2-2 GPAC) in Orange City, Iowa, at 1 p.m.
19 OCT 2013
ORANGE CITY, Iowa – Faced with an early 13-point deficit on the road, 14th-ranked Concordia never panicked. However, host Northwestern (4-2, 3-2 GPAC) came through late to pull out a 30-28 victory in a Saturday afternoon GPAC battle that came down to the wire. The Bulldogs, who entered play as just one of five unbeaten teams in the NAIA, fell to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in conference action.
Junior quarterback Von Thomas tried to lead a game-winning scoring drive in the final minutes. The Bulldogs proceeded to the Northwestern 33 in the last minute, but a holding penalty and a sack doomed Concordia as time eventually ran out on its unbeaten season.
“This group’s going to respond,” Bulldog head coach Vance Winter said of the resiliency shown by his squad as it tried to rally back. “They would never stop fighting.
“We definitely weren’t perfect. Our defense could have played better. We struggled handling their running attack. Overall though, I’m pleased with the energy and how we kept fighting.”
The Bulldogs carried streaks of 13-straight quarters without allowing a touchdown and 27-consecutive quarters without surrendering a rushing score into Saturday’s contest. Both came to an end early in the first quarter when Northwestern got into the end zone on the ground. The Red Raiders pounded the football to the tune of 228 rushing yards in outgaining Concordia 400-360 for the game.
Trailing 30-22 with less than four minutes to play, the Bulldogs put together a six-play, 57-yard drive, culminating with freshman Bryce Collins’ third touchdown run of the day – this one from one yard out. Concordia thought it had tied the game on the two-point conversion attempt when sophomore tight end Josh Slechta hauled in Thomas’ pass near the right sideline but officials ruled him out of bounds, allowing the Red Raiders to cling to a 30-28 lead with 1:59 left in the game.
Concordia forced a three-and-out on Northwestern’s ensuing possession after an unsuccessful onside kick, but the Bulldogs burned all three timeouts in the process. The Bulldogs drove from their own 16 to the Red Raider 32 before the drive bogged down.
Collins, a native of Boerne, Texas, racked up 110 yards rushing on 28 carries, giving him his second career 100-yard performance. Collins scored on runs of two, four and one yards.
With Collins churning out tough yards in the running game and Thomas spreading the ball around to nine different receivers, the Bulldog offense came alive in the second quarter as they took a 14-13 lead to the halftime break.
“Bryce had a very good game,” Winter said. “Bryce ran effectively and we were able to open things up in the passing game. All our receivers made big plays.
“I was just disappointed in the last drive with having a holding penalty and a sack. We gave up too many sacks today.”
Collins’ second touchdown run, which came at the 10:18 mark of the second quarter, and a successful two-point conversion gave Concordia a 22-16 lead. But the Red Raiders scored just 17 seconds later with Jessie Riley’s 69-yard touchdown run that made it 23-22.
Things looked rough early on as Northwestern came out like gangbusters. The Red Raiders led it 13-0 just 5:54 into the game when quarterback Davis Bloemendaal found Jacey Hoegh for a 23-yard scoring strike. That touchdown was set up by a 36-yard punt return from Ben Green that placed the football at Concordia’s 23.
The Bulldogs went three-and-out on the game’s opening possession. After a punt, Northwestern marched 62 yards on nine plays for the game’s first touchdown. Running back Paul Hutson finished the drive with a two-yard rush.
Up 14-13, Thomas and company had a chance to extend its lead on its first possession of the second half. Concordia drove all the way to the Northwestern one-yard line only to turn it over on a fumble recovered in the end zone by the Red Raiders’ Jake Zylstra.
Sophomore safety Tait Sibbel picked off his team-leading third pass of the season and returned the ball 42 yards to Northwestern’s 35 late in the first half. Four players later, Thomas fired a 25-yard touchdown toss to freshman receiver Chevarius Curry-Felix to make it 14-13.
With positioning in the GPAC and the national polls on the line, Concordia’s first loss stings but Winter likes the mental state of his team. “Nobody is hanging their head. It is what it is,” Winter said.
The Bulldogs return home on Saturday to host rival Doane (3-3, 3-2 GPAC) next Saturday at 1 p.m. The Tigers had a bye this week following a 31-20 home loss to Dakota Wesleyan on Oct. 12. Last season Doane defeated Concordia 17-7 in the final game of the season played in Crete.
“They’re a good football team,” Winter said of Doane. “They’re very talented. I expect another four-quarter battle just like the one today.”
26 OCT 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Visiting Doane reeled off 28 unanswered points to take control on the way to a 28-7 win over the 16th-ranked Bulldog football team in Seward on Saturday afternoon. Concordia, which had hoped to complete a season sweep of its Nebraska GPAC rivals, lost for the second-straight time and fell to 6-2 overall and 4-2 in conference play.
“We really didn’t play well in any phase today,” Bulldog head coach Vance Winter said. “Offensively we had far too many three-and-outs. Credit to Doane. They came off their bye week and played very good football and did some great things. They moved the football, moved the chains, and really got after us with their run game.”
Doane virtually neglected the passing game, relying on a rushing attack that piled up 259 yards on 53 attempts. Mobile quarterback Phil Thramer led all players with 80 rushing yards, while running back Nate Meier added 71 yards and a touchdown. For the game, Doane outgained Concordia 300-234.
With quarterback Von Thomas using his legs to help extend several drives, Concordia moved the football inside the Doane 20 on four occasions but came away with only seven points. A lost fumble, a turnover on downs and a missed field goal thwarted possessions deep in Tiger territory.
For the second-straight game, a controversial call went against Concordia. On the final play of the third quarter, freshman Trey Barnes barreled towards the goal line on a third and goal from the one. The officials ruled that Barnes lost the football just before reaching the end zone, allowing Doane to recover the ball and maintain a 28-7 advantage.
The Bulldogs actually took a first-quarter lead when junior quarterback Von Thomas found freshman receiver Chevarius Curry-Felix for a seven-yard touchdown strike at the 4:39 mark. The rest of the day was dominated by the Tigers, who scored three times before halftime to go up 21-7 at the break.
Thramer directed the Tigers on a trio of first-half scoring drives that took advantage of short fields. Thramer rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another in a first half in which the Tigers took advantage of the Bulldogs’ mistakes.
“They got the edges on us and made some big plays,” said senior defensive lineman Cody Hawk, who made two tackles for loss on Saturday. “They had some large gaps on the strong side and we just couldn’t close them down.”
A blocked punt early in the second quarter gave Doane the ball at Concordia’s 21-yard line. Five plays later, Thramer scurried seven yards to the end zone to lift his squad to a 14-7 advantage. The Tigers’ longest scoring drive of the half covered only 43 yards.
Doane pushed across the game’s final points when Meier broke Concordia’s back with a 38-yard touchdown scamper on a stretch play that converted a third-and-25. The Tigers ended up 8-for-15 on third downs compared to 4-for-19 for the Bulldogs.
“They blocked it up well and I think he ran in untouched,” Winter said of Meier’s touchdown run. “You can’t do those things and beat a good team. We had a punt blocked, we gave them short fields the whole game and offensively we had too many three-and-outs.”
Thomas accounted for most of Concordia’s offensive production on the day. He finished 22-for-42 passing with 146 yards. He also led Concordia with 50 yards rushing on 12 attempts. The freshman duo of Bryce Collins and Trey Barnes was limited to 38 yards on 24 carries.
Senior safety Darnell Woods, who entered play as Concordia’s leading tackler, came up to make 13 stops. Senior inside linebacker Colton Schneider registered 12 total tackles. Senior corner Derek Blessing produced Doane’s only turnover when he jarred the ball loose from running back Clayton Moore and then recovered it.
The Bulldogs face another big challenge as top-ranked Morningside (7-0, 6-0 GPAC) pays a visit to Seward next Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff. The Mustangs have won 22-consecutive GPAC contests dating back to September of 2011. Morningside defeated Briar Cliff 67-0 on Saturday to extend its streak.
“These guys will respond,” Winter said of next week’s challenge. “We’re excited about the opportunity to be at home for two weeks. Morningside is a great football team. The fact of the matter is that we have to play way better football.”
31 OCT 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Saturday has been tabbed Parent’s Day for the Concordia University football program. Head coach Vance Winter’s Bulldogs host top-ranked Morningside inside Bulldog Stadium at 1 p.m. Parents of Concordia football players will be recognized as a group during pregame announcements and at halftime.
After the game, parents and family members are invited to attend the postgame snack from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Doghouse Grill, which is located on the bottom floor of the Janzow Campus Center.
No. 1 Morningside College (7-0, 6-0 GPAC) at No. 25 Concordia University (6-2, 4-2 GPAC)
1 p.m., Saturday, Seward, Neb., Bulldog Stadium
Player to watch: Concordia’s stellar safety tandem of senior Darnell Woods (team best 63 tackles) and sophomore Tait Sibbel (team high three interceptions) will be tested to the extreme by Morningside quarterback Ryan Kasdorf, who ranks No. 1 in the NAIA in pass efficiency (202.5). Woods has been particularly busy of late, coming up to make 23 tackles over the past two games. Wood and Sibbel, along with the rest of the Bulldog secondary, will have to be at their best to contain the Mustangs’ explosive passing attack.
Outlook: The Bulldogs will try to stop a two-game skid on a Saturday against a team that they have not beaten since 2003. The Mustangs have put up video game numbers offensively as they lead the nation in scoring (55.4) and rank second in total offense (602.7). Behind Kasdorf, Morningside has won every game this season by a margin of 25 points or more. Even if Concordia can slow down the passing game, they will have to contend with running backs Jon Halvorsen and Brandon Wegher (former University of Iowa standout). An upset would make for one of the biggest home victories in program history for head coach Vance Winter’s Bulldogs.
2 NOV 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – No. 25 Concordia came out clicking offensively and put a scare into top-ranked Morningside inside Bulldog Stadium on Saturday. After trailing at halftime for the first time all season, the Mustangs (8-0, 7-0 GPAC) roared back for a 48-31 victory in their closest contest of the season. The Bulldogs fell to 6-3 overall and 4-3 in GPAC action.
Head coach Vance Winter’s squad showed off a high-flying offense in the first half when Concordia piled up 219 of its 364 total yards for the game. Junior quarterback Von Thomas opened things through the air with freshman receiver Chevarius Curry-Felix running free in the secondary and first-year back Bryce Collins (67 rushing yards, three touchdowns) pounding out yards on the ground.
“Offensively we came out and really made some plays,” Winter said. “That’s the biggest thing is our guys made plays.
“We had a really nice half. We moved the football running and throwing. We were able to be really balanced. We had some good things going into halftime.”
Curry-Felix, who moved into the starting lineup on Saturday for the injured Jeff Balz, had a breakout day with five catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. Thomas, 20-for-36 passing for 248 yards and a touchdown, looked to Curry-Felix early and often.
“It was all about preparation and practice all week,” Curry-Felix said. “We practiced hard all week. We came out with a game plan and we tried to stick to the game plan. We just had a few things that didn’t go our way.”
Curry-Felix joined other freshmen like Collins and Trey Barnes as part of a young and talented group of skill players that impressed on Saturday.
“We have a lot of young skill guys,” Winter said. “We have freshmen running backs – freshmen receivers. Those guys all can play. It’s exciting to watch their development week in and week out. It’s no coincidence, Chavy had an awesome week of practice so we felt like he was going to have a great game.”
Morningside did not take its first lead until driving 55 yards for a touchdown to begin the second half. Sophomore running back Brandon Wegher scurried into the end zone from 10 yards out to edge the Mustangs in front, 27-24.
Wegher (game high 158 rushing yards on 20 attempts) and company wore down the Bulldog defense in the second half. The potent trio of Wegher, running back Jon Halvorson and quarterback Ryan Kasdorf combined for 262 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Kasdorf added 261 passing as Morningside piled up 541 total yards, coming in about 60 yards short of its season average entering the game.
The Bulldogs showed they meant business on their opening possession of the game, driving 64 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown. Junior receiver Brian Serra made a circus catch on his back for a 33-yard gain at the one-yard line to set up Bryce Collins’ first touchdown on the day. After sophomore Tait Sibbel’s interception halted the Mustang’s first drive, Concordia went to work and added a 37-yard field goal from Adam Meirose to make it 10-0.
The teams traded blows throughout a first half that the Bulldogs led for more than 25 minutes. Concordia built its lead back to 10 points twice following Morningside touchdowns. Thomas zipped a 34-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Curry-Felix to convert on a fourth and 20 late in the first, making it 17-7. Midway through the second, Collins broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and raced 22 yards to the end zone for a 24-14 advantage.
After last week’s lackluster performance in a 28-7 home loss to Doane, Winter liked the way his team responded against a squad that had won each of its first seven games by 25 points or more.
“I was proud of our preparation during the week and how locked in we were,” Winter said. “That’s how it’s got to be all the time in how we practice and prepare. That’s what gave us a chance today.”
Senior safety Darnell Woods had a busy day making stops in the secondary. He piled up a career high 17 tackles (12 solo). Sibbel’s interception boosted his team-leading count to four. He also added seven tackles as part of Concordia’s impressive safety tandem.
The Bulldogs will play on the road for the final time this season when they travel to Mitchell, S.D., to take on Dakota Wesleyan (6-3, 5-2 GPAC) next Saturday at 1 p.m. The Tigers defeated Nebraska Wesleyan 31-17 in Mitchell on Saturday afternoon. Last season Concordia came up short, 26-23, against Dakota Wesleyan in a game played in Seward.
7 NOV 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Concordia senior defensive lineman Dylan Heithoff has been named to the 2013 Capital One Academic All-District® 3 Football Team of the College Division, as selected by College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Thursday’s announcement means a Bulldog football player has received the award for a second-straight year. Senior offensive lineman Mitchell Cherney earned the same honor last year as a junior.
CoSIDA: “The 2013-14 Capital One Academic All-District® Football Teams have been released to recognize the nation’s top student-athletes for their combined performances athletically and in the classroom. Capital One has been the entitlement rights holder to CoSIDA’s Academic All-America teams programs since 2011.”
Heithoff, who hails from Elgin, Neb., has served as Concordia’s most disruptive force along the defensive front this season. He leads the team with 4.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss. He also has 35 total tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Heithoff has been recognized as a second team all-conference selection in each of the past two seasons. Last season the accounting major (history minor) also collected Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete laurels for his work in the classroom.
District 3 of the College Division covers the states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
As an all-district honoree, Heithoff will automatically be placed on the ballot for All-America consideration. All-America voting begins on Tuesday, Nov. 12.
9 NOV 2013
MITCHELL, S.D. – Head coach Vance Winter’s Bulldogs closed the road portion of the 2013 schedule with a tight loss at Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon. Concordia dropped to 4-2 away from Bulldog Stadium, going down 24-13 in Mitchell, S.D. The Bulldogs are 6-4 overall and 4-4 in GPAC action heading into their final game of the season next Saturday.
“Our guys played very hard,” Winter said. “Our defense really played well shorthanded. We just had too many mistakes in the second half offensively. We struggled to get anything done and the second half and turned it over too much. We didn’t handle their pressure.”
Trailing 17-13 in the game’s final minutes, junior quarterback Von Thomas led Concordia all the way to the Tiger 35-yard line on the back of a 28-yard pass play to Brian Serra and a 15-yard run of his own. With first and 10 at the 35, Thomas fired a pass that Dakota Wesleyan’s Matt McManus picked off and took 75 yards to the end zone to ice the game with 1:00 remaining.
After outgaining Dakota Wesleyan 231-120 in the first half, the Bulldog offense bogged down and managed only three points over the final 30 minutes. A stout Tiger run defense limited Concordia’s rushing attack to 83 yards on 37 carries (2.2 average).
Dakota Wesleyan also had a big edge in turnover margin, forcing four Concordia giveaways while only turning it over once.
Thomas finished 19-for-32 passing for 159 yards with two interceptions. He equaled freshman running back Bryce Collins with 38 yards rushing to pace the Bulldogs. Curry-Felix again led the team in receiving with eight catches for 61 yards.
The Bulldogs held leads of 10-7 and 13-10 after a pair of short field goals from Adam Meirose. His second field goal – from 20 yards out – broke a 10-10 tie with 6:52 remaining in the third quarter. Concordia twice had to settle for field goals after penetrating inside the Dakota Wesleyan 15-yard line.
The Tigers took the lead for good on quarterback Jon Bane’s 15-yard touchdown toss to Cody Duerksen with 8:30 left to play. Bane, a four-year starter, struggled for a good portion of the game, going 13-for-31 for 120 yards through the air against the Bulldogs’ touted secondary.
Defensively, Concordia was without star senior safety Darnell Woods, who suffered an injury in last week’s game versus Morningside when he made a career high 17 tackles. Coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit still held Dakota Wesleyan to only 249 total yards. Prolific Tiger running back Francois Barnaud went for 104 yards on the ground, but needed 30 carries to get there.
Sophomore defensive lineman Michael Gill played effectively on the interior, leading the Bulldogs with eight tackles while teaming with senior linebacker Langston Jones on a sack.
In addition to Woods being sidelined, Concordia also played without junior starting linebacker Drew Baxter, who had started the first nine games of the season.
For the fourth-straight game, Curry-Felix caught a touchdown pass delivered from Thomas. Curry-Felix’s 15-yard touchdown catch brought Concordia even with late in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs will play their final game of the season next Saturday when Briar Cliff (4-6, 3-5 GPAC) visits Seward for a 1 p.m. kickoff from inside Bulldog Stadium. The improved Chargers defeated Doane 32-23 on Saturday afternoon. Last season Concordia routed Briar Cliff 45-12 in Sioux City, Iowa.
13 NOV 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Head coach Vance Winter’s fifth season at the helm of Concordia football will come to a conclusion on Saturday when the Bulldogs (6-4, 4-4 GPAC) host Briar Cliff (4-6, 3-5 GPAC). Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. from Bulldog Stadium. Fans are encouraged to wear white to support the white out. Those who are unable to make it to Seward can watch a live webcast via the Concordia Sports Network.
Concordia celebrates senior day
Saturday is senior day for Concordia football as the program celebrates the careers of 23 seniors, including one student assistant coach. The senior class is made up of 15 Nebraska natives, two members who call Colorado home and one apiece from the states of Arizona, California, Illinois, Minnesota and South Dakota as well as one who hails from Canada. Five seniors have past all-conference laurels on their résumés: corner Derek Blessing, defensive lineman Dylan Heithoff, offensive lineman Dylan Klassen, linebacker Langston Jones and safety Darnell Woods.
Statistically, Heithoff leads the group of seniors with 34.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks in his career. Jones is the top tackler with 197 stops over his four seasons. Woods has the most interceptions with six. Jeff Balz is the leading receiver with 40 career catches for 406 yards and five touchdowns. Blessing holds school records for punt return yards in a season (388 in 2012) and punt return touchdowns in a season (3). He has 2,127 career all-purpose yards.
In addition to senior day, Saturday has also been tabbed ‘DawgStrong’ Saturday. The promotion works in conjunction with the white out that has been planned for all three home events on campus. White ‘DawgStrong’ t-shirts cost $5. The t-shirts can be purchased/picked up on Thursday and Friday in Janzow top from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., and during the football and basketball games on Saturday. For more details, click HERE.
Bulldogs dominant in series with Briar Cliff
Since Concordia and Briar Cliff began meeting in 2003 (see series history below), the Bulldogs are 8-2 against the Chargers, who joined the GPAC for the 2002-03 athletic season. The last two meetings have been particularly lopsided with Concordia winning by 32 points or more in both contests. Last season Concordia routed Briar Cliff in Sioux City, Iowa, by piling up a season high 337 rushing yards. Vance Winter’s squad led 24-6 at halftime and continued to pour it on in the second half behind a power rushing game.
2012: Concordia 45-12
2011: Concordia 47-12
2010: Concordia 30-26
2009: Concordia 21-10
2008: Concordia 17-7
2007: Concordia 36-23
2006: Briar Cliff 30-24
2005: Briar Cliff 20-17
2004: Concordia 48-29
2003: Concordia 30-3
Dating back to 1928, Concordia football has won seven or more games in 16 of 86 seasons. At 6-4, the Bulldogs have guaranteed their first winning season since a 10-2 GPAC championship season in 2001. Vance Winter has slowly built the program up since taking over as head coach in 2009. He has won 3, 4, 4, 5 and 6 games year-by-year over the last five seasons. The last time the program finished with exactly seven wins – in 2000 – it won 10 games the following season.
Von Thomas chases Concordia record
Junior quarterback Von Thomas stands a good chance to break a school record for total yards from scrimmage in a single season. The signal caller from Miami, Fla., currently with 2,239 total yards (1,753 passing, 486 rushing), needs 205 yards on Saturday to surpass former quarterback Phil Seevers’ program record of 2,443 yards in 1988. Last season, his first as a starter, Thomas piled up 2,300 yards and 20 total touchdowns.
Curry-Felix catches on
Freshman Chevarius Curry-Felix (Columbia, S.C.) has emerged as Von Thomas’ favorite target down the stretch. Over his last four games, Curry-Felix has caught 19 passes for 221 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-foot-1 speedster has caught a touchdown pass in four-consecutive games. He leads Concordia on the season with 31 catches for 354 yards and four touchdowns. He posted a career high 87 receiving yards on five catches in the Bulldogs’ 48-31 loss to then No. 1 Morningside on Nov. 2.
Coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit has played remarkably well again this season. The Concordia defense continues to rate among the NAIA’s best. The Bulldogs lead the nation in pass defense (134.7) while ranking sixth in the NAIA in total defense (293.9), seventh in pass efficiency defense (97.5) and eighth in scoring defense (18.3). Darnell Woods and company have limited eight of their 10 opponents to 300 yards of offense or less. Only Morningside and Northwestern have eclipsed that total.
Next man in
A recent rash of injuries on the defensive side of the ball forced Vance Winter to shuffle things around. The Bulldogs moved Derek Blessing to outside linebacker last week against Dakota Wesleyan to make up for the absence of junior Drew Baxter. Freshman Bruce Hicks filled in at corner, moving junior Landon Oelke from corner to the strong safety position vacated by Darnell Woods, who also sat out last week’s game with an injury. Hicks, a native of Los Angeles, thrived in one-on-one coverage against one of the GPAC’s top receivers in Anthony Muilenburg of Dakota Wesleyan. Muilenburg finished with just four catches for 34 yards. Hicks was named Concordia’s defensive MVP for the week. The shuffling did not stop the Bulldogs from having a terrific day defensively as they limited the Tigers to 249 total yards.
Home sweet home
A win on Saturday would push Concordia’s home record to 3-2, which would mark the fourth-straight season the Bulldogs have been .500 or better inside Bulldog Stadium. Since 2010, Concordia is 11-9 at home with three victories apiece in Seward in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The Bulldogs had won five-straight home games until the 28-7 loss to Doane on Oct. 26.
Chargers surprise Doane
Briar Cliff will enter Saturday’s game with momentum after surprising Doane last week. The Chargers pulled a 32-23 upset inside the Dakota Dome in Vermillion, S.D., on the strength of 251 yards and three touchdowns through the air from backup quarterback Alec Dutko. Defensively, Briar Cliff forced five crucial turnovers, including one that resulted in a 41-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Rasheed Tynes. The Chargers’ plus-four turnover margin allowed them to overcome a 441-337 disadvantage in total yards. The win ended Briar Cliff’s four-game losing streak in its overall series with the Tigers.
Briar Cliff shows vast improvement
The Chargers have made a significant jump in the sixth year under head coach Tom Rethman. After winning only a single game last season, Briar Cliff has four victories in 2013 with last week’s upset of Doane being the most notable. The Chargers have been prolific in the passing game, ranking second in the GPAC with 258.5 yards per game. Quarterbacks Kevin Van Egdom and Alec Dutko have combined for 2,585 yards, 20 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. The biggest issue for Briar Cliff’s offense has been turnovers. It has 28 giveaways – second most in the conference.
On the other side of the ball, Briar Cliff is last in the league in total defense (473.4) but has been opportunistic and easily tops the GPAC with 32 takeaways, including 18 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries. Defensive back Steven Trujillo ranks second in the league individually with six picks.
The Chargers hold three additional wins over Dordt (54-14), Hastings (12-7) and Dakota State (37-31). Briar Cliff also suffered a close 24-17 home defeat to Northwestern on Oct. 12.
16 NOV 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Concordia football found its offensive groove in time to close the 2013 season with a dominant performance. On a day in which the program honored 24 seniors, the Bulldogs cruised to a 45-7 win over visiting Briar Cliff (4-7, 3-6 GPAC) inside Bulldog Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The win marked the 17th time in which Bulldog football has reached at least seven wins in a season. They conclude 2013 at 7-4 overall and 5-4 in conference play.
“Everybody upfront got a challenged a little bit this week and really performed well against an improving team,” Concordia head coach Vance Winter said. “I thought that was the story of the game for us – just how much we controlled things offensively and we controlled pace of play.”
Quarterback Von Thomas ended his junior campaign with a big day as he racked up 269 total yards (194 passing, 75 rushing) and four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) to set a new school record for yards from scrimmage in a season. Thomas’ 2,508 total yards in 2013 eclipsed former quarterback Phil Seevers’ former program record of 2,443 yards in 1988.
With Thomas at the controls, the Bulldogs went to work right away behind a punishing effort from their offensive line that fueled the run game all day. Concordia held the football for more than 20 minutes in time of possession in the first half and finished with 40:19 of possession and outgained Briar Cliff 494-201 for the game.
The three-headed rushing attack of Thomas, senior Mitch Reed and freshman Bryce Collins combined for 271 yards and three touchdowns on 46 attempts. Playing in his final collegiate game, Reed went over 100 yards (101) for the second time in his career. He put the game’s final touchdown on the board with a one-yard plunge in the fourth quarter.
“All of our running backs were clicking very well,” Reed said. “They were able to hit the holes really hard. The offensive line was able to blow the defense off the ball. We just took it to them all game.
“I was healthy coming back from basically being injured all season and I was able to put it together. I’m extremely happy. This is the best way to go out.”
Concordia jumped on top early with a smash mouth 14-play, 66-yard touchdown drive that ate up 6:59 off the clock on its first possession. Reed got the start and pounded out 22 yards on the drive that culminated with Thomas finding senior tight end Jordan Larrington for a one-yard touchdown connection. On the scoring play, Thomas used his legs to keep the play alive, eventually throwing back across his body to find Larrington in the end zone.
The rest of the game went much the same way with Concordia spreading the sugar. Six different players scored the Bulldogs’ six touchdowns. Leading receiver Chevarius Curry-Felix snagged a touchdown grab for the fifth-straight game.
Thomas also delivered a 24-yard touchdown toss to wide open tight end Josh Slechta in the second quarter. The signal caller from Miami, Fla., found the end zone on his own early in the third quarter when he raced off left tackle for a 14-yard scoring rush.
Collins, the promising freshman back from Boerne, Texas, found the end zone one last time, scoring his team best 11th touchdown on a one-yard rush late in the first quarter.
Defensively, senior Langston Jones led the way with a team high 12 tackles (five solo). Fellow senior Dylan Heithoff registered a sack that helped put an end to a Briar Cliff drive midway through the second quarter.
For Jones and the rest of the seniors, it was an emotional day.
“It’s family,” Jones said. “We’re all brothers. We’ve all been here for four years. It’s just great.”
Despite a four-game slide following the 6-0 start, Concordia enjoyed its best season since 2001 and emerged onto the national scene with a ranking as high as No. 14 at one point.
“We’ve made huge strides this season,” Winter said. “For us the win was great and to finish out the season with a win was great. We’re taking this program in the right direction. The seniors have been a huge part of that. We’ve got a lot of young guys who are good football players and are going to get better this offseason.
“We’re just kind of disappointed that this is it.”
The Bulldogs will bring back the bulk of their key players offensively in 2014, but the defense takes a hit with the likes of Derek Blessing, Heithoff and Darnell Woods moving on. Led by Thomas at quarterback, the Concordia offense figures to continue its improvement under coordinator Curran White.
“We’ve got a talented group (coming back next year),” Winter said. “They’ve got to buy in to the work ethic that these seniors have set forth.”
17 NOV 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Concordia junior quarterback Von Thomas used his arm and legs to break a 25-year single-season school record in Saturday’s dominant 45-7 victory over Briar Cliff. With 269 combined passing and rushing yards in the win, Thomas finished with 2,508 total yards of offense on the season, eclipsing the previous school record of 2,443 by former quarterback Phil Seevers in 1988.
Thomas also broke single-season marks for pass completions (197), attempts (334) and completion percentage (59.0) in 2013. The signal caller from Miami, Fla., surpassed two of his own records set in 2012 when he completed 165 passes and attempted 331 tosses. Thomas’ completion percentage of 59.0 in 2013 topped the previous school record of 55.5 by Jarrod Pimentel in 1998.
This season Thomas set personal career highs with 1,947 passing yards and 561 rushing yards. Over the past two seasons he has started all 22 games, amassing 3,787 passing yards, 1,021 rushing yards and 36 total touchdowns (27 passing, nine rushing). His 4,808 yards of offense over the past two seasons are the most for any player in program history in a two-year period.
Next season Thomas will be expected to fly past Jarrod Pimentel’s program record of 5,369 yards of offense over a three-year stretch. Pimentel, a member of the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame, piled up that yardage from 1999 to 2001, quarterbacking then head coach Courtney Meyer’s squad to a co-GPAC title in 2001. Pimentel’s 2001 total of 2,150 passing yards remains a school single-season record.
Thomas’ 1,947 passing yards in 2013 ranks second best to Pimentel and just ahead of Seevers’ 1,938 yards through the air in 1988.
Known more as a defensive-oriented program throughout its history, Concordia has improved its offensive output from 16.7 points per game in 2011 to 24.0 in 2012 and 26.4 in 2013 with Thomas leading the charge in coordinator Curran White’s pistol spread offense.
Von Thomas single-season school records broken in 2013:
Total offense: 2,508 yards
--Previous record: 2,443 yards – Phil Seevers (1988)
Pass completions: 197
--Previous record: 165 – Thomas (2012)
Pass attempts: 334
--Previous record: 331 – Thomas (2012)
Completion percentage: 59.0
--Previous record: 55.5 – Jarrod Pimentel (1998)
19 NOV 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – A total of 17 Concordia football players collected all-conference honors, including four first team selections, as announced by the GPAC on Tuesday. Senior safety Darnell Woods, named to the league’s first team for the second-straight season, received the conference’s highest honor for a defensive player as he garnered Hauff Mid-America Sports/GPAC Defensive Player of the Year recognition.
Defensive teammates in senior defensive lineman Dylan Heithoff and senior linebacker Langston Jones joined Woods on the GPAC’s first team. Electrifying senior Derek Blessing garnered first team honors as a returner.
Representing the Bulldogs on the second team were sophomore kicker Adam Meirose, junior offensive lineman Josh Powell and sophomore safety Tait Sibbel. An additional 11 players found themselves placed among the list of honorable mention choices, junior quarterback Von Thomas included (see full list below).
Woods, Heithoff and Jones were cornerstones of a unit that led the NAIA in pass defense (134.7) while ranking fifth in total defense (285.5) and fifth in scoring defense (17.0). The Bulldogs did not allow a rushing touchdown until the seventh game of the season, went three-straight games without giving up a touchdown (Sept. 25 – Oct. 12) and surrendered more than 300 total yards only twice all season.
Woods (Phoenix, Ariz.) topped the team with 88 tackles on the season. Heithoff (Elgin, Neb.) led Concordia with a career high 5.5 sacks to move up from second team all-conference honors in both 2011 and 2012. Meanwhile, Jones registered a career best 80 tackles to headline a stout linebacker group.
Blessing, who also earned honorable mention as a cornerback, starred as the GPAC’s top return man for the second-straight year. The native of Ogallala, Neb., piled up 679 total return yards in 2013. He averaged 12.5 yards on 22 punt returns and 22.4 yards on 18 kickoff returns.
Powell (Kennesaw, Neb.), an honorable mention pick last season, elevates to second team honors as the anchor of the offensive line. Sibbel (O’Neill, Neb.) made 54 tackles and snared a team high four interceptions. Lastly, Meirose (Lincoln, Neb.) did an excellent job of replacing 2012 All-American Kenny Zoeller. Meirose made 9 of 13 field goals (long 37) and 31 of 33 extra points for 58 total points.
2013 Concordia football all-conference selections:
Derek Blessing (KR/PR)
Dylan Heithoff (DL)
Langston Jones (LB)
Darnell Woods (DB)
Adam Meirose (K)
Josh Powell (OL)
Tait Sibbel (DB)
Trey Barnes (RB)
Drew Baxter (LB)
Derek Blessing (DB)
Chevarius Curry-Felix (WR)
Bryce Collins (RB)
Michael Gill (DL)
Cody Hawk (DL)
Dylan Klassen (OL)
Colton Schneider (LB)
Josh Slechta (TE)
Von Thomas (QB)
19 NOV 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Since Great Plains Athletic Conference football began in 2000, Concordia had yet to have a representative named conference player of the year. That changed on Tuesday when the GPAC tabbed senior strong safety Darnell Woods as the league’s 2013 Hauff Mid-America Sports GPAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Concordia head coach Vance Winter lauded his star defensive back with high praise, saying “Darnell’s the best player in our league at any position.”
Woods receives the GPAC’s highest honor for a defensive player after leading the Bulldogs with 88 total tackles despite missing one game due to injury. The Phoenix, Ariz., native’s tackle total topped all GPAC defensive backs and marked a career high for Woods.
“Darnell is the most physical presence in the league from the secondary position,” Winter said. “He’s highly regarded throughout the GPAC for his physicality and how hard he plays. When he tackled somebody, it was noticeable. He’s a physical, athletic safety who was one of the reasons why our defense was one of the best in the country.”
Known throughout the league as one of the GPAC’s most devastating hard-hitters, Woods also added one interception, two pass break ups, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal on the season. Woods racked up 10 or more tackles five times, including a career best 17 versus then No. 1 Morningside, and led Concordia in tackles in five of 11 games.
Woods is part of a continuing tradition of top-notch defensive talents to come through Concordia.
“We’ve had some good defenses throughout the years. I think statistically this has been the best defense we’ve had,” Winter said. “We’ve got a great tradition going there. We have to continue to get guys like Darnell, who bought in whole-heartedly to the system and our defensive coaches.
“To have the top defensive player in the GPAC speaks volumes for where our program’s going.”
With Woods serving as a punishing force in the secondary, the Bulldogs enjoyed their first winning season since 2001 and ranked as one of the top defensive units in the NAIA. Concordia’s defense led the NAIA in pass defense (134.7) while ranking fifth in total defense (285.5) and fifth in scoring defense (17.0). The Bulldogs did not allow a rushing touchdown until the seventh game of the season, went three-straight games without giving up a touchdown (Sept. 25 – Oct. 12) and surrendered more than 300 total yards only twice all season.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Woods finishes his Concordia career with 190 tackles, six interceptions, nine pass break ups and one interception return for a touchdown in 30 games over the last three seasons.
Woods was also named on Tuesday to the GPAC’s first team defense for the second-straight season. In addition, he was a 2012 Omaha World-Herald NAIA All-Nebraska selection.
13 DEC 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Concordia senior safety Darnell Woods, the 2013 GPAC Defensive Player of the Year, has been named a NAIA first team All-American by Beyond Sports Network (BSN). In addition, Woods has accepted an invitation to play in the “D2 vs. NAIA Challenge” game to be played on Saturday, Dec. 21 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Woods is a first time All-American. The native of Phoenix, Ariz., has been named first team all-GPAC in each of the last two seasons. He is one of five GPAC players to be named to BSN’s All-America first team.
The D2 vs. NAIA Challenge inaugurated in 2011 in an effort to provide more exposure for talented players at the NAIA and NCAA Division II levels. The game is designed to help promote players with aspirations of playing football beyond college.
Woods and others invited to play in the game check in at the Sheraton Convention Center Hotel in Myrtle Beach on Dec. 19 in preparation for the challenge two days later. For more information on the D2 vs. NAIA Challenge, clickHERE.
Known as one of the GPAC’s most devastating hard-hitters, Woods topped Concordia with a career high 88 tackles and added one interception, two pass break ups, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal on the season. Woods racked up 10 or more tackles five times, including a career best 17 versus then No. 1 Morningside, and led Concordia in tackles in five of 11 games.
Official NAIA All-American selections will be announced by the American Football Coaches’ Association on Dec. 18. Last season Concordia was represented on the first team by kicker Kenny Zoeller.
18 DEC 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Postseason recognition continues to pour in for Concordia senior safety Darnell Woods. On Wednesday he received his most prestigious honor as the American Football Coaches’ Association named Woods to its official NAIA All-America first team. The native of Phoenix, Ariz., was also named a first team All-American by Beyond Sports Network less than a week ago.
Woods, the 2013 GPAC Defensive Player of the Year, was called “the best player in our league at any position” by Concordia fifth-year head coach Vance Winter. Woods led the Bulldogs with 88 total tackles in 2013 despite missing one game due to injury. His tackle total topped all GPAC defensive backs and marked a career high.
Woods’ inclusion on the AFCA All-America team marks the second-straight year that Concordia has had representation on the exclusive list. Then Bulldog senior kicker Kenny Zoeller earned a spot on the All-America team in 2012 after drilling a school record 15 field goals. Woods is one of three GPAC players named to this year’s All-America first team.
With Woods serving as a punishing force in the secondary, the Bulldogs enjoyed their first winning season since 2001 and ranked as one of the top defensive units in the NAIA. Concordia’s defense led the NAIA in pass defense (134.7) while ranking fifth in total defense (285.5) and fifth in scoring defense (17.0). The Bulldogs did not allow a rushing touchdown until the seventh game of the season, went three-straight games without giving up a touchdown (Sept. 25 – Oct. 12) and surrendered more than 300 total yards only twice all season.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Woods finished his Concordia career with 190 tackles, six interceptions, nine pass break ups and one interception return for a touchdown in 30 games over the last three seasons.
The D2 vs. NAIA Challenge game on Saturday in Myrtle Beach, S.C., will allow Woods another opportunity to showcase his talents. He accepted an invite to play in the game along with others who are regarded as some of the best players at the NAIA and NCAA Division II levels.
Selection Process: The AFCA’s NAIA All-America Selection Committee is made up of three head coaches from each of the AFCA’s nine districts, one of whom serves as a district chairman, along with another head coach who serves as the chairman of the selection committee. The coaches in each district are responsible for ranking the top players in their respective districts prior to a conference call between the district chairmen and the committee chairman on which the team is chosen.
20 DEC 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – Concordia University landed seven football team members on the Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete list, as announced by the NAIA on Friday. Three of those selections are repeat honorees as seniors Mitchell Cherney, Dylan Heithoff and Spencer Zysset have received scholar-athlete recognition for the second-straight year.
Those three are joined with scholar-athlete mention by first-time honorees in senior Joel Newton and juniors Collin Christiansen, Colin Elley and Devin Elley.
Concordia football’s seven scholar-athletes ranked second among GPAC institutions.
In order to be nominated by an institution’s head coach or sports information director, a student-athlete must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and must have achieved a junior academic status.
Concordia ranks as the NAIA’s all-time leader in number of Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes with 960 and counting. (This figure includes all 41 Concordia scholar-athletes announced for the fall season). During the 2012-13 academic year, Concordia had 71 Scholar-Athletes and 17 NAIA Scholar-Teams.
A total of 259 football student-athletes across the nation were named scholar-athletes by the NAIA.
Concordia University, Nebraska, founded in 1894, is a fully accredited, coeducational university located in Seward, Neb., that currently serves over 2,200 students. Concordia offers more than 50 professional and liberal arts programs in an excellent academic and Christ-centered community that equips men and women for lives of learning, service and leadership in the church and world.
2013 Concordia football scholar-athletes
26 DEC 2013
SEWARD, Neb. – On Christmas day the Omaha World-Herald released its annual NAIA All-Nebraska teams, recognizing nine Bulldog football players. AFCA-NAIA First Team All-American safety Darnell Woods received the most notable honor as he was tabbed the honorary captain of the All-Nebraska defensive team.
Woods was joined on the NAIA All-Nebraska squad by return man Derek Blessing, defensive lineman Dylan Heithoff, linebacker Langston Jones and quarterback Von Thomas. An additional four Bulldogs were named honorable mention selections by the Omaha World-Herald (see full list below).
Of the nine Concordia honorees, four are repeat choices having earned All-Nebraska from the Omaha World-Heraldlast season. All nine Bulldogs were named either first, second or honorable mention All-GPAC.
OWH NAIA All-Nebraska
OWH NAIA All-Nebraska Honorable Mention
2013 Omaha World-Herald NAIA All-Nebraska Football Team
WR, Connor Zumpfe, Nebraska Wesleyan, Jr.
WR, Austin Curlee, Hastings, So.
TE, John Tatum, Doane, Sr.
OL, Dillon Carmichael, Doane, Sr.
OL, Tanner Paxton, Hastings, Jr.
OL, Ryan Beebe, Nebraska Wesleyan, Sr.
OL, Joe Vetrovsky, Doane, Sr.
OL, Tyler Ford, Peru State, Jr.
QB, Von Thomas, Concordia, Jr.
RB, Dustin Bryant, Nebraska Wesleyan, Sr.
RB, Ethan Bray, Peru State, Sr.
Honorary captain: Tyler Ford, Peru State.
DL, Phil Latimer, Nebraska Wesleyan, Jr.
DL, Dylan Heithoff, Concordia, Sr.
DL, Taylor TeKolste, Nebraska Wesleyan, Sr.
DL, Zach Lempka, Peru State, Sr.
LB, Jeremy Wallace, Doane, Sr.
LB, Langston Jones, Concordia, Sr.
LB, Brandon Reeves, Nebraska Wesleyan, Sr.
LB, Curtis Larsen, Peru State, Sr.
DB, Darnell Woods, Concordia, Sr.
DB, Alex Gildon, Hastings, So.
DB, JerSean Walder, Doane, Jr.
DB, Dalton Jenkins, Midland, Fr.
Honorary captain: Darnell Woods, Concordia.
K, Aaron Lorraine, Nebraska Wesleyan, Sr.
P, Kelby Vandenberg, Nebraska Wesleyan, Sr.
KR, Derek Blessing, Concordia, Sr.
Honorable mention: Michael Gill, Josh Powell, Tait Sibbel, Josh Slechta, Concordia; Kenny Boggs, Brett Eyer, Rob Keeney, Kam Lenhart, Doane; Jacob Claeys, Sean Robnett, Josh Watchorn, Erik Wylie, Hastings; Michael Karls, Trey McCluskey, Nathan Schlueter, Kirk Zinermon, Midland; Jack Barteldes, Corey Cundall, Tyler Francis, Seth Wardyn, Nebraska Wesleyan; Tyler Audsley, Dayton Graf, Logan Paben, Lance Steffen, Peru State
27 JAN 2014
NOTE: A version of this story first appeared in the winter 2013-14 edition of Concordia University's Broadcaster magazine.
By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director
Fifth-year Concordia head football coach Vance Winter stood before the Bulldog Booster Club gathering the Tuesday following the conclusion of the 2013 season unfulfilled and unsatisfied – albeit for much different reasons than the ones that caused feelings of emptiness after the 2008 campaign. “I’m not ready for it to be over,” Winter said just a few days after pummeling Briar Cliff to close the 2013 year with a 7-4 record.
The disappointment set in because Concordia came up, in all likelihood, two wins and perhaps just a few plays short of securing its first appearance in the NAIA playoffs since 2001. But proper reflection yields the realization of just how far the program has come since Winter received the promotion to head coach prior to the 2009 season.
At that time Concordia was coming off a rough 1-9 season – the last under 19-year head coach Courtney Meyer (the program’s winningest coach). Winter, a four-year assistant under Meyer, understood that the program would have to endure additional growing pains when he officially took over on Dec. 16, 2008.
“We knew it would take a little time because we were a long ways from competitive in 2008,” Winter said. “We were obviously hopeful that (the turnaround) would happen sooner. I was a part of that 2008 season as defensive coordinator and I knew firsthand how far we had to go to become a competitive program.”
Since going 11-24 in his first 35 games as head coach, Winter and the Bulldogs are 12-7 over their last 19 games. This season they raced out to a 6-0 start and peaked as high as No. 14 in the NAIA coaches’ poll. Five years after being regularly stomped on by the big boys of the conference, the Bulldogs were biting back and sat tied atop the league standings.
“This was a very long and slow process, and credit for this year's team can be given to players and coaches as far back as 2010,” said senior defensive lineman Dylan Heithoff. “I would say the two main reasons for Concordia's rise is the change in attitude and work ethic that was instilled by the players and coaches when we entered the program in 2010, and the level of talent that the coaches have been able to recruit over the past four years.”
The plan Winter and his staff had laid out prior the 2009 season had come to fruition. They had been successful in pulling in recruits who were eager to work hard and ready to buy in.
“We have been very intentional since the start in creating a culture of family, accountability, unselfishness and work ethic,” Winter said. “These four things have been the staple of our program every season since we started in 2009 and are just as significant in our program now. As our overall team depth and talent has improved the wins and the competiveness of our program has also improved, but we are a family first and foremost.”
Of course, putting a plan into thought or writing is one thing – putting that plan into action is another. Winter had been given the controls of a team that lost many games by lopsided tallies in 2008. These scores weren’t lost on opposing coaches who went up against Concordia in recruiting battles.
In his honesty, Winter admits that talented recruits were going to have to take a leap of faith and look past those struggles. That did not stop him from making a push for talented, high-character young men from far and wide.
One of the team’s most important recruits in recent seasons hails from The Sunshine State.
“During my recruitment process I didn't really care about the team's previous records,” said junior quarterback Von Thomas. “I wanted to meet the coaching staff. We stayed in contact for a while which was a good thing. It showed that they were interested as much as I was. Our coaches were very approachable. They made me feel welcome on my visit which is hard for someone from Miami to adapt to.”
There have also been plenty of key additions from within the state, such as Heithoff (Elgin, Neb.), electrifying returner Derek Blessing (Ogallala, Neb.), offensive lineman Josh Powell (Kennesaw, Neb.) and tight end Josh Slechta (Kennard, Neb.).
The likes of Blessing and Heithoff saw past the won-lost records. Something special was being constructed.
“We all knew that the football team was struggling and was in a rough place,” Heithoff said. “But Coach Winter remained optimistic, claiming that the only way to go was up and that big changes were being made during the season and offseason. The positive energy from all of the coaches was contagious, which allowed me to become sold on the direction of the football program.”
Concordia saw immediate, but gradual progress in its results on the field. Winter’s first team (2009) went 3-7, followed by records of 4-7, 4-7, 5-6 and 7-4 in 2013. The major turning point seemed to come on Oct. 13, 2012, when Concordia upset then No. 11 Northwestern, 17-16, on homecoming in Seward for the team’s fourth-straight win.
The momentum spilled over into 2013 with the Bulldogs bursting onto the national scene. They hosted an NAIA national game of the week, garnered the GPAC’s Defensive Player of the Year (Darnell Woods) and brought back memories of the glorious 2001 season.
“They bought into the challenge of turning a program around and making a difference,” Winter said of his 2013 seniors. “We sold these guys on the quality of the education, the special campus community that Concordia is, and the opportunity to turn a program around. I am grateful to each and every one of them for their commitment and loyalty throughout the process because there have been moments of doubt.”
Doubt no more. Concordia football is back.
Said Winter at that same Tuesday booster club outing, “I don’t think there’s any doubt about where we’re going.”
Vance Winter: When former player Derek Rodine passed away this summer, I was blown away by the way our entire football family came together. It was the toughest time period I have ever had as a coach and also was the most proud I have ever been to be their coach. We had guys from every class, current players and former players, supporting the Rodine family and each other. Guys flew in from all over the country to be with their brothers and talk about Derek. It showed me the amazing brotherhood that we have here and how it transcends more than just wins and losses. It is special to be a part of and we’ve been blessed to work with great people. That brotherhood is something that is so special about here and our guys are a close bunch. I am proud of that.
This senior class is very special. This class came to Concordia knowing full-well the challenges that were ahead of us as a program. They took a chance on us and stuck with our program when many didn’t and I am very grateful to them. They also stuck through some difficult times and transitions and became such a close-group. What I appreciate most out of this group is their loyalty to each other, their teammates, and coaches. Another thing that stands out about this class is their selflessness. These are guys that consistently put others needs and team needs above themselves. We have had such awesome people come through our football program in my time at Concordia and each class is so special. I wish that the other classes could have experienced the type of season we had this year because they were all deserving and I hope all of the classes feel some ownership on this season because they laid the groundwork in terms of work ethic and expectations for this class.
This is a tough league in all sports. There is great competition. It is amazing to see the athletic ability from teams around this league. Every year we have been getting better, but so has our competition so our improvements on the outside have seemed subtle. We knew within our building that we were getting better and we knew that we were closing the gap, but we had to take the next step. Most notably an obstacle for us early in our program’s development was our inability to consistently move the football versus the good teams in our league. We were really good defensively overall, but really struggled a great deal offensively. The gap between the offense and defense productivity was especially apparent in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Coach White’s hiring as offensive coordinator in the spring of 2012 has been huge for our football program. He came here with a system that has proven successful and our offense is leaps and bounds better than it was two years ago.
There is a sense of pride in knowing how far we have come as a program, but there is also great disappointment in that the season is over. We are only a couple plays away from being a playoff team and that is disappointing. When the season was over, we were all not ready for it to end. As a coaching staff, it is disappointing because we would have loved to coach this team another couple games because they were very fun to coach. The next step for us is consistency. We need to be a consistent football team week in-week out and play the type of football we are capable of weekly. I am excited about the talent we have returning, but they all have to put in the time this offseason and buy into our core beliefs for us to take the next step.
Dylan Heithoff: The cliche' phrase, "You can only go as far as your weakest link" really comes into play here. On both sides of the ball, there has to be a level of trust and faith in each other to get the job done, otherwise a snowball effect of unwanted events will ensue. As far as defense goes, I've seen this team quit and give up in prior years when adversity came up throughout a game. I can honestly say this year that this defense and this team as a whole never quit on each other. We definitely ran into some adversity and we definitely played our share of bad games, but we always fought to the end and "emptied the tank" until the final whistle. That's because a strong family doesn't quit on each other, even when a part of the family makes a mistake. We pick that person back up, forget about the mistake, and go out and make a play the next opportunity we have. It's definitely important to attain a family atmosphere, a locker room of brothers, and I think this year was the strongest family we had since I've been here.
I also believe it is important to note the addition of offensive coordinator Curan White in 2012, who in his two seasons as OC, has turned our offense into a dual threat attack that is now respected by the rest of the conference. Combined with our traditionally solid defense ran by Patrick Daberkow, the team has come together quite nice as a whole and really turned into a well-oiled machine this year.
Langston Jones: The coaches were the initial selling point in getting me to commit to Concordia. Once I was around the team, I realized that I wanted to commit not only to the coaches, but to my newfound brothers as well.
We knew that our previous years were not the best but everyone was always striving forward to make themselves and the person next to them better. We found a solid core group of guys and gave leadership to people younger than us to work just as hard. It is easy to work hard when everyone around you buys in to accomplish the same goal.
It was a great feeling to start the season (6-0). I felt that it was long time coming for everyone who has been involved with the football team. We were finally seeing our hard work pay off in the long run. I felt that people on campus were very supportive and wished us the best on the field. It was a great feeling to have people support you in the stands and on campus.
Von Thomas: The most important factor in the improvement for the offense has been our attitude. We stopped complaining about things and just got the job done. That has a lot to do with Coach (Curran) White and the system he runs. We knew what we were capable of. We just had to put the work in, buy into the system and play confident.
Coach Winter's honesty with me is a trait that he has that means a lot to me. He’s always positive about things, which gives me the motivation and confidence to do well on and off the field. Their attitude hasn't changed since I've been here. If you do the right things, our coaching staff will be there for us whenever we need them.
Darnell Woods: My brother Derrick Woods played a big role in my decision to become a Bulldog during the recruiting process. Despite not having much success during his football career at Concordia, he had nothing but great things to say about the university. A friendly community and campus environment, a brotherhood on the sports teams, the people and relationships he made and professors caring about students succeeding in the classroom were things he mentioned when I asked him why he liked Concordia and how he enjoyed his college experience there.
Going into the fall of the 2011 football season as a sophomore transfer, I knew I had to compete for a starting spot because I knew there were guys ahead of me in the program who had earned their positions from the previous season. Head coach Vance Winter addressed to the whole team during the first practice of two-a-days that he was looking for guys that were going to step up and compete for their positions. It sparked a fire inside me instantly when those words came out of his mouth because I knew right then the type of coach I had and his character. I said to myself, “It’s time to go to work.” Day-by-day and week-by-week I showed great effort on special teams and relentlessly competed like crazy hoping the coaches would notice. Sure enough Coach Winter and Coach Daberkow called my number and started me at the cornerback position Northwestern in 2011.
It’s very satisfying and rewarding to have helped Concordia become a respected team in league. It is also a feeling of gratitude. This program has been through many trials and tribulations over the years seeing very little success since 2001. To have the season we had this year with 17 all-conference honors is a very humble reward for our program and the seniors. This program is headed in the right direction thanks to the coaching staff, the senior leadership and the growing recruiting classes that have helped the depth at every position. The losses were hard but I was happy we ended the season with a win. With the great group of guys coming back I see nothing but greatness and positive things for the upcoming years for the Bulldog football program.
14 APR 2014
Concordia All-American safety Darnell Woods had the opportunity to showcase his skills in front of NFL scouts in Renton, Wash., on March 22. The NFL regional combine was hosted inside the Seattle Seahawks’ practice facility, The Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
Woods, whose 40-yard dash time is listed at 4.84 seconds according to his ESPN.com draft profile, ran the 40 and participated in several other drills in Renton (watch via the link above). The GPAC defensive player of the year has also been part of smaller scale workouts in the area for Canadian Football League teams.
Seattle’s NFL regional combine served as a complimentary piece to the national combine that took place in Indianapolis in February. To view the list of those who participated alongside Woods at the regional combine in Washington, click HERE. The field of prospects included several athletes from NCAA Division I power conference schools.
Woods has been on the radar of pro scouts even before his stellar senior season. Last summer he worked out inside Bulldog Stadium in front of NFL regional scouts from the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, the native of Phoenix, Ariz., possesses ideal size.
While not considered a likely NFL training camp invitee, Woods aspires to keep playing football on some level. Concordia football coaches believe there's a chance he may find opportunities to play professionally in Europe.