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Halfway between Sweet Springs and Concordia: the Oetting brothers
April 8, 2016 

NOTE: The text below represents only a small fraction of the Oetting brother story adapted from the book on Concordia football’s history, Cultivating Men of Faith and Character, which will be published this September.

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Halfway between Sweet Springs and Concordia exists the town of Emma, Missouri. Roughly 200 people populated the teeny, tiny blot on the map where Norbert and Lydia Oetting settled down to raise six children. Norbert and Lydia were hard working, blue collar and devout Lutherans.

“It was fantastic,” said Bob Oetting, the third of four boys. “We had a wonderful family. Mom and dad were wonderful Christian people who believed in a Lutheran education.”

The oldest of the Oetting boys, Gene began a family pipeline that cut northwest into Nebraska before stopping in Seward in 1946. Little did any of the Oettings know, it was the beginning of a relationship that would profoundly impact both the family and an institution once known as the “college in the cornfield.”

But before garnering attention on the football field, the family lived a mostly normal, happy lifestyle. The Oettings often housed cattle, chickens and pigs, though on a small scale. They never had more than five cows at a time, but it was enough for a creamery that would produce butter and cheese. Each of the Oetting children fulfilled their chores and went to church. They tended to the large family garden and mowed lawns for neighbors. There wasn’t a choice. But there was time for fun. The youngest brother, Dennis, joked that Larry and Bob got their powerful arms from “throwing dirt clouds at me.”

Leisure time presented the opportunity for the Oettings to play sports. There were no area football teams, but they gravitated towards fast-pitch softball, a prominent activity in Emma. They also played games like the fox and the hound. In this particular activity, the hound was meant to literally tackle the foxes to the ground. It was competition and the Oettings couldn’t get enough of it.

There was something else that intrigued the eldest. Gene heard stories about a school in Seward, Nebraska. An elementary teacher in Emma told Gene about the wonders of Concordia, then both a high school and college that afforded students the chance at a high-quality Lutheran education and the opportunity to compete athletically. With an early desire for becoming a teacher, Gene made up his mind that this seemingly perfect place in Seward is where he wanted to be.

“My dad said, ‘you can go to school, but you have to pay for it.’” Gene said. “That wasn’t such an impossible task in those days. I started saving money when I was about 10 or 11. When I came here I wrote a $250 check and that paid for room, board, tuition and everything that first year.”

And so Gene entered Concordia High School in 1946 with ideal size and athleticism to be a star football player. The only problem? He didn’t yet understand the rules of the game. This was before widespread access to football games on TV. Said Gene, “I didn’t know how to put on the equipment. I was as green as grass.”

Before long, Gene caught the eye of Concordia collegiate head coach Herb Meyer, who welcomed the Emma native onto his squad in 1950. Gene led the Bulldogs to Central Church College Conference titles in 1951 and 1953 as a standout on the offensive and defensive lines. He was named the Omaha World-Herald athlete of the year in 1954. Said then running back Vic Peter, “Gene was a leader. He got the team to mesh together with his talks.”

On to the next one. Split from Gene by roughly eight years in age, Larry got to Seward just months after his older brother had finished up. With an eye on becoming a football coach, Larry started at Concordia High School in 1954. Just like Gene, success came natural for Larry. He helped Concordia High to an undefeated football season and then powered the Bulldogs to a conference title in 1960. He was named the team MVP in 1961 and earned a tryout with the Minnesota Vikings before beginning his coaching career.

The lifespan of Oettings playing football at Concordia College began in 1950 and ended in 1966. Overlap occurred in the playing careers of Larry and Bob and Bob and Dennis. Bob went on to play professional football, having stints with the Los Angeles Rams and Canadian Football League teams in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Until serious knee injuries forced him to leave the Rams, Bob appeared on his way to gaining a starting role in Los Angeles for a team that included Deacon Jones, a future pro football Hall of Fame inductee. Bob underwent nine different surgeries, including six on his knee, all due to football injuries. Said Bob, “I’d do it all over again.” He added of his experience in the NFL, “I didn’t have to take a backseat to any of them.”

When it came time for Dennis, the youngest brother, to make a college choice, there really was no choice. “It was a done deal,” Dennis said. “I knew I was going to go to Concordia. I really didn’t have to think about it too much. I gladly wanted to go there.” Dennis even turned down a full-ride scholarship from then University of Nebraska head football coach Bob Devaney to land at Concordia, where he’d become a star in football and on the wrestling mat. No Oetting has ever regretted the decision to come to Concordia. Plus the chance to play together was a special one. Says Larry, “That was always a joy for us to have that opportunity.”

During the 13 seasons in which one or more of the Oetting brothers played, Concordia College put together a combined record of 69-40-5 with nine years of above .500 records. Their eras also spanned three different head coaching tenures. Without the Oettings, the course of Concordia football may have been altered. “We got a lot of notoriety, but there were a lot of families that did that,” Gene said humbly. “I don’t know how it all happened.” Dennis took a crack at explaining the success, saying, “God blessed us with some ability and some talent that we were able to use. God blessed our efforts and all we can really say is the glory goes back there. It just took a little hard work and perseverance on our parts.”

Beyond their football playing days, each of the Oettings have experienced plenty of rewarding moments. Gene and Dennis became longtime teachers, Larry went on to become head coach of Bulldog football and is currently a pastor and Bob also spent many years coaching before shifting to insurance. (It should also be noted that both Oetting sisters, Lois and Sharon, displayed similar talents athletically and in their occupations). To this day they share a bond that was partly formed by their collective experiences as Bulldogs. Says Gene, “I was so overwhelmed and thankful for it.”

When asked by a Los Angeles reporter where he grew up, Bob proudly told them Emma, Mo., or “halfway between Sweet Springs and Concordia.” No matter where they’ve gone, Emma has always been part of them. So too has Concordia. Says Larry, “We’re very proud to say that we’re Bulldogs.”


Bulldogs host open spring scrimmage Friday
April 20, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Concordia football fans can get an early look at head coach Vance Winter’s 2016 Bulldogs by attending Friday’s open spring scrimmage inside Bulldog Stadium. The team will begin with warmups at 7 p.m. with scrimmaging to start approximately 30 minutes after the hour. The practice will run until about 8:45 p.m. There will not be a live stream available.

A combined 17 starters return (10 on offense, seven on defense) to in 2016, the eighth season under Winter. Roughly 85 athletes have participated in practice this spring. The 2016 season opens with a visit from the University of Saint Mary (Kan.) on Sept. 3.

Below are snippets from an interview that voice of Bulldog football Jayson Jorgensen conducted with Winter prior to the start of spring practice, which began on March 29. All games, home and away, will again be carried this fall by 104.9 Max Country out of York, Neb.

Jayson Jorgensen: How would you rate the offseason your guys have had? Has it been as strong as you were hoping for?

Vance Winter: Yeah, I’m really pleased. You see the guys change body types throughout the offseason. I think mentality wise our guys are excited, too. We’re really looking forward to the 2016 season.

JJ: Is each spring a little different depending upon the makeup of the team? What are the biggest areas you’re looking at this spring?

VW: There are a lot areas for us to improve. I think there’s a lot of excitement regarding our program. To me that’s all hype. I want to see the areas where we need to be better. Offensively there are many areas in terms of consistency running the ball. I think we need to get better in a lot of ways in our passing game and become more dynamic and explosive. Defensively, we’re replacing quite a few good players. We lost a lot in the linebacker core. Having the secondary back is a great thing, but there are areas to improve defensively that Coach Daberkow and his staff are looking at. We want to see growth overall and find an identity for this football team – what we’re going to be about.

JJ: Last year certainly showed you can never have enough depth. This spring is going to be a great time to build some depth.

VW: Absolutely. That’s the theme for the teams that are successful. Injuries are part of football just like blocking and tackling. The best teams are able to overcome those types of things. That’s been the challenge the past two years. You have to develop that next guy and have that next guy ready to perform at a high level. That’s what separates the good teams and the OK teams.

JJ: How about your quarterbacks? TJ Austin and Riley Wiltfong were both nicked up last fall. Are those guys healthy and ready to go?

VW: Yeah, they’re both looking great. They’re both feeling well and doing some throwing on their own. They went through the whole offseason of lifting and conditioning. They both look great and are ready to go.

JJ: How much better do you feel this spring about your offensive line than where you were a year ago?

VW: It’s a little bit different. We have four very familiar faces back. Last year we were really searching. We feel good about their growth. I’ve seen some big gains in the weight room out of that group, which is exciting. Last year we had such a green, young group. They learned some lessons every day. There’s a little bit different demeanor in that group just knowing what it takes.

JJ: You mentioned the linebackers. You certainly lost some good ones. Are you confident that the guys you have in the program right now are ready to step in there and keep that high level of play going?

VW: I’m excited about that group. There have been some guys who have had some outstanding offseasons. We’re not totally inexperienced. There are a lot of guys that played football at those positions. I’m excited about how they’ve worked. We saw growth throughout the whole fall with that linebacker group even though they maybe didn’t play that much. We saw growth in their practice habits. We’re excited to see them continue to go forward.

JJ: For your upperclassmen, how big of a motivating factor is the desire to take the next step for them this offseason?

VW: There’s a lot to be excited about and I’ve been around here when there was absolutely no expectation on the outside. It’s a lot more fun to have expectations and belief that we have a good football team. We know we have a good football team. We have to be very process-oriented. We’ve got to continue to get better every day. We’ve got to be a team that consistently plays with an edge about us and a chip on our shoulder. I believe we have that kind of group of guys. I’ve been pleased with the leadership and how our offseason has gone. Our guys are very focused on taking this program to the next level.


Fast, athletic Bulldogs on display at Blue-White scrimmage
April 22, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – One-hundred-and-thirty-three days out from the 2016 season opener, the Concordia University football team held its annual spring blue-white scrimmage Friday night under the lights inside Bulldog Stadium. The open-to-the-public sneak peek at head coach Vance Winter’s 2016 squad featured a lightning quick defense and the emergence of playmaking receiver Kiyoshi Brey.

Of course, 310-pound defensive lineman Ron Jackson stole the show by successfully catching a pair of punts. On his final punt return of the evening, Jackson refused to stop running until flipping into the end zone after blazing 95 yards to the house.

Comedy aside, Winter approved of the spring season that included 15 practices since getting started on March 29.

“I was pleased with our guys’ mindset and energy,” Winter said. “I thought especially defensively. They set the tone early on with LeDontrae (Gooden) making a big play right away. That’s been a story this spring. There’s been a lot of back and forth, but it’s been great competition all spring. It’s been fun. We’ve got a lot of guys on both sides of the ball that love to play the game.”

A ball-hawking safety who plucked five picks a year ago, Gooden intercepted the first pass attempt fired by quarterback TJ Austin, who took reps with the No. 1 unit. The majority of the ones got limited snaps. Star running back Bryce Collins again flashed his well-rounded ability in pounding between the tackles and making catches in space before spending the bulk of the night as a spectator.

While coordinator Patrick Daberkow expects to field another stout defensive unit, Concordia found some big plays in the passing game. On an all-out blitz early in the scrimmage, quarterback Andrew Perea zipped a short pass to tight end Derek Luzum, who raced 80 yards to the end zone for a score. Vying for time at receiver, Brey (Winchester, Calif.) impressed with touchdown grabs of 21 and 41 yards. The latter came on a beautifully executed deep ball from quarterback Riley Wiltfong.

“Yoshi’s had a great spring. He keeps getting better and better,” Winter said. “He’s one of those guys you can rely on. He works really hard in the weight room. He’s gotten faster. I think going against the type of cover corners he goes against every day has made him better as a route runner. He’s a good football player and he’s going to be in the mix this fall.”

Gooden is just one of many playmakers on the Concordia defense that includes All-American defensive end Trey Barnes and an ultra-experienced secondary. Daberkow has not been afraid to unleash his full repertoire of coverages, blitzes and twists this spring. The multitude of looks has helped grow a budding offensive line. Winter likes what he’s got up front on both sides.

Even among coaches, there’s competition.

“Coach Daberkow has been a pain in my side all spring,” Winter joked. “Him and Coach (Corby) Osten and the stuff they put together. They just have a really athletic group and they buy into the scheme. They get up in your face and give you nothing easy. We may give up a play or two here and there, but you’re not going to be able to do anything consistently.”

Winter is still in the process of settling the kicking game after losing seniors at kicker and punter. Ogallala native Jose Garcia made all seven of his field goal attempts from short distances on Friday. Meanwhile, Barnes has shown off a booming leg as a punter though it has not yet been decided if he’ll handle those duties in addition to his role as a terrorizer of quarterbacks.

One thing is for certain: Jackson will not be returning punts this fall though he did show some nifty juke moves in the open field.

“He’s 2-for-2 catching punts,” Winter said. “Maybe he’ll be a fair catch guy. That No. 2 jersey on him was crying for help. That jersey may never be worn again. We’ll have to retire it.”

Austin, Wiltfong and Andrew Perea were the only three quarterbacks in camp this spring. Winter believes all three are plenty capable of running the show when things get going for real in September. Perea played mostly junior varsity in 2015, but he’s looked increasing comfortable. Austin is the most experienced of the three.

“We’re really pleased with the quarterback position,” Winter said. “They all have done great things throughout the whole spring. It’s going to come down to consistency. Every guy that was in there today had a few plays or a few throws they’d like to have back but all three are good athletes. The running aspect is a big thing for them, too.”

How the quarterback position shapes up is an obvious key to 2016 success, but there’s plenty more to it. Entering his eighth season, Winter may have his most talented and experienced group yet. There’s little concern about motivation moving into the summer.

“It’s all process-based,” Winter said. “To reach our goals we have to have a great summer of preparation. We have to continue to build this chemistry, this team and this brotherhood.”

Concordia officially kicks off the 2016 season at home on Sept. 3 when University of Saint Mary (Kan.) visits Bulldog Stadium. Game time is set for 1 p.m. in Seward.


Famed Wacker got collegiate coaching start at Concordia
May 16, 2016 

In honor of the upcoming Concordia Football Reunion (Sept. 16-17), throughout the summer Concordia athletics will be releasing select excerpts of the book Cultivating Men of Faith and Character, written by Director of Athletic Communications Jake Knabel. The following passage details Jim Wacker, who went on to win four national championships as a collegiate head football coach in the state of Texas. Before earning national prominence, Wacker got his start in the collegiate ranks at Concordia.

Registration for the reunion weekend is open until Aug. 1. To register and/or purchase the reunion DVD and book, click HERE.

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Ron Harms, inducted into the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001, took over as the fifth head football coach in program history in 1964 following a 6-3 season in 1963 under head coach Ralph Starenko. After landing the gig, Harms (then 27 years old) first added to his coaching staff by securing another man with ties to Detroit, Mich., and Valparaiso University – Jim Wacker, a close friend and former college teammate. No one knew it at the time, but both Harms and Wacker were destined to reach legendary status in the state of Texas years down the road. An offensive tackle for Harms, Dean Vieselmeyer stated, “The scuttlebutt amongst all us guys was when we had Ron Harms and Wacker there, we said, ‘they’re so good they’re going to go up the ranks quickly.”

Said Harms of Wacker, “We worked together on a lot of things and he had a very creative mind. We studied the Arkansas monster defense and we put that in. We learned a lot about what we didn’t know. We tried a lot of experiments. Some of them worked and some of them didn’t.” In those days there were classic slugfests between Concordia and Yankton College, which featured future NFL all-pro Lyle Alzado (drafted into the NFL in 1971). Together, Harms and Wacker helped scheme to limit the Yankton star. At the time only a freshman, Alzado was a monster at the line of scrimmage and Concordia’s small offensive line appeared outmatched on paper. Having visited the University of Oregon, Harms came back with blocking techniques that Vieselmeyer described as “bear crawls.” With wider splits, running backs could find holes without requiring mammoth blockers driving opposing defensive linemen up the field.

Alzado was unimpressed by the physically unimposing Concordia group that traveled to Yankton for the final game of the 1968 season. He kidded, “You brought your freshmen team. When are you going to bring out the varsity line?” Said Vieselmeyer, “We were little. I was probably 235. We were really small. Fortunately we had some great coaches and they made use of everything.” On one particular play, Vieselmeyer and tight end Reed Sander collaborated on a double team (one went high, one went low) that barreled Alzado to the ground and sprung a 20-yard run. The play enraged Alzado to the point that he was foaming at the mouth. He responded on the next play by picking Vieselmeyer up underneath the chin and then shaking him. “It’s hard to describe how strong he was,” Vieselmeyer said. “When he set me down I told him, ‘(running back) Jimmy (Widyn) said you were a nice guy. C’mon, you don’t need to choke me.’ That was in the middle of the third quarter and he didn’t hit me hard the rest of the game.” The play lived on in the film room. Wacker rolled it back continuously on the projector as the whole team laughed at an embarrassed Vieselmeyer, who said Alzado had left him with a headache for a week. Chided Wacker, “Hey Viese, what are you doing up there kicking in the air?”

Harms hailed Wacker as a great assistant who worked with enthusiasm. With staffs small in nature at the time, Wacker helped with both offense and defense with a special focus on the offensive and defensive lines and linebackers. For five years, Wacker lent his talents to Concordia before taking time away from coaching to work on a doctorates degree at the University of Nebraska. Wacker first became a head coach at NAIA (now NCAA Division II) Texas Lutheran in 1971 before taking head jobs at North Dakota State (1976-78), Southwest Texas State (1979-82), TCU (1983-91) and finally, Minnesota (1992-96). He won NAIA national titles at Texas Lutheran in 1974 and 1975 and then NCAA Division II national championships at Southwest Texas State in both 1981 and 1982. Through much of the journey, Wacker brought 1967 Concordia graduate Tom Mueller along for the ride. When hired by TCU late in 1982, Wacker was quoted as saying, “I'm 95 percent sure (defensive coordinator) Tom Mueller will come, but he may want to take my job at Southwest Texas. He and I have been together all 12 years I've been coaching. He's the best there is.” Wacker and Mueller were close friends until Wacker’s death on August 26, 2003.

A 1985 Sports Illustrated piece written by the highly-regarded Rick Reilly detailed not only Wacker’s unwavering honesty, but also his colorful personality. In the article, Reilly wrote, “his bizarre weekly coach’s show became such an event on campus (at TCU) that students organized parties to watch it” while adding, “people who know him best will tell you, only half kiddingly, that it’s not just his offensive line that is unbalanced.” The star of the Southwest Conference’s No. 1-viewed coaches show, Wacker brought uncommon honesty to the NCAA Division I level. In 1985 he booted seven players off his TCU team after finding out they had taken “under-the-table” money from alumni. As Mueller recalled, the NCAA told the school that it would go easy on TCU because of its self-reporting of violations that had occurred under the previous coaching staff. It sure didn’t appear that way when the NCAA stripped the football program of 35 scholarships.

Some coaches around NCAA Division I surely felt Wacker was honest to a fault. There was little doubt he was a man of great character. At the age of 66, Wacker died of complications caused by cancer in 2003. On his death bed, Wacker remained as positive as ever. In a memorial newspaper account of the time, Mueller was quoted as saying, “One of the last things he told me was to enjoy my kids, because life is all about relationships. Even as he was dying, he was encouraging people as we were encouraging him.” Added Mueller in that same piece, “He had a very contagious personality and a zest for life. He was always an optimist and looked for the good in everyone.”

Prior to becoming a beloved Texas figure and the subject of Sports Illustrated pieces, Wacker got his first collegiate coaching job at Concordia. During his time in Seward, the Indiana native also served as head coach for the wrestling and tennis programs. Formerly known as Southwest Texas State, Texas State named its home field after Wacker in 2003. Simply put, he was a legend who mastered the art of turning around programs that had experienced little success. The Frogs had been accustomed to sinking to the bottom of the barrel in the old Southwest Conference. By year two, Wacker had Fort Worth buzzing as TCU jumped into the top 10 of the national rankings in 1984 and finished the season with a berth in the Bluebonnet Bowl.

It always seemed like Wacker knew exactly which buttons to push. As 1966 Concordia graduate Dennis Oetting said of Wacker, “he could make a rock get up and walk.” Coming off back-to-back national championship seasons at Southwest Texas State, Wacker inherited a rebuilding job at TCU in 1983. At the conclusion of a 1-8-2 first year with the Frogs, Wacker decided to literally bury the season. Wacker memorialized the season by bringing a casket to midfield. With everyone dressed in black suits, Wacker “prayed that the season was over,” remembered Mueller. Wacker had a knack for getting everyone involved. He willingly accepted fans and media into the locker room after games. Said Mueller, “win or lose, the cameras were on.” Wacker encouraged his players to enjoy success. Following wins, the postgame locker room celebrations were particularly joyous. It just fit Wacker’s personality. In a phone interview, Mueller described Wacker as someone who “came to work every day fired up and excited. He would not let you get down in the dumps. He was gung ho in everything he did, including the way he loved the Lord.”

Few knew and understood Wacker in the way that Mueller did. Mueller enjoyed an impressive coaching career in his own right. As defensive coordinator, his 1974 Texas Lutheran unit pitched six shutouts and held opponents to averages of 172.5 yards and 4.0 points per game. So sharp was Mueller that Wacker described him as “one of the truly bright defensive minds in the country.” Their close relationship made their parting following a 7-4 season in 1991 at TCU particularly difficult. Just as the program seemed to have recovered from the NCAA’s severe punishments, administration decided to turn down a bowl game invitation. This was at a time when only 18 bowl games existed. No one turned down bowl games. As a result, Wacker decided to leave for the head job at the University of Minnesota.

Most of Wacker’s staff followed to Minneapolis, but Mueller could not pull the trigger. He had children enrolled at TCU. The family did not want to leave Fort Worth. “There were tears in everyone’s eyes,” Mueller said of one of the staff’s final meetings together. “I was crying like crazy. Everyone was going to Minnesota. It was tough.” All along, it seemed like God meant for Mueller and Wacker to coach together. As a child, Mueller remembered first seeing Wacker at a wedding reception. It was the wedding of Mueller’s cousin, who roomed with Wacker at Valparaiso. Somehow the face and stature of Wacker stuck in Mueller’s memory. As a sophomore linebacker at Concordia, Mueller saw the man he remembered from the wedding in the school newspaper. Wacker had agreed to become defensive coordinator at Concordia. Of course Wacker did not recall the middle school boy that he’d made an impression upon several years earlier. Standing in line for equipment in the preseason, Mueller reminded Wacker of their first meeting. Remembering what a ‘good time’ he had enjoyed at the wedding, all Wacker could say was, “Oh no.”

In all, Wacker and Mueller spent 21 seasons coaching together. An entire book could be written on that period alone. Some of Mueller’s fondest recollections go beyond the four national titles and the high of turning around what had been a Southwest Conference doormat. Mueller makes a point of reciting valuable lessons delivered by Wacker to his teams. One of his favorite sayings was: “do the things you know to be right and refuse to do the things you know to be wrong.” Before games he would tell his players: “do your best. Don’t sweat the rest.” In most obvious ways, the relationship between Mueller and Wacker was mutually beneficial. “All I ever wanted to do was be a football coach,” Mueller said. “It was a great experience to be with Coach Harms, Coach (Ralph) Starenko and Coach Wacker. Coach Wacker told me he would call me about a spot on his staff when he got his first head coaching job. I didn’t think it would ever happen for me. It’s been special. I’ve had to pinch myself at times.” Having been out of coaching for eight years, Mueller returned to the sidelines as head coach at Texas Lutheran in 2002. He did so at the urging of and with the support of Wacker. Said Mueller of his coaching run that finally ended in 2007, “It was a lot of fun.”

Wacker’s final season as on the sidelines came in 1996. His overall record as a head coach was 160-130-3. He was named National Coach of the Year by the Sporting News in 1984. Many remembered Wacker more for his character off the field. Said Texas Lutheran athletic director Bill Miller shortly after Wacker’s death, “(Jim) had character and integrity that is incredibly rare. The way he led his life is an example for everyone to follow. In a day and age when people are winning at all costs, Coach Wacker was determined to win the right way.”


Barnes named preseason All-American by Sporting News
May 21, 2016

SEWARD, Neb. – Following a breakout season in 2015, defensive lineman Trey Barnes has been named a preseason All-American by the Sporting News. Barnes is one of just three Great Plains Athletic Conference players honored by the Sporting News, which selected 11 offensive and 11 defensive players and two specialists to its preseason list.

A Seward native and product of Seward High School, Barnes collected numerous honors as a junior this past fall when he garnered NAIA second team All-America accolades from the American Football Coaches Association. He was also a first team all-GPAC selection and the honorary defensive captain of the Omaha World-Herald NAIA All-Nebraska squad.

Barnes thrived in 2015 as a defensive end after having played running back and linebacker in his career as a Bulldog. Also an All-American thrower on the track and field team, Barnes put together one of the top statistical seasons ever by a Concordia defensive player. He registered 10 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and 75 total tackles. He also recorded 11 quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.

2016 Sporting News preseason All-America team

OFFENSE
QB – Nick Ferrer, Saint Francis (Ind.), Jr.
RB – Nolan Saraceni, Montana Tech, Sr.
RB – Quan Weaver, Pikeville (Ky.), Jr.
OL – Hea Tulfua, William Penn (Iowa), Sr.
OL – Mitch Butterfield, Friends (Kan.), Jr.
OL – Kevin Lonergan, Saint Xavier (Ill.), Sr.
OL – Justin Hunter, Saint Xavier (Ill.), Jr.
OL – Blake Frank, Morningside (Iowa), Sr.
TE – Marcus Lenhardt, College of Idaho, Jr.
WR – Krishawn Hogan, Marian (Ind.), Sr.
WR – Clarence Clark, Baker (Kan.), Jr. 

DEFENSE
DL – D’Vonn Brown, SW Assembles of God (Texas), Sr.
DL – Sam Van Gingel, Northwestern (Iowa), Sr.
DL – Trey Barnes, Concordia (Neb.), Sr.
DL – Tim Smith, St. Francis (Ill.), Sr.
LB – Aaron Cooper, Kentucky Christian, Sr.
LB – Alden Mann, Wayland Baptist (Texas), Sr.
LB – Shaquille Ash, Marian (Ind.), Sr.
DB – Julius Rucker, Southern Oregon, Sr.
DB – Nate Moore, College of Idaho, Sr.
DB – Nick Holshoe, Concordia (Mich.), Sr.
DB – Carl Morgan, SW Assemblies of God (Texas), Jr.

SPECIALISTS
K – Cristian Casillas, MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), Jr.
P – Eddie Juarez, Sterling (Kan.), Sr.


A win for the ages: ending the nation's longest unbeaten streak
June 8, 2016 

In honor of the upcoming Concordia Football Reunion (Sept. 16-17), throughout the summer Concordia athletics will be releasing select excerpts of the book Cultivating Men of Faith and Character: The History of Concordia Nebraska Football, written by Director of Athletic Communications Jake Knabel. The following passage details Concordia’s monumental victory over rival Doane in 1970. The mighty Tigers entered the season opener that year with an active unbeaten streak of 38 games.

Registration for the reunion weekend is open until Aug. 1. To register and/or purchase the DVD and book, click HERE.

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In his first game as head coach at Concordia, John “Sid” Seevers was faced with the daunting task of going up against a Doane College team that entered the 1970 season with an active 38-game unbeaten streak, the longest at the time of any college football program, at any level, in the nation. The mighty Tigers had even been featured in a Sports Illustrated magazine piece in 1969. Head coach Al Papik’s 1968 squad had averaged an eye-popping 46.8 points per game while going a perfect 10-0. In other words, Doane was an obvious favorite as it made its way to Seward on September 19 of 1970. “Those guys just romped and stomped on everybody,” said then Concordia quarterback Rod Giesselmann, who had seen Doane pummel the Bulldogs, 48-14, in 1969. One factor working in the Bulldogs’ favor was experience under center with Giesselmann, a senior who had played his first three seasons under head coach Ron Harms. On the other side, Doane had to break in Leonard King at quarterback in place of the departed Larry Green, who did not lose a single game in four years as the starter.

Seevers, a member of the Concordia football staff since 1963, carried a surprising air of confidence considering his team was coming off a 4-5-1 season that had been derailed by injuries in 1969. The 1952 Concordia graduate had convinced himself that his squad could play with any opponent on its nine-game schedule. He knew he needed some more size on his line so he added offensive tackle and Seward native Rex Gerwick to help solidify it. Gerwick proved to be an important piece to go along with Concordia’s productive passing attack that featured Giesselmann (Seward), flanker Brian Naber (Waco, Nebraska) and split end Dan Danielcyzk (Detroit, Michigan), who finished his career with a then program career record 140 pass receptions. But was it really enough to take down Doane? Seevers thought so. Weeks prior to the game, he told Doane assistant coach Ray Best, “If you don’t play good football, you’re going to get beat bad and if we play really good football, this game is not going to be close.”

A massive crowd of 6,800 people (according to a newspaper story) flocked to Seward. “Someone down there really played that up,” Seevers said of the conversation he had with Best. “Because it got bigger and bigger and bigger. They thought they were going to come up here and just pulverize us.” As Seevers recalled, the stands were already filled 45 minutes ahead of the scheduled kickoff. “I think that was the largest crowd we ever had.” In eight years playing in Seward, including four years at Concordia High School, Giesselmann never performed in front of more fans than he did that day.

The Tigers were sloppy from the gun, fumbling away the first play from scrimmage to set up a two-yard touchdown toss from Giesselmann to Naber. Concordia added two more points in the first half via a safety that occurred when junior linebacker Neal Koch dropped standout running back Mike Sallier in his own end zone. Doane had its opportunities to draw nearer in a contest that remained competitive into the fourth quarter. In a key defensive stop, the Bulldogs stuffed the Tigers on a fourth down inside the Concordia 10. With 3:10 left in the third quarter, Giesselmann connected again with Naber, this time on an 11-yard touchdown pass, making it 15-0. The onslaught picked up in the final stanza with running back Carl Abele (Seward) scoring from two yards out midway through the fourth. The game then got out of hand in the final minute with turnovers leading to two more Bulldog touchdowns. By the time the contest had come to a merciful end for Doane, Concordia held a total yards advantage of 447-243.

Perhaps overconfident, Doane got flattened with a humbling 35-0 defeat. Concordia had blown the game open with 20 fourth-quarter points to shock Papik and the Tigers. In a story written a year later by the Lincoln Evening Journal, Best commented, “We were stunned. We were real disappointed in ourselves that the score was so lopsided. There was a great deal of pressure and it just caught up with us and exploded all at once.” Seevers gave credit to what he called an “electric” crowd that day in Seward. “The ball bounced our way. There’s no question about that,” Giesselmann said. “It was just a fun night. And it made it more fun when our basketball team played down there that year.”

Somehow Concordia had overcome a Tiger team with a star running back in Sallier, the NAIA rushing leader in 1969, and a five-man Doane defensive front with impressive size for the time period. Defensive tackle Louis Cooper stood 6-8 and weighed in at 265 pounds. Another Doane defensive tackle, Kevin Hunt, measured up at 6-5, 250. These were “monster men” as Seevers referred to them. The Bulldogs beat them by choosing to run right at the big fellas in the trenches. Seevers felt like he knew he had an opponent demoralized if he could succeed while attacking its strengths. Incredibly, Concordia’s pint-sized left guard Bob Huckfeldt (5-7, 168), a future college professor from Los Angeles, took on Cooper and opened up holes in the run game with the team’s patented scramble blocking techniques. Said teammate Dean Vieselmeyer to a freshman Huckfeldt in 1969, “Everybody hates to play against you because you’re so dang short. You’re hitting us down in the shins and the knees when everybody else hits you in the chest.”

Doane’s mammoth defensive tackles struggled to contain Abele, who ran over the Tigers for 214 rushing yards on 41 bruising carries. Giesselmann tossed for another 222 as the Bulldogs dominated in all phases. Even the defense found the end zone with freshman defensive end Ronald Kollmeyer’s 40-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Defensively, the Bulldogs terrorized King, who was intercepted three times – twice by ball-hawking safety Steve Sirek. In plucking his second pick, Sirek set up a four-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Tim Taube.

What a way to begin a coaching tenure. The team celebrated by hurling its head coach into the on-campus pool. It didn’t matter that Seevers had worn a tie and dress clothes that day. This would be a day that no associated team member would ever forget. Said Seevers, “All the players tossed me in. I didn’t have much choice on that. I had worn a black suit. I dressed up. We were all celebrating and they said, ‘take off your watch. Do you have any money on you?’ It was a good time. The next day they had a big article in the newspaper about us winning. I got a lot of cards and telephone calls telling me congratulations.”

Papik would retire his post at Doane at the conclusion of the 1970 season. His 16-year record at Doane stood at 80-52-9. The Tigers wound up losing three more times in 1970 and concluded the campaign at 6-4 overall. Meanwhile, Sid led Concordia to the Nebraska Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NIAC) title in the first year of the league’s existence. The 1970 Bulldogs outscored their opponents by a combined total of 286-96. Only one of their eight victories came by less than an 18-point margin. Concordia whipped up on each of its Nebraska rivals, including Midland, 43-14, and others such as Sioux Falls, 55-12, and Northwestern College, 48-20. Concordia finished at 8-1 overall with its only loss coming at the hands of Yankton College. Regarded as one of the top teams in program history, the 1970 Bulldogs were inducted into the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.


Garcia puts behind injury-riddled past, finds health, stardom at Concordia
June 27, 2016 

You would have to cut my legs off to stop me from playing football. That’s what Jared Garcia told his mother Tracey while sitting at the doctor’s office following the third tear of his right ACL.

“Four-and-a-half games,” Garcia repeated on several occasions in a sit-down interview. That’s all his varsity career amounted to in his time at Dawson High School in his hometown of Pearland, Texas. Any time he experienced a bout of good fortune, the positivity was soon replaced by feelings of despair. In a September game during his senior year in 2012, Garcia returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and then quickly found the end zone on Dawson’s first offensive series.

A recruiting website had just featured the then 6-foot-2, 185-pounder that week in writing, “One player who will not be overlooked by opponents, and soon enough college recruiters, is wide receiver Jared Garcia.” Having already been plagued by injuries, Garcia knew he needed to finish his senior season in good health. It just wasn’t in the cards.

“I can’t lie and say I didn’t get down,” Garcia said. “I think the second one was probably the hardest. I fought back really hard from the first one and I felt like I was good. In a matter of one play I was out. It was unexpected. I think I took that one the hardest. I never thought about quitting. I can’t say that, but I did get down on myself.”

The frustrations were understandable. At the time Garcia had recently talked to University of Texas co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, who seemed to have genuine interest. Of course college recruiters were drawn to Garcia’s teammates in James White, who landed at Texas A&M, and another receiver who went to LSU. Those high-level teammates helped Garcia gain exposure. But when yet another injury bit, it was easy for college recruiters to ignore Garcia. Says Garcia, “That was a big detriment to my recruiting.”

Now looking forward to his third season at Concordia, the soft-spoken Garcia has not missed a single game as a Bulldog. A big and physical presence, Garcia made an immense impact immediately, breaking a school record with 11 touchdown catches as a freshman. In two years he’s hauled in 85 passes for 1,363 yards and 19 touchdowns as one of the top receivers in the GPAC.

“Jared’s a guy defenses are going to focus in on game plan-wise,” said head coach Vance Winter. “They want to try to take him away right from the start. We see a lot of different coverage looks and things that we wouldn’t normally see. There aren’t too many corners that can match up with him one-on-one.”

As a prep, Garcia always envisioned himself playing at the NCAA Division I level. He wanted to make a name for himself at the highest level. A 17-year-old Garcia didn’t feel like a school like Concordia, roughly a 13-hour drive away from home and a member of the NAIA, fit his profile. So he accepted a walk-on offer from NCAA Division I FCS Stephen F. Austin. Still fighting back from injury, Garcia went almost unnoticed. After one semester he left.

It was time to give that school in Nebraska a shot. “The first thing I did was contact Coach (Corby) Osten,” Garcia said. “They hopped on board immediately. There was no second guessing. ‘Hey Coach are you guys still interested?’ ‘Yes, what are you doing?’ They contacted me and let me know what they could find me for a scholarship. I accepted what they gave me and I honestly do not regret it at all.”

Concordia coaches made sure to appoint quarterback Von Thomas as host when Garcia made a campus visit. The two became close friends and still joke about their first meeting. Garcia’s Valentine’s Day visit to Concordia prevented Thomas from taking his girlfriend on a date. “That was pretty funny and he doesn’t let me live it down,” Garcia said. “He was a great host. I built a relationship with him that is unbreakable. I still talk to him to this day. We just talk about living life.”

Not surprisingly, Garcia quickly became Thomas’ favorite target in 2014. In just Garcia’s third career collegiate game, he caught three touchdown passes from Thomas in a home victory over Midland. “I actually threw him some of the worst balls on purpose just to see what his limit was,” Thomas said. “Everything I threw bad to him he caught. I’m still trying to figure out what footballs he can’t catch.”

The sure-handed Garcia has high aspirations. Says Garcia without flinching, “My big personal goal is to make it to the NFL.” Garcia possesses measurables that are off the charts for NAIA football. In high school he was timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He now has a 39-inch vertical to go along with his ideal size that dwarfs opposing GPAC defensive backs.

Back in the late 1980s, Concordia’s Clarence Woods burned the opposition while catching passes from Phil Seevers. Woods ended up being invited to camp with the New Orleans Saints. You may have to go back that far to find a reasonable comparison for Garcia among Bulldog wide outs.

“From the day he showed up he impressed us physically,” Winter said. “He does some great things route running. He’s very good at one-on-one balls. He’s an explosive leaper and he’s also faster than we thought. He’s very, very talented.”

All Garcia needed to blossom was the right school and a better run of fortune health-wise. Even he admitted he didn’t know exactly what he could contribute as a freshman. At that point he had spent more time watching football from the sidelines than actually playing the game.

“I didn’t know what I was capable of,” Garcia said. “I played four-and-a-half varsity games in high school. I wasn’t recruited heavily. I just had a lot of doubts in my mind. When I came here I wasn’t big headed. I didn’t know what I could do. I had to prove myself to myself.”

Consider that done.


Building a GPAC champion: the glorious 2001 season
July 1, 2016 

In honor of the upcoming Concordia Football Reunion (Sept. 16-17), throughout the summer Concordia athletics will be releasing select excerpts of the book Cultivating Men of Faith and Character: The History of Concordia Nebraska Football, written by Director of Athletic Communications Jake Knabel. The following passage details the buildup to and the success experienced by the 2001 Bulldogs. Coached by Courtney Meyer, Concordia shared the Great Plains Athletic Conference title in the second year of the league's existence.

Registration for the reunion weekend is open until Aug. 1. To register and/or purchase the DVD and book, click HERE.

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A series of changes were initiated prior to the 1998 season, Meyer’s ninth as head coach. First, the institution of the “top 10 program” meant that the coaching staff could give more money to 10 athletes it identified as difference makers, while still maintaining a specified scholarship average. Second, Bill McAllister was hired as offensive coordinator. He went to work on implementing a new offense – the Wing T – that could mask some of the size disadvantages the Bulldogs had at the time. Some other GPAC coaches even poked fun at McAllister’s offense. But the 1985 Midland Lutheran College graduate compiled a record of 54-29 during nine seasons as a Nebraska high school football head coach, proving his system worked. One GPAC coach prodded, “When are you going to quit running that high school offense?” McAllister’s response: “When you can stop it.”

The changes didn’t produce championships immediately, but Concordia went from 1-9 in 1997 to 4-5 in 1998 to 5-4 in 1999. Then came a breakthrough 7-4 campaign in 2000. Meyer, McAllister and defensive coordinator Tim Preuss were steadily stockpiling talent. They found a quarterback in Jarrod Pimentel of Merced, California. Somehow Pimentel had gone mostly unnoticed in the recruiting process. They discovered Ross Wurdeman who had perhaps been miscast as a quarterback at Columbus High School. They also went to Texas and landed safety Sean Stewart of Beaumont and picked up linebacker Erik DeHaven of Mesa, Arizona. Also from California, Alex Alvarez (Denair), a high school teammate of Pimentel, became a standout at running back. They didn’t have to go far to recruit defensive back Troy Schlueter (York, Nebraska), another integral part of a sturdy defensive unit. The pieces were beginning to come together and a different vibe would soon spread throughout 800 North Columbia Avenue. McAllister could see something special developing as the first group of recruits he had helped bring in transitioned from freshmen to sophomores.

“I had always been part of winning programs,” said Pimentel recalling his first season as a Bulldog. “This was the first time I was on a team that struggled. We started out really bad (in 1998). I remember calling my mom and dad and saying, ‘Hey I’m not used to losing.’ There was about 15 to 20 of us that made a pact that we were going to stay together and work our butts off to try to win a championship.” Winning really was all Pimentel knew. He lost just once his entire high school career. The coaches appreciated Pimentel’s trust in the program. Said Preuss, “I have really fond memories of the players. We had guys like Pimentel who were so committed. That’s what helped us turn things around.”

A program that struggled to win a conference game in the early Meyer years seemed to turn the corner on September 16, 2000, when 25th-ranked Concordia upset No. 7 University of Sioux Falls, 43-24, in Seward behind 456 total yards of offense, including 285 through the air from Pimentel. The Bulldogs began that season with a win over Lindenwood University in the Wheat Bowl and finished it with momentum by blowing away Concordia Wisconsin, 40-6. In between, the Bulldogs learned how to win by staging a series of fourth-quarter comebacks. The swagger carried by the likes of Pimentel and Wurdeman was transforming the program. Said Meyer, “I sensed it was coming. We were just good. We had a good defense that could run and hit. It was the complete package.” Said then offensive lineman Corby Osten, “Going into my senior season all our offseason meetings were like, ‘We’re winning this thing. There’s no reason it shouldn’t have happened already.’ There was a change in mindset.”

McAllister predicted the success. He admitted that his confidence came mostly as a product of his own ego and naivety. Soon after beginning at Concordia, he told a booster club gathering that within four years the program would claim a conference championship. At the time of McAllister’s hiring, Concordia had won a combined 10 games over the previous five years. Told by Meyer to “take the offense and go,” McAllister went to work. He loved wrapping himself up in the X’s and O’s while dreaming up ways to attack opposing defenses. It wasn’t uncommon for the former University of Nebraska-Omaha quarterbacks coach to stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. on Sunday nights as he devised that week’s game plan.

But McAllister may have made his biggest impact in the area of recruiting. Meyer and Preuss taught classes and had less freedom of movement. No problem. McAllister made trips to see the likes of Pimentel and Stewart. The veteran coach knew what he had to look for while working on a tight budget. (If families offered him a meal, he never refused). Explained McAllister, “I knew coming in that we were not going to get the best quarterback in the state. We weren’t going to get the top running back in the state. We weren’t going to get the top linemen in the state. We had to go to a scheme that allowed us to recruit under-sized linemen and be successful. We could make a living on recruiting ‘tweeners. They maybe weren’t big enough or fast enough to play an I-formation pro scheme or spread offense, but they fit our scheme. We got a lot of them that were great ballplayers and great kids.” Preuss noticed the difference in the skill level of incoming players. Concordia clearly had better positioned itself with a staff more equipped to handle the incredible demands of managing a college football program. “Bill joining the staff was a real shot in the arm,” Preuss said. “We were stretched so thin. He was really able to ramp up our recruiting in Texas and California. It paid off really well. Bill and I are great friends to this day.”

After the gradual build, Concordia broke through in 2001 with a co-GPAC championship season. Concordia Hall of Famer Ross Wurdeman (or “Ross the Hoss” as Meyer liked to say), named to the NAIA all-decade team of the 2000s, was the team’s biggest offensive star after beginning his collegiate career as a defensive end. The two-time first team NAIA All-American caught 48 passes for 647 yards and seven touchdowns during the campaign that ended the program’s 20-year conference title drought. Known for catching anything thrown in his vicinity, Ross became best friends with Pimentel. They even gave each other the business sometimes during postgame interviews. A humble guy who “just got it done” as Meyer would say, Wurdeman did things the right way. So of course he batted an eye as Pimentel once told a reporter, “Ross likes to showboat during practice.”

That comment came in the wake of arguably the most significant win in the history of the program. The 2001 team finished the regular season with a record of 9-1, its only loss coming at the hands of No. 20 Hastings in a 20-16 upset defeat on November 3. McAllister shouldered blame for calling a play in the wrong direction. The result was a dropped ball from wide open receiver Regan Else, who had to stare directly into the sun. “If I don’t blow that call we’re probably undefeated,” McAllister said. “Those are the things you tend to remember more than anything else.” Concordia shook off the loss and, two weeks later, hosted 13th-ranked St. Ambrose University (Iowa) in the first round of the NAIA playoffs. The Concordia athletic department put up $16,000 by raising funds for the right to stage the game at Bulldog Stadium. On paper it looked like a potential low-scoring, grind-it-out battle with two teams that featured defenses ranked in the top 10 nationally. McAllister told his fellow coaches that they would have to win this game in a slugfest with a final score of something like 10-7.

From the outset, some may have wondered if the moment was too big for a program that had not been used to playing underneath a spotlight. A defense that had not allowed more than 20 points in a single game all year surrendered 20 in the first quarter alone (the first touchdown came on the opening kickoff) to the visiting Bees. But Wurdeman, who caught nine passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns that day, came to the rescue. In the signature play of his career, Wurdeman caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from Pimentel on a third-and-16 play. The Columbus, Nebraska, native faked a pitch on a designed hook-and-ladder, then spun around and raced to the end zone, putting Concordia up 21-20 early in the second quarter.

Piggybacking on that momentum, the defense tightened and the Bulldogs built a 31-20 lead into the fourth quarter before St. Ambrose struck with an Andre Banks touchdown catch. The defense buckled down the rest of the way and the Bulldogs sewed up a memorable 31-26 victory in front of a huge Bulldog Stadium crowd. Concordia had overcome an early deficit and injuries to the top two running backs on its depth chart in the first playoff game in school history.

There were many other memorable moments along the way in 2001. In the second game of the season, unranked Concordia went on the road and upset GPAC favorite and eighth-ranked Sioux Falls, 17-14, in a win crucial to the Bulldogs’ chances of staying in the hunt for a conference championship. On a rain-soaked field in a contest that came four days after the 9/11 tragedy, the Bulldogs got out to a 17-7 advantage and held on for a tone-setting victory. The Bulldog offense got rolling with 200 yards of offense in the fourth quarter. Seventy-three of them came on an Alvarez touchdown run. As Wurdeman said, “Once we got past Sioux Falls we thought now it’s our table to run.” Concordia started out 8-0 before the program’s nine-game winning streak was halted by Hastings. The Bulldogs clinched at least a share of the GPAC title on October 27 when it won at Doane, 14-3, in one of their eight wins by double-digit margins that season. Afterwards, as Osten recalled, Meyer danced along with his players inside a celebratory visiting locker room.

The season culminated with a 34-0 loss at Sioux Falls in a revenge game as part of the NAIA playoff quarterfinals. The contest was severely affected by a howling wind that resulted in sideways rain and a mud pit between the hashes. The weather grounded Pimentel and the passing attack, even causing hypothermia for at least two Bulldog players while bringing an end to a historic season. “I think the whole circumstances negated our ability to do what we normally did,” Meyer said. Even worse than dealing with the weather, Concordia played with heavy hearts after the tragic death of wide receiver J.T. Thomas five days prior to the game. Thomas had been involved in a car accident. Said Meyer, “It probably wasn’t until Wednesday or Thursday that week that we had any semblance of a practice. It just impacted all of us.” Sioux Falls ended up losing in the national title game.

The playoff loss aside, Concordia had returned to the glorious levels reached by the previous 12 Bulldog conference championship teams. And they did it by working their way up from the bottom. “The biggest thing I take away is an appreciation of building a championship caliber program,” Pimentel said. “That was a lot of fun. When you come into a winning program and keep winning, you don’t know what it’s like from the other side of it. People ask me if I could change anything about going to Nebraska. It was a good ride.” Pimentel was an outspoken leader for a team that McAllister termed a “band of brothers” that hung together in the face of every challenge that came their way. It also was a bunch that believed in a program that had suffered through some ugly win-loss records.


Hall of Fame bound Seevers shined bright for 1980s Bulldogs
July 13, 2016 

As former head coach Larry Oetting (1977-89) said of the climate of Concordia College in the mid- to late-1980s, “Things were a bit fragile.” Prior to a showdown with Dana College on Oct. 3, 1987, the lights at Bulldog Stadium shut off abruptly, causing a delay of roughly 10 minutes. Such issues were somewhat common for a football program that struggled to afford helmet decals at one point. Said Phil Seevers, “Our football field wasn’t in very good shape. In 1985 it was probably the best field in the conference. By the time I left we had trouble getting the water to turn on.”

Through the struggles that saw enrollment and recruitment numbers wane, Seevers displayed the type of fiery competitive spirit and resilience that helped Concordia overcome. Originally from Blair, Neb., Seevers quarterbacked the 1987 team to a record of 6-4 and was named the 1989 Concordia senior male athlete of the year. He led the ’87 squad to a 25-3 scorching of nationally-ranked Peru State at the Oak Bowl as part of a sterling start to the season. In that contest, Seevers found star wide out Clarence Woods for three of his four touchdown tosses. Until 2013, Seevers owned the program’s single-season total yards record with 2,443 during his senior year (broken by Von Thomas).

A top quarterback in program history by any measure, Seevers is now set to take his place as a member of the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame (official induction in October), a special group that includes Phil’s father Gary and Uncle John (known by many as “Sid”). “There’s no doubt that Concordia is a Seevers institution,” Phil said in referencing the many family members that have come through 800 North Columbia Avenue. “Concordia is a place we always came to for games on weekends when we were little. I was definitely influenced by the Seevers name in going there.”

Phil played many games with his father in attendance. “I was proud that he went to Concordia,” Gary said. “He was a good player. He would be a great coach, too.” Making use of the exotic veer offense, Phil was in total control as the proverbial coach on the field. There were games where he might throw 40 times and also run 20 times. Known as an intense competitor, Phil only wished that offensive prowess led to more victories. “We could spread the ball around so well,” Phil said. The 42-41 loss to Doane in 1988 backed up that point.

“That was a fun game, but an extremely disappointing game,” Phil said. Not only did Seevers complete 26 of 39 passes and throw for five touchdowns, he also ran for a 61-yard score a minute into the game. Seevers’ final scoring toss of the day, a 15-yard dart to tight end Gerald Homp, with a minute remaining got Concordia within one (42-41). Oetting then made the gutsy decision to go for the win, but the Bulldogs failed to convert the two-point try.

The 1988 team may have finished just 3-6, but the Seevers-to-Woods show justified the price of admission. During that season Seevers led NAIA District 11 with 1,879 passing yards while frequently connecting with his favorite receiver that would wind up in training camp with the New Orleans Saints. Woods, who hailed from St. Louis, Mo., faced consistent double coverages and caught nine passes for 158 yards versus Peru State. He hauled in eight catches for 193 yards and three touchdowns versus Midland. Against Hastings, Woods received a pitch on a fake punt and took it 30 yards before he lateraled to Matt Wullenwaber, who proceeded for 25 yards to pay dirt. Woods also caught a 50-yard touchdown toss from Seevers in that game. A week later Woods plucked six passes for 78 yards and ran for a short touchdown score.

Said Phil’s first cousin Scott Seevers, a teammate, “We didn’t have a lot of weapons in those days, but those were two (Woods and Phil Seevers) pretty good weapons.”

No Concordia quarterback has ever burned opponents with his legs the way that Phil Seevers did. Listed at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds during his playing career, Seevers totaled six rushing touchdowns as a sophomore, then 11 more as a junior and another eight as a senior. Over his final two campaigns he racked up more than 1,000 combined rushing yards despite playing through shoulder tendinitis his junior season. Prior to college, Phil led Blair to a state title and state runner-up finish in legion baseball. He did it all, also competing in basketball, football and track and field. He remained a multi-sport athlete in college, playing baseball in addition to football. Phil wasted little time making an impact on the football field, seeing action as a freshman and then heavy duty as a sophomore before taking over as full-time quarterback as a junior.

From a team perspective, the height of his career may have come that evening when darkness fell on Bulldog Stadium. Still the spotlight found Seevers, who shined brightly and a matchup between two nationally-ranked teams – Concordia and Dana – went to the Bulldogs by a 31-21 score. Suddenly Concordia was 4-0 and ranked No. 12 in the nation. The team had the makings of a potential conference title contender – but the injuries soon hit. “That game just showed how good we were when everyone was healthy,” Phil said.

The hard luck on the injury front was another hit during a tough time, but it didn’t put a damper on Phil’s time at Concordia, where he roomed with cousin Scott for three years. “It was an extremely positive experience, even through the hard times,” Phil said. “That’s what made it even more special. It wasn’t easy and we had to battle together. That’s how you build your lifelong friendships.”

Phil went on to praise Coach Oetting’s leadership, saying, “I don’t think I can describe how lucky I was to play for the coaches I had. Coach Oetting was phenomenal for me at that age. I’m sure I drove him crazy. He was awesome for all of us.”


GPAC Media Day notebook: Bulldogs grab a first-place nod
August 2, 2016 

SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. – Head coach Vance Winter took a cue from his fellow coaches while making his eighth media day appearance as head football coach at Concordia. He essentially cut his time at the podium in half on Tuesday, as compared to his previous two speeches at GPAC football media events.

It’s not that Winter has nothing to be “excited” about (more on the “excitement” of media day below). He used that word six times over his nearly seven-and-a-half minutes spent in front of the mic. He simply endeavored not to ramble – though he’s at the controls of an outfit that returns 17 starters from a 6-4 squad of 2015. Position-by-position, Winter broke down a roster without glaring weaknesses while speaking sixth in line amongst the group of nine head coaches gathered at the Marina Inn in South Sioux City, Neb.

“I was on a time limit after my last year’s speech so I wanted to see how fast I went,” Winter joked towards the end of his spiel. “Coach (Tony) Harper (of Hastings) was going to hit me.”

Fittingly, Winter devoted the most time gushing about his well-stocked secondary before getting into the quarterback situation. Of course you can’t leave the podium without an update on the signal caller. As for Morningside, no, prolific passer Ryan Kasdorf will not be granted an additional year of eligibility.

Preseason polls are often a reflection of the prior season and typically yield few surprises. But a couple eyebrows may have raised when it was revealed that Concordia received a first-place vote from one of the league’s other eight head coaches (more on preseason polls below).

Good to great
That’s the transformation Concordia hopes to make in 2016. How has that catchphrase caught on? Well, one GPAC head coach (not to name names) jokingly suggested that it will be the title of Kenny Chesney’s new single to be released this fall. Anyway to spread the brand, we’ll take it.

Two-quarterback system
Four different quarterbacks saw time last year. That may not be the formula for success this year, but it’s very likely that TJ Austin and Riley Wiltfong will both see time in the pistol spread. Both have the ability to run and throw with Austin being built like a linebacker and Wiltfong displaying a more traditional quarterback build. Said Winter, “TJ is kind of the thunder package and Riley is kind of a lightning-package type guy. They both do different things very well. I think there are ways both can be used in our offense.”

Loaded secondary
All four starters are back from a unit that ranked in the top five nationally in fewest passing yards allowed per game (144.0) and pass efficiency defense (96.7). You could stop there. This group rightfully elicits plenty of acclaim from the coaching staff. Tarence Roby and D’Mauria Martin are stifling corners while Le’Dontrae Gooden and Matt Keener are playmaking safeties. “I think if you look at a major strength for our team people would look at our defensive back group,” Winter said.

Preseason polls
See the 2015 GPAC football standings. But seriously, the preseason polls rarely deviate significantly from the previous year’s standings. This preseason the Bulldogs checked in at No. 3 in the coaches’ poll and No. 5 in the media poll after tying for fourth in 2015. A glance at Concordia’s past preseason placements reveals the program’s expectations have steadily risen – it was picked 10th in both 2009 and 2010. One GPAC head coach thought enough of this team to give it a first-place vote. Keep in mind that coaches do not include their own teams in their own rankings.

Find complete GPAC preseason polls HERE.

Concordia in GPAC preseason coaches polls
2016: 3rd (finished ??)
2015: 6th (finished T-4th)
2014: 4th (finished T-6th)
2013: 7th (finished 5th)
2012: 8th (finished 7th)
2011: 7th (finished 8th)
2010: 10th (finished 8th)
2009: 10th (finished 10th)
2008: 6th (finished 11th)
2007: 8th (finished 6th)
2006: 8th (finished 9th)
2005: 6th (finished 4-6 in GPAC)
2004: 8th (finished 6th) 

New faces debut in 2016
Three new faces introduced themselves to the media on Tuesday. Exactly one-third of the conference teams will be guided by first-year head coaches as Jeff Jamrog (Midland), Matt McCarty (Northwestern) and Joel Penner (Dordt) make their debuts in 2016. Of them, only McCarty’s Red Raiders are expected to finish inside the top five of the GPAC standings, according to Tuesday’s preseason polls.

We so excited
By an unofficial count, GPAC coaches tossed out the word “excite,” or a variation of, a total of 40 times during Tuesday’s formal press conference. Dordt’s Penner was the most excited. He led the way with eight excitable mentions (again, unofficial). Northwestern’s McCarty uttered his excitement in seven instances. It’s August 2. Everyone is excited, but GPAC coaches actually did a credible job of containing said excitement.

Unsung hero
Erik Small, a 6-1, 245-pound fullback from Los Alamitos, Calif., caught six passes for 36 yards and a touchdown last year as a sophomore. But it's what you don't see that makes Small an important piece of the 2016 roster. Winter has raved about Small's progress. "Erik’s one of our most dominant football players on our team. Very physical player. Really high energy, high motor type of guy. He will win most one-on-one blocks." Small helps make way for star running back Bryce Collins, who has rushed for 2,666 yards in his Concordia career.

Winter media day transcript
Thank you, Lucas (Mohrman). That’s for sure. My wife is ready for me to get back to Seward and take the shift for this evening. Our newborn Jesse is three weeks old, just born on July 11. Also, Coach (Patrick) Daberkow, our defensive coordinator had a baby in May. It’s been busy around our office.

Thank you to Corey (Westra) and Lucas for all their work at this event. Also thank you to the Marinna Inn.

We’re excited about this fall and about the amount returning players we have and the amount of talented returning players we have. We return seven starters off a top-five defense in the country last year. I feel like we have outstanding guys at every level of our defense. I’ll talk a little bit about those guys right now.

At defensive line Trey Barnes made the move from running back to defensive line last year and had an outstanding year – first team all-conference and second team All-American. Another guy that’s a returning starter at defensive line is Ron Jackson. Ron’s an anchor in the middle for us, I think an unsung guy for us, very physical and the strongest member of our program – and also a guy in a pinch who can return some punts.

Linebacker is the area of our team hit hardest by graduation last year. We had three seniors graduate from last year’s team. I liked the talent there this spring. A guy who really stood out last fall for us was Michael Hedlund. He is a senior from O’Neill, Nebraska. Michael was our leading tackler, a second team all-conference player. He’s an outstanding football player overall. He’s a tough guy to take off the field in any scenario for us. He plays on all the special teams, all the kicking game stuff and never comes off the field on D.

I think if you look at a major strength for our team people would look at our defensive back group. We return all four starters from that group and we have five guys coming back that actually started games last fall. Those guys really meshed well last season. I think we were top three in the country defensively versus the pass. It’s a really good group of guys. The guy that’s kind of the headliner for that group is Tarence Roby. He’s a two-year starter. He’s a transfer from Northern Illinois University. Tarence has been outstanding, a really dynamic player. He’s one of the best cover guys, we feel, in the conference. Another guy, who plays opposite of Tarence, that we think is an outstanding football player is D’Mauria Martin. Those guys have improved greatly week after week and year after year. The other guy who felt was a huge addition to our defensive group is Le’Dontrae Gooden, who’s a transfer last fall. Le’Dontrae’s a highly instinctive player and a great leader in our back end. Outstanding football player.

Offensively we return 10 starters this fall. That’s a big group. It also tells you how inexperienced we were last year playing. We went from being a very inexperienced team last year in 2015 to a very experienced group this year. Of the guys who have played varsity we really feel that our offensive line group is the group that grew the most throughout the season. We had four guys who had never played a varsity snap at the start of last season. We have six guys that played and started throughout the year that are back and improved a great deal throughout the spring.

At running back, Bryce Collins returns for his senior year. He’s had an outstanding offseason. I’m really fired up about his work ethic and what he’s been able to do. He’s been a three-year starter and a two-time first team all-conference player. He really sets the tone for our entire offense with how he goes about his business. At fullback, Erik Small returns for his junior year. I think Erik’s one of our most dominant football players on our team. Very physical player. Really high energy, high motor type of guy. He will win most one-on-one blocks.

At wide receiver, Jared Garcia returns for his junior year. He’s been a first team all-conference player last year and was a second team all-conference player as a freshman. He’s about as dynamic as any player in our conference. He continues to improve. We have other guys such as Trae Owens, Kiyoshi Brey and Vince Beasley who we also expect big things.

Tight end, we were dealt a significant blow this spring. Tight end Seth Fitzke got injured during the spring. We don’t know what his status is going to be for the fall. We hope to get him back at some point, but we’re excited about the opportunity for guys to step up. Cam Christiansen is a guy who’s a senior who we think is going to be a good football player. He’s been behind two very good tight ends. This is his opportunity.

At quarterback, we love all three guys that went through the spring. We played all of them last season. TJ Austin and Riley Wiltfong, I think both bring a very different dynamic to the quarterback position. Both in their own way are outstanding football players and both started games for us last year and played well.

In the kicking game, we lost both our punter and our kicker who were three-year starters. It’s an area of opportunity or an area of concern. It depends on how you want to look at it. We’ve got some guys we’re excited about in each role. In the return game we have Tarence Roby back at kickoff return and Aivery Scheffer back at punt return.

Another thing I’m excited about for this fall if for all of our alumni to come back for a football alumni reunion weekend, set for September 16 and 17 in Seward. Football alumni spread out from many, many years will be coming back to campus. We couldn’t be more excited about that. Big thanks to Jen Furr, Larry Noack, Coach (Courtney) Meyer and Jake Knabel for all your work on this event.

I was on a time limit after my last year’s speech so I wanted to see how fast I went. Coach (Tony) Harper was going to hit me. In conclusion, I couldn’t be more excited about the 2016 Bulldog football team. Enjoy the season. Any questions?

Q: Could you expand on your quarterback race between Wiltfong and Austin?

Winter: They both bring different things to the table. TJ is kind of the thunder package and Riley is kind of a lightning-package type guy. They both do different things very well. I think there are ways both can be used in our offense.


Bulldogs begin 2016 just outside NAIA top 25
August 8, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Hoping to make a return to the national spotlight in 2016, the Concordia football program appeared just outside of the NAIA Football Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll, released on Monday. The Bulldogs last appeared inside the top 25 in October of last year after jumping out to a 5-1 start (ranked No. 23 on Oct. 19, 2015).

In Monday’s poll, Concordia garnered a total of 18 points and was listed second among “others receiving votes.” Three GPAC squads were ranked in the top 25: No. 3 Morningside, No. 9 Doane and No. 16 Dakota Wesleyan. Head coach Vance Winter’s squad had not received any votes this past April in the NAIA’s spring poll. The Bulldogs gained steam thanks to a No. 3 ranking in the GPAC preseason coaches’ poll unveiled at last week’s conference media day.

During the 2013 season, Winter’s squad earned national rankings in six-straight polls on the strength of a 6-0 start. Concordia rose as high as No. 14 that season and finished the year with an overall record of 7-4. The 2013 team broke a rankings drought of more than 10 years for Concordia. During the GPAC era (2000-present), the Bulldogs have garnered a spot in the top 25 on 20 occasions.

Concordia spent nine-straight polls inside the top 25 in 2001 when it went on to share the GPAC title. That season head coach Courtney Meyer’s Bulldogs found themselves ranked as high as sixth before achieving a postseason placement of No. 7.


The Legend of Arkie
August 9, 2016 

The following passage is derived from the book, Cultivating Men of Faith and Character: The History of Concordia Nebraska Football, written by Director of Athletic Communications Jake Knabel. This account details Concordia Athletic Hall of Famer Bernard Arkebauer a legendary figure at both Concordia High School and Concordia Teachers College. Incredibly, Arkebauer led Concordia High to a 6-0 record in 1930 before powering the Teachers to a 7-0 mark in 1931. The native Kansan is a major player in Bulldog football lore.

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On his way to scoring a program record 19 total touchdowns (still a single-season school record), Bernard “Arkie” Arkebauer pretty much did it all. He ran for touchdowns, he caught touchdowns, he punted and he made opposing quarterbacks pay for mistakes by plucking interceptions. Wrote the Concordia College News, “Of course, we all know that there is Arkebauer as do all of our opponents. The husky Kansan just seems to have a way of making his presence felt.” With Arkie at the forefront, it would be Concordia doing the “trimming” in 1931.

In facing its stiffest competition all year, Arkebauer showed off his big-play ability by returning an interception 70 yards for a score – only to have it called back by an offside penalty. In that same game – a 21-7 win over Hebron Junior College on November 7 – the “husky Kansan” made a spectacular catch of a pass from Herb “Bulldog” Meyer and “went for a touchdown being tackled just as he crossed the line.” With the victory over Hebron, CTC pushed its mark to 6-0 and locked up a Nebraska Junior College Conference championship.

Indeed, Arkebauer and Meyer made for a deadly combo. They powered the 1931 team to a 7-0 record while outscoring opponents 206-19. They won games by counts of 25-0 over Nebraska Central, 31-0 and 32-0 over Dana, 13-12 and 21-7 over Hebron and 54-0 and 31-0 over Luther. In the 54-0 “snowing under” of Luther, Meyer tallied three scores and Arkebauer two. Even at a time when the forward pass had yet to become vogue, this team had aeronautical flair. Meyer raced into the end zone on a 20-yard “reverse lateral pass” for the fifth touchdown of the trouncing.

To this day the 1931 squad stands as arguably the best in program history. It held opponents to an average of a mere 2.7 points per game – a program record that is unlikely to ever be broken. The departing lettermen on the ’31 team included The Bulldog Meyer in addition to guard Cocky Hellbusch, center Gib Kufahl, tackle Pop Stohlmann, end Fritz Kauffeld, end Ray Maag, halfback Emilia Petsch, guard Vern Ronnekamp, guard J.B. Tucker and tackle Bill Zobel. In summary, The Broadcaster read: “This year’s team and the record they set will remain long in the memories of sport fans who give their loyalty and support to the school and its activities.” The glorious season provided a measure of relief as America suffered through the Great Depression. As stated by The Broadcaster, “The financial depression which is holding our country in its grasp could hardly be expected to leave our institution untouched.”

The first Hall of Fame nomination for Arkebauer incorrectly stated his years of participation at CTC as being from 1931-34. However, Arkebauer’s name disappears from all game accounts following the 1931 season, his first as a collegiate athlete. A 1949 Broadcaster publication listed Arkebauer as a 1932 graduate of CTC. No records corroborate him as graduating in 1932, although a 2003 alumni directory shows a “Bernard H. Arkebauer” under the class of 1945. Mysteriously, he’s not among those depicted in the 1945 graduation program. Based on Internet searches, Arkebauer is believed to have been born on August 3, 1912, and to have died on March 4, 1984 (as displayed on a gravestone located at Immanuel Cemetery in Dade County, Missouri). What Arkie did after his 1931 football season is not quite clear. Perhaps he was the same Bernard H. Arkebauer who became Director of Christian Education and Music at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1966. According to the church’s website, Arkebauer died in 1984 and a garden was created in his memory.

What is known is that Arkie had already become well known in Seward during his time at Concordia High School. A 1930 headline read, “Arkebauer stars as high school trims Geneva, 19-6.” In that contest Arkie scored all three Concordia High touchdowns, one of which came on an 80-yard punt return. In continuing his flair for the big play, Arkie intercepted a pass and sprinted 70 yards for the game’s final score. In the November 1930 edition of The Broadcaster, Arkie was credited with punting a ball 70 yards and scoring the only touchdown of a 7-0 win in the rivalry game with Seward High School. He never stopped scoring touchdowns. Before engineering CTC’s perfect 7-0 season in ’31, Arkie paved the way for Concordia High School’s 6-0 campaign in 1930. Not only that, Arkebauer played center and captained the CTC basketball team that won the 1931 Nebraska Junior College Conference championship.

Very few individual athletes were featured in The Broadcaster during the 1930s, but an exception was made for the incredible Arkie. The publication revealed the following account of the then high school senior: “There goes a man through the line. Too bad, two men are on him at the six yard line. But there are the raised arms of the referee. The man scored. That was Arkebauer! Bernard Arkebauer, fullback, from Haven, Kansas, big, with black, kinky hair, is the boy who has been doing things like that all season. We can quite confidently say without delving into past records of Concordia gridiron heroes, that Arkebauer has set up a record that will be good for quite a number of seasons. He scored thirteen touchdowns and five extra points in six games. These touchdowns have been made in almost any method possible. Long runs, crashing plunges, snaring passes are all in his point-producing repertoire. Then on the defense he comes through with such tackles, and long, high punts. And he is not one of these stars who plays well one game then has an off day. He has played superior football in every game and finished with a flashing game at Bethany. True, he had a good, fighting line to help him, but when a lugger is tackled on the six-yard line and then goes over for a touchdown, that’s not a line, that’s Arkebauer!”

Not only referred to as Arkie, The Broadcaster once even dubbed him the “Haven Havoc” in a play off his hometown. Unfortunately, Arkie’s compelling story survived in written accounts only, but his greatness was recognized by all who had the pleasure of watching him. In 1949 a group of 45 alums voted on an all-time Concordia football team. Arkebauer topped all vote getters.


Season preview: 2016 Concordia football
August 24, 2016 

Head coach: Vance Winter (34-41, seven years)
2015 Record: 6-4 overall; 5-4 GPAC (T-4th)
Key Returners: QB TJ Austin; DL Trey Barnes; RB Bryce Collins; TE Seth Fitzke; OL Keddrick Fuselier; WR Jared Garcia; S Le’Dontrae Gooden; LB Michael Hedlund; DL Ron Jackson; DB D’Mauria Martin; DB Tarence Roby; FB Erik Small; QB Riley Wiltfong
Key Losses: OL Ben Balduc; P Sandy Fisher; QB Garrett Folchert; DL Clint Gardels; DL Michael Gill; TE Josh Slechta; LB Clay Mauro; K Adam Meirose; LB Brandon Namuth; LB Tait Sibbel
2015 NAIA All-America: Trey Barnes (second team)
2015 GPAC All-Conference: Ben Balduc (first team); Trey Barnes (first team); Bryce Collins (first team); Seth Fitzke (first team); Jared Garcia (first team); Tarence Roby (first team); Le’Dontrae Gooden (second team); Michael Hedlund (second team); Tait Sibbel (second team); Keddrick Fuselier (honorable mention); Clint Gardels (honorable mention); Ron Jackson (honorable mention); D’Mauria Martin (honorable mention); Clay Mauro (honorable mention); Erik Small (honorable mention)

Season Outlook
The current group of seniors has helped make Concordia football a program to be reckoned with once again. Over the past three seasons, the Bulldogs have gone a combined 18-14 and have climbed as high as 14th in the national rankings. That’s pretty good. Now eighth-year head coach Vance Winter wants to see his program take that next step. It’s time to go from good to great.

There’s real and tangible evidence to support the idea that Concordia may be on the brink of eclipsing its Winter-era high of seven wins in a season. A total of 17 starters return, including seven from a defense that ranked in the top five nationally in total yards in 2015. Morningside head football coach Steve Ryan likes the Bulldogs so much that he even bypassed the likes of Doane and Dakota Wesleyan (both finished above Concordia last season) when handing out his first-place vote in the GPAC preseason poll.

“You start looking at our league, everybody runs a gauntlet,” Winter said. “The cream rises to the top. You’ve got to be able to lock in and play great football. I feel real comfortable that if we’re the best version of us, we’ve got a great shot to beat anybody on our schedule. We’ve shown we have the capabilities. We’ve got to be more consistent about it.”

Concordia’s 2016 roster packs star power. Players such as defensive end Trey Barnes, running back Bryce Collins, receiver Jared Garcia and cornerback Tarence Roby are proven and experienced commodities that carry themselves with swagger.

With a much more experienced offensive line, headed by Keddrick Fuselier, there’s a much better chance that the offense will match an already stifling Bulldog defense. While Winter and his staff are looking for another receiving threat to emerge, they know they can count on Collins and Garcia, two of the best in the GPAC, if not the country, at their position groups. Collins has run for 2,666 yards and 27 touchdowns over three years in Seward. Said Winter of Collins, “His ability and the way he works is something that really motivates our offense. They see a guy who really cares, really competes and is willing to do whatever it takes for the team. That’s Bryce. You talk about work ethic and all those things, but he’s really talented. He’s a guy that gets everything out of his ability.”

Garcia, who has caught 85 passes for 1,363 yards and 19 touchdowns in just two seasons, figures to see plenty of footballs thrown his way by both TJ Austin and Riley Wiltfong, and perhaps even the rocket-armed Andrew Perea. Austin (11 career games) has more experience and is a difficult ball carrier to bring down. He’s a definite dual threat with a career 12-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Wiltfong’s strengths as a passer should complement Austin well.

Both have instilled confidence in their teammates. There’s a general positive feeling about the quarterback situation. The Bulldogs won’t have just one quarterback – and that’s OK with them. Says Collins, “I think the whole offensive scheme is comfortable with both of them. We have TJ who’s just a dominant player and Riley is right there with him. They both have their unique style. It just works.”

Austin and Wiltfong may have to make due for a while without the services of tight end Seth Fitzke, who tore an ACL during spring practice. In the passing game, Trae Owens emerged as a big-play receiver last season. Holdovers in Vincent Beasley and Brandon Luetchens will also be in the mix. As will a group of rookies.

One piece of the offense that is easy to overlook is fullback Erik Small. Bulldog fans may not have paid much attention, but the coaching staff gushes about Small, whose weight room prowess has translated into results on the field. Said Winter, “Erik Small is a dude. He’s a grown man playing football. I love the physical aspect he brings. He’s a great one-on-one blocker, very physical and can dominate at the point of attack. I just love how he plays. I love how he finishes blocks. I love how, on the point of impact, he wins.”

On the other side of the ball, there’s at least one major star at every level. Barnes exploded in his junior season on the way to second team All-America honors. The linebacker corps is led by Michael Hedlund, who topped the team with 105 tackles last season. In the secondary, Concordia possesses an embarrassment of riches with shutdown corners in Roby and D’Mauria Martin. Safety Le’Donatrae Gooden made a huge impact last season after transferring from Southern Oregon.

There have been fantastic defenses overseen by coordinator Patrick Daberkow in recent seasons. This one might be the best.

“Every year is different,” Winter said. “We have a lot of guys returning but proving ground is on Saturday. We really like our group. We think they’re wired right and we think they play the right way. We have a lot of athletic ability, a lot of speed. We feel like we’re going to be able to cover people. We’ve got good players at every level of our defense. A big thing is just consistency. To be a dominant D, you have to be a D that travels. I think that group has a chance to be in that upper tier.”

The biggest question marks come at kicker and punter, positions that were occupied by seniors in 2015. Finding answers at those spots will be crucial for a program that has been bitten by a series of close defeats over the past few seasons. Modesto Community College (Calif.) transfer Brendan Cremin has a leg up on the place-kicker job. He’s shown good pop in preseason camp.

Concordia should find out early on whether it deserves mention as an upper tier team in the GPAC. The Bulldogs, who appeared just outside of the national top 25 in the preseason poll, will take on fellow playoff contenders Northwestern (Sept. 17), Doane (Sept. 24) and Morningside (Oct. 1) in consecutive weeks to begin conference play.

The last Bulldog team to capture the GPAC crown (2001) upset powerhouse Sioux Falls early in the season and sent a clear message to the rest of the league. The 2016 edition will have a similar opportunity, one that Collins and company relish. League coaches placed Concordia third in the GPAC preseason poll. That’s their highest preseason ranking since 2002. Expectations have clearly been elevated inside and outside the program.

“We obviously have all the right keys in place to make this team and this season ours,” Collins said. “I just think it will naturally come. I think it’s finally the time. It will be something that we don’t even think about. It will just happen.”

SEASON OPENER: Concordia will welcome the University of Saint Mary (Kan.) to Seward on Sept. 3 as part of the GPAC-KCAC Challenge. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. from Bulldog Stadium. The Spires went 3-8 overall in 2015.


Brussels to Concordia: "I've reached my goal"
August 29, 2016 

Go ahead and scan the list of hometowns that appear on the Concordia football roster. You’ll notice plenty of small town Nebraska with a good sprinkling of California, Colorado and Texas – all popular locales for high school football. Nothing looks out of place. That is, until you notice Brussels, Belgium.

Go ahead and name the most famous football player ever to come out of Brussels? You can’t. That’s OK. The world is shrinking. Just ask Concordia senior defensive lineman Dylan Pierquin. Soccer wasn’t the game for him like it is for many people born in Europe. All the way from Brussels, Pierquin arrived to play the sport he really loved: football – American football.

“It’s been amazing,” Pierquin said. “I will never forget my first play with the varsity team. I will never forget the feeling of having a chance to play American Football in the States.”

That first play, by the way, happened to be a Pierquin sack, though it was negated by a 15-yard penalty. What the play showed was how far Pierquin had come, and not just from a geographic standpoint. The 5-foot-11, 265-pounder has made immense progress while cracking the team’s two deep.

He’s done it after growing up in a nation that provided fewer football playing opportunities. On top of that, for whatever reason, Pierquin did not get cleared by the NAIA to play his first season on campus. Meanwhile, two friends that also came to Concordia from Brussels were cleared. Pierquin waited it out, fighting the natural feeling of discouragement.

“He’s always done everything we asked,” said Corby Osten, Pierquin’s position coach. “He was here for a full year and not able to play. It was disappointing for him, but he had a good attitude through the whole thing. As soon as he got his opportunity he made the most of it.”

When Pierquin first appeared on campus, it wasn’t exactly a given that he would someday become a contributor on the field. Coaches put Pierquin and his fellow Brussels natives through basic drills to gauge athletic ability. They saw enough to welcome aboard Pierquin and his friends, who were set up on visits to several GPAC schools by someone back home who had coached basketball at Morningside.

The first Concordia practice Pierquin witnessed was a real eye opener.

Said Pierquin, “I remember (first team All-American) Darnell Woods and those guys. We were like, ‘Wow, this is going to be tough.’ This is not the same size and speed we see back home. We knew it was going to be tough, but we were pretty excited about it.”

Pierquin had just started playing football at the age of 14 as part of a club system that required a fee. The first league he played in featured a nine-man format. He fell in love with the sport as a fullback and linebacker and even started paying attention to the NFL. He found just enough opportunity, despite football’s status as a periphery sport in Belgium, to land at a college football program in America.

Still there were hurdles to clear in addition to having to sit out his first year of college. His two friends from Belgium didn’t stick at Concordia. It wasn’t for them. Was it for Pierquin?

“My freshman year there were moments where I was like, ‘What am I doing here?’ Both my friends are gone,” Pierquin said. “They gave up. My family gave everything they had so I could come here to college. God gave me this opportunity. I love this sport so much that I was like, ‘I’m not going to give up.’ I want to be the best football player I can. For once in my life I don’t want to give up in something. I kept pushing and I will keep pushing this year.”

That resilience has impressed Osten and the rest of the coaching staff. They expected Pierquin to be raw in regards to his football savvy, technique and familiarity with schemes and coverages. They found that he could learn surprisingly fast.

“He plays with good technique and he’s fast too,” Osten said. “He beats a lot of people with speed. He’s smart. He’s figured out how to read blocks. He beats offensive linemen to the point.”

Added Pierquin, “When I came here it was just different – technique, speed of the game, just everything. I had to learn everything. I came as a linebacker and I was moved to D-line. I tried to learn everything about a new position. It was a little bit challenging, but I liked it. I like a challenge. I do like the position now.”

For Pierquin, who now wears No. 42 (wore 61 last year), an important goal has been reached. He wanted to make it as a college football player in America. He’s got more goals. He wants to become a missionary like his parents, who took him to Guinea for a mission for three years during his childhood. It was the type of unique experience that better prepared him for a life of change and relocation.

No matter where he goes after graduation next May, he’ll take with him the positive experiences he’s had as a student-athlete at Concordia.

“I honestly trusted God,” Pierquin said of what compelled him to choose Concordia. “I just let Him do his thing. I came here and I’m really happy I made this choice. It’s been the best fit for me. I didn’t expect much. I didn’t even expect to play my senior year of football. Now that I’ve been able to play, I’ve reached my goal. I was proud of myself.”

Out of place as a college football player from Brussels? Not Dylan Pierquin.


GAME NOTES: Concordia set to kick off 2016
August 29, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – The opening of the 2016 Concordia football season is just five days away. As part of the annual GPAC/KCAC Challenge, the Bulldogs welcome the University of Saint Mary (Kan.) to Bulldog Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CT from Seward.

Concordia is 4-3 in season-opening games under head coach Vance Winter, who begins his eighth season at the helm of the program in 2016. This season marks the first time the Bulldogs have opened up at home since 2012 when 13th-ranked Benedictine College (Kan.) came away from Seward with a 45-37 victory.

GAME INFO
Saint Mary (1-0) at Concordia (0-0), 1 p.m. CT
Saturday, Sept. 3
Bulldog Stadium – Seward, Neb.
Live Webcast: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: KTMX-FM 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Jayson Jorgenson and Tyler Cavalli

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
2015 Final Team Statistics
*National rank in parentheses

Concordia
Offensive PPG: 29.4 (T-38th)
Defensive PPG: 18.7 (13th)
Total Offense: 370.9 (47th)
Pass Offense: 203.7 (42nd)
Rush Offense: 167.2 (44th)
Total Defense: 279.6 (4th)
Pass Defense: 144.0 (3rd)
Rush Defense: 135.6 (24th)
Turnover +/-: 0 (T-41st) 

Saint Mary
Offensive PPG: 21.7 (60th)
Defensive PPG: 34.4 (63rd)
Total Offense: 357.2 (51st)
Pass Offense: 278.5 (11th)
Rush Offense: 78.6 (84th)
Total Defense: 374.5 (T-31st)
Pass Defense: 138.3 (2nd)
Rush Defense: 236.2 (76th)
Turnover +/-: -13 (T-76th) 

Returning Individual Leaders

Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (34-41, 8th season)
Quarterback: TJ Austin – Passing: 49/97 (.505), 622 yards, 8 td, 2 int; Rushing: 64 att, 357 yards, 5.6 avg, 3 td
Running Back: Bryce Collins – Rushing: 193 att, 946 yards, 4.9 avg, 9 td; Receiving: 31 catches, 286 yards, td
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 41 catches, 713 yards, 17.4 avg, 8 td
Defense: Trey Barnes – 75 tackles, 20 tfl’s, 10 sacks

Saint Mary
Head Coach: Jay Osborne (8-15, 3rd season)
Quarterback: Drew Cortez – 256/433 (.591), 2,673 yards, 18 td, 16 int
Running Back: Zach Hilliard – 21 att, 108 yards, 5.1 avg, td
Receiving: Isai Fernandez – 25 catches, 302 yards, 12.1 avg, 3 td
Defense: KyRandall Smith – 98 tackles, 12.5 tfl’s, 0.5 sacks 

In the rankings
Concordia received a lofty third-place preseason ranking the GPAC poll, as selected by the coaches. Media members placed the Bulldogs fifth in the conference. In the NAIA preseason national poll, Concordia earned 18 total points, positioning it just outside the top 25 (listed second among “others receiving votes”). On the other hand, University of Saint Mary was pegged sixth by the coaches and seventh by the media, respectively, in Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference preseason polls.

The staff
Concordia has enjoyed great continuity on its coaching staff in recent years. Vance Winter’s brain trust includes offensive coordinator Curran White (fifth season), defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow (seventh season as DC; 10th season on staff) and special teams coach Corby Osten (eighth season at Concordia). Graduate assistants Wes Coomes and Brian Quinn are both back for their second seasons. Courtney Meyer, the longest-tenured head coach in program history (1990-2008), continues to serve the program, working with kickers, punters and fullbacks.

What a catch
Several different quarterbacks have put the ball in the air over the past two seasons for Concordia, but one constant has remained in the passing game: receiver Jared Garcia. The native of Pearland, Texas, has put together one of the most prolific two-year runs ever by a Bulldog pass catcher. The junior enters 2016 with career totals of 85 catches for 1,363 yards and 19 touchdowns. His 11 touchdown snags in 2014 broke a program single-season record. He’s also within range of rewriting all major Concordia career receiving records (see below). He’s chasing Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame tight end Ross Wurdeman (’02) in all major categories.

Program career receiving records
Catches: Ross Wurdeman – 168
Yards: Ross Wurdeman – 2,458
Touchdowns: Ross Wurdeman – 24

Running down history
Jared Garcia is not the only Bulldog with a chance to make history in the near future. Two-time first team all-conference running back Bryce Collins needs 993 rushing yards this season to pass Cleve Wester (’86) for the most ever by a Bulldog. Wester ran for 3,658 yards with a single-season career best of 1,114 rushing yards (second most ever in a single season) in 1984. The single-season program record for rushing yards was set in 2007 by JaMaine Lewis, who piled up 1,265 yards. Over his first three seasons, Collins has turned in rushing totals of 704 (2013), 1,016 (2014) and 946 (2015) for a cumulative total of 2,666. A native of Boerne, Texas, Collins has racked up 29 career touchdowns (27 rushing, two receiving).

Program career rushing leaders
1. Cleve Wester (1982-85) – 3,658
2. Gary Seevers (1953-56) – 3,128
3. Alex Alvarez (1999-03) – 2,959
4. JaMaine Lewis (2004-07) – 2,731
5. Bryce Collins (2013-- ) – 2,666 

Dominant D
Concordia and Tabor College (Kan.) are the only two NAIA football programs to post top-five rankings in total defense in two of the past three seasons. The Bulldogs ranked fourth nationally in total defense in both 2013 and 2015. Since Patrick Daberkow became defensive coordinator, Concordia has never rated worse than 48th nationally in terms of total defense. This season the Bulldogs return seven players from their 2015 defense that limited opponents to averages of 279.6 yards and 18.7 points per game. The headlining returners include the likes of defensive end Trey Barnes, a second team All-American, linebacker Michael Hedlund (105 tackles) and Tarence Roby (first team all-conference).

Calling the signals
This week’s two deep lists both TJ Austin and Riley Wiltfong at the quarterback position. Vance Winter has talked all preseason about playing both quarterbacks and putting them in situations that best suit their skills. The staff also likes what the strong-armed Andrew Perea brings to the table. Austin possesses the most experience having tossed 12 touchdown passes and more than 1,000 yards in his career. On the other hand, Wiltfong saw action in two games last season. Both Austin and Wiltfong are expected to see heavy action in 2016.

Kick start
The kicking game is one of the biggest question marks surrounding the 2016 squad. Heading into week one, junior college transfer Brendan Cremin (kicker) and Trey Barnes (punter) were listed atop the depth chart. Cremin showed the best pop among the kickers in competition for the job this preseason. Barnes also has a displayed a booming leg as a punter. Concordia graduated its kicker (Adam Meirose) and punter (Sandy Fisher) from the 2015 team.

Scouting Saint Mary
The Spires have one game under their belt having pummeled Trinity Bible College (N.D.), 34-0, on Aug. 27. Saint Mary is coming off a 3-8 season in 2015, during which is dropped a 27-13 decision to Briar Cliff as part of the GPAC/KCAC Challenge. The Spires lost their top three rushers from 2015, but got a big day from Easton Ridley versus Trinity Bible. Ridley ran for 154 yards and two scores on 20 carries. A strong rushing attack meant returning starting quarterback Drew Cortez was needed for just five pass attempts. The overwhelming run-to-pass ratio (54-11) from week one marked a stark contrast in comparison to last season. As a freshman, Cortez put the ball up 433 times, amassing 2,673 yards and 18 touchdown passes. A total of five Spires made the preseason all-conference team released by the KCAC: defensive lineman Andrew Kump, defensive back Kenny Nez, punter Aiden Pirrin, Ridley and linebacker KyRandall Smith. Jay Osborne is in his seventh season on the Saint Mary coaching staff – third as head coach. Osborne will attempt to lead the Spires to their first winning season since they went 6-5 in 2012. This is believed to be the first-ever meeting between Concordia and Saint Mary.


Defense paves way for season-opening victory
September 4, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – An annoying drizzle and some first-game rustiness made for a less-than-pretty season opener for the Concordia University football team. But the pouring rain that fell at the conclusion of the game did little to dampen the high expectations that surround the 2016 Bulldogs, who took care of the University of Saint Mary (Kan.), 23-7, in a ho-hum Saturday afternoon affair in Seward.

Eighth-year head coach Vance Winter’s program won its season opener for the fourth-consecutive year while outgaining the visiting Spires, 333-259, as part of another solid showing from the Concordia defense. Offensively, the dangerous combo of running back Bryce Collins and receiver Jared Garcia combined to score all three Bulldog touchdowns.

“Honestly, that’s far from the best we can play. I give Saint Mary credit. I thought they came in with a really good game plan,” Winter said. “They did some things and took some things away that maybe we didn’t see on film last year. I thought it was an uneven performance. There wasn’t much flow to the game for us. We also feel good about getting a win.”

Concordia overcame three turnovers, including two interceptions thrown by starting quarterback Riley Wiltfong. Fortunately, senior linebacker Michael Hedlund ended a Spire threat with a pick of his own and All-American defensive end Trey Barnes again proved especially difficult to block.

Held in check early, Collins churned out 76 yards after halftime and 117 for the game, marking the 14th career 100-yard effort for the bruising back from Boerne, Texas. In the process, Collins moved his career rushing total to 2,783 and passed JaMaine Lewis for fourth on the program’s all-time list. Collins also found the end zone for the 30th time as a Bulldog.

In the passing game, Garcia is as dangerous as ever. He hauled in both of his touchdown catches from TJ Austin – one from 23 yards out and another from 15 yards away. In another instance, he broke free from the secondary and would have had an easy touchdown if not for an underthrown ball.

Garcia believes the offense will be better as the season progresses.

“We changed a couple things up this year but I felt like this wasn’t our best game,” Garcia said. “I feel like the best is yet to come for our offense. We’re coming together and eventually we’ll get it.”

While Saint Mary running back Easton Ridley (26 carries for 85 yards) at times found some running lanes, Concordia showed off a playmaking defense. Junior linebacker Shane Scott punctuated the win by blind-siding Spire quarterback Drew Cortez in the end zone late in the fourth quarter. Wearing No. 49 on this particular day, Hedlund came up to make nine tackles. In addition, Ron Jackson and Sebastian Garces both forced a fumble.

“I feel like today was a sloppy day overall,” Hedlund said. “It was time to go against someone else to see where we’re lacking and where we need to pick it up. We have the guys to do it this year.”

The Bulldogs drew first blood with Garcia’s first-quarter touchdown and never trailed. Saint Mary’s biggest highlight came early in the third quarter when Isai Fernandez took advantage of a busted coverage, caught a pass from Cortez and raced 76 yards for a score. It was all the Spires could manage.

Not only did Barnes make plays at defensive end, he also had a sterling day as a punter. He booted the ball six times for an average of 44.7 yards, downing two punts inside the 20. The placekicking duties were handled by Jose Garcia (3-for-3 on extra points) while junior college transfer Brendan Cremin was called upon for kickoffs.

In his third career start at quarterback, Wiltfong ended up going 10-for-21 for 114 yards. Austin completed 4-of-8 passes for 46 yards and two scores. Trae Owens hauled in five tosses covering 42 yards. A prolific passer in 2015, Cortez went 9-for-17 for 128 yards and a touchdown and was sacked three times.

Concordia was led by the 10 tackles from linebacker Kordell Glause. Parker Johnson chipped in eight stops.

The Bulldogs hit the road for the first time in 2016 next Saturday (Sept. 10) when they travel to Ottawa, Kan., to take on Ottawa University, another member of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT. Concordia will hold an alumni tailgate prior to the contest. For more information on the tailgate, click HERE.


GAME NOTES: Concordia readies for first road trip of 2016
September 6, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Following a season-opening home victory over an opponent from the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Concordia football team hopes to slay another member of the KCAC when action kicks off on Saturday. In five days the Bulldogs will travel to Ottawa, Kan., to take on Ottawa University for a 6 p.m. start time in what will be the lone night game of the 2016 season. Concordia and Ottawa have never met on the football field.

In last week’s contest inside rainy Bulldog Stadium, head coach Vance Winter’s squad used a solid defensive effort to claim a 23-7 victory over the University of Saint Mary. The Bulldogs got a pair of touchdown catches from receiver Jared Garcia and a rushing score from running back Bryce Collins on the way to their fourth-straight season-opening victory.

GAME INFO
Concordia (1-0) at Ottawa (0-1)
Saturday, Sept. 10 | 6 p.m. CT
Peoples Bank Field – Ottawa, Kan.
Live Webcast: Stretch Internet
Radio: KTMX-FM 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Jayson Jorgenson and Tyler Cavalli 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
*National rank in parentheses

Concordia
Offensive PPG: 23.0 (46th)
Defensive PPG: 7.0 (T-7th)
Total Offense: 333.0 (47th)
Pass Offense: 160.0 (55th)
Rush Offense: 173.0 (24th)
Total Defense: 259.0 (T-14th)
Pass Defense: 135.0 (12th)
Rush Defense: 124.0 (36th)
Turnover +/-: -1 (T-55th) 

Saint Mary
Offensive PPG: 0.0 (T-77th)
Defensive PPG: 62.0 (T-78th)
Total Offense: 99.0 (80th)
Pass Offense: 60.0 (78th)
Rush Offense: 39.0 (75th)
Total Defense: 633.0 (79th)
Pass Defense: 389.0 (80th)
Rush Defense: 244.0 (70th)
Turnover +/-: -2 (T-67th) 

Individual Leaders

Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (35-41, 8th season)
Quarterback: Riley Wiltfong – 10/21 (.476), 114 yards, 0 td, 2 int
Running Back: Bryce Collins – Rushing: 27 att, 117 yards, 4.3 avg, 1 td; Receiving: 3 catches, 12 yards
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 4 catches, 78 yards, 19.5 avg, 1 td
Defense: Michael Hedlund – 13 tackles, 1 int 

Ottawa
Head Coach: Kent Kessinger (81-50, 13th season)
Quarterback: Dayton Walter – 11/26 (.423), 60 yards, 0 td, 1 int
Running Back: Ethan Paul-Davis – 17 att, 16 yards, 0.9 avg, 0 td
Receiving: CJ Whitaker Jr. – 5 catches, 31 yards, 6.2 avg, 0 td
Defense: Levi Huneke – 13 tackles, 2 tfl’s 

In the rankings
Concordia received a lofty third-place preseason ranking in the GPAC poll, as selected by the coaches. Media members placed the Bulldogs fifth in the conference. In the NAIA preseason national poll, Concordia earned 18 total points, positioning it just outside the top 25 (listed second among “others receiving votes”). On the other hand, Ottawa University checked in at No. 3 in both the media and coaches’ preseason KCAC polls. The Braves also received three points and were listed among others receiving votes in the NAIA preseason poll.

Alumni tailgate
Concordia is hosting a tailgate from alumni and friends of the Bulldogs prior to Saturday’s kickoff. Additional information can be found HERE.

Taking it to the house
Bryce Collins and Jared Garcia are no strangers to the end zone. Garcia caught touchdown passes of 23 and 15 yards from TJ Austin and Collins ran for a 10-yard score in the third quarter of last week’s season opener. Collins has found the end zone 30 times (28 rushing, two receiving) during his Concordia career. Meanwhile, Garcia hauled in career touchdown receptions Nos. 20 and 21. He’s now within striking distance of the school’s career touchdown reception record of 24 held by Concordia Athletic Hall of Famer Ross Wurdeman, a two-time All-American tight end.

Collins is also continuing his ascent up the school’s all-time rushing list. Last week he passed JaMaine Lewis and moved into fourth place (see list below). Collins has a shot to reach the rushing record held by Cleve Wester. A native of Boerne, Texas, Collins is 875 yards shy of Wester, who played in three games for the Detroit Lions in 1987.

Concordia all-time leading rushers
1. Cleve Wester (1982-85) – 3,658
2. Gary Seevers (1953-56) – 3,128
3. Alex Alvarez (1999-03) – 2,959
4. Bryce Collins (2013-- ) – 2,783
5. JaMaine Lewis (2004-07) – 3,731 

Fun with numbers
It doesn’t matter what number senior Michael Hedlund wears, he’s a tackling machine on Saturdays. The pride of O’Neill, Neb., topped Concordia with 13 stops last week while donning No. 49, digits typically worn by tight end Seth Fitzke (out with ACL tear). A year ago Hedlund led the Bulldogs with 105 tackles. He also contributed a pair of sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. In his career, Hedlund has amassed 167 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and seven interceptions. Concordia fans will have to get used to Hedlund wearing another new number. He will switch to No. 22 for the remainder of this season.

Great Scott
Shane Scott saw his first extensive varsity action last week and took advantage of it. The junior from Ranchos Palos Verdes, Calif., came into 2016 without having registered a tackle in his career. While starting at outside linebacker, Scott made seven tackles and 1.5 sacks versus Saint Mary. He provided the game’s final score late in the fourth quarter when he sacked Spire quarterback Drew Cortez in the end zone. The coaching staff rewarded Scott by naming him the team’s defensive player of the week.

Barnes booms
Not only did Trey Barnes wreak havoc like usual at his defensive end spot (six tackles, one sack) last week, he also showcased a booming leg while handling punting duties. Barnes punted the ball six times for an average of 44.7 yards with a long of 66. He landed two of his attempts inside the Spire 20-yard line. After week one, the Seward High School product is the current GPAC leader in punting average.

Versus the KCAC
According to data that goes back to 1946, Concordia owns an all-time record of 24-6 against teams that currently reside in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs still have yet to play four of the 10 KCAC schools, including Ottawa. They have met up with Sterling College 19 times, winning 16 of them. Concordia is also a perfect 5-0 versus Bethel College.

All-time vs. current KCAC schools
Bethany: 0-0
Bethel: 5-0
Friends: 0-0
Kansas Wesleyan: 1-1
McPherson: 0-2
Ottawa: 0-0
Saint Mary: 1-0
Southwestern: 1-0
Sterling: 16-3
Tabor: 0-0 

Coomes bowl?
Concordia graduate assistant coach Wes Coomes, now in his second season working with defensive backs, graduated from Ottawa University in 2014 following two seasons with the Braves, earning all-KCAC honors. As a linebacker at Ottawa, Coomes posted career totals of 134 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, three sacks and two interceptions over 23 games. Coomes helped the Braves to a combined record of 16-7.

Scouting Ottawa
Ottawa will attempt to bounce back from a blowout loss at Morningside last week in another contest included in the GPAC/KCAC Challenge. The Braves have a proud football tradition having won four KCAC titles and having advanced to six NAIA playoffs under current head coach Kent Kessinger. Ottawa features four players who were named to the KCAC’s preseason honor team: offensive lineman Trae Boese, linebacker Levi Huneke, defensive lineman Zach Lanning and receiver Terrance Polk II. Last season Polk II caught 39 passes for 644 yards and six touchdowns. He hauls in tosses from returning quarterback Dayton Walter, who last season threw for 1,173 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing 57.7 percent of his passes. While the Brave defense was shredded last week by Morningside, the 2015 Ottawa team ranked seventh nationally in total defense (292.2) and eighth among all NAIA teams in rush defense (108.6). One key ingredient that graduated from last year’s squad is running back Tanner Staats, who ran for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. Ottawa has not produced a losing season since going 4-6 in 2007.


Concordia passes first road test with grind-it-out victory
September 10, 2016 

OTTAWA, Kan. – Explosive plays helped the Concordia University football team emerge from a tough road environment still unscathed on the 2016 season. Up against a perennial Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference power, the Bulldogs erased a three-point halftime deficit and seized a 34-23 wire-to-wire road victory over Ottawa University under the lights on Saturday night.

Eighth-year head coach Vance Winter’s program has now started a season 2-0 for the third time in four years. The Bulldogs did not put away their latest victory until late in the fourth quarter against a Brave squad that had hoped to bounce back from a blowout loss at Morningside in week one.

“They had a huge crowd. It was a fun atmosphere for college football,” Winter said. “There were a lot of adjustments that happened throughout the game both offensively and defensively. I think the big difference for us was in the kicking game and the effectiveness of the return game. Field position was a big advantage for us.

“It was a happy locker room. Everyone was thinking the same thing – get a win.”

Saturday’s game was about the big play for Concordia. The fireworks started right from the opening kickoff when junior Tarence Roby galloped 91 yards for a touchdown. There was also a 36-yard scoring strike from Riley Wiltfong to Kiyoshi Brey (first career touchdown) and a 61-yard sprint to the end zone by quarterback TJ Austin.

On the other side of the ball, Ottawa quarterback Dayton Walker threw the ball 55 times. His second touchdown pass of the first quarter staked the Braves to a 14-7 lead. Ottawa then took a 17-14 advantage to the halftime break via a 36-yard field goal just before the close of the second quarter.

Austin’s 61-yard scamper with 10:32 left in the third period gave Concordia the lead for good. About eight-and-a-half minutes later, Wiltfong connected with Jared Garcia for a 15-yard scoring play to open up a 28-17 lead. It marked the 22nd career touchdown grab for Garcia, who needs two more to equal Ross Wurdeman for the program’s all-time record.

When the Bulldogs needed a big play defensively, senior linebacker Michael Hedlund provided it. He offered up a monster stat line that included 19 tackles (1.5 for loss), two forced fumbles and an interception. Hedlund’s second pick of the season came in the fourth quarter with the Bulldogs clinging to a 28-23 lead.

“He was all over the place,” Winter said of Hedlund. “He made an unbelievable interception. It was a huge play in the game. We didn’t know exactly what they were going to do offensively. They come out with some weird stuff, empty and five wides. It was a game of adjustments.”

In crunch time, the two teams traded turnovers on downs. A keeper from Austin was stuffed on a fourth down play at the Ottawa 29 with 3:13 left in the fourth quarter. The Braves couldn’t even manage a single yard on their ensuing possession and Jose Garcia iced the game with a 28-yard field goal that made it a two-possession contest.

Concordia won despite being outgained, 360-293. However, the Bulldogs made up for some of that with Roby’s electrifying returns. The native of Rockford, Ill., returned for kicks for a total of 179 yards. The Bulldogs also did not commit a turnover and were plus-two for the night in takeaways. In addition, Le’Dontrae Gooden was credited with 14 tackles and Trey Barnes registered 2.5 tackles for loss.

The win is a significant step for Winter’s program which was knocking on the door of the NAIA top 25 in the preseason poll.

“It shows us what can happen when we stay together and compete for 60 minutes,” Winter said. “There were a lot of tough moments in that football game. There was a lot of frustration. I was proud of the guys for staying together and staying positive. There were some harsh words said at halftime. We weren’t playing up to our capabilities.”

Bryce Collins grinded out 62 yards on 22 carries to lead Concordia rushers. Garcia caught five passes for 88 yards. Wiltfong finished 8-for-16 for 132 yards and two scores through the air. Austin was 4-of-10 passing for 29 yards. He ran for 57 yards.

A rugged start to the GPAC schedule begins next Saturday when Northwestern (0-2) visits Seward for a 1 p.m. CT kickoff. The Bulldogs are 13-25 all-time against the Red Raiders. The most recent Concordia win in the series came by a 17-16 score in 2012. The last four meetings have been decided by a combined total of 12 points.

Concordia will also be holding a football reunion celebration next weekend in conjunction with the Northwestern game. More than 300 registered guests will add to the game day atmosphere. A schedule for the weekend reunion can be found HERE.


Hedlund snares GPAC award following monster game at Ottawa
September 12, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Tackling machine Michael Hedlund enjoyed the most productive single game of his career in Saturday’s 34-23 victory at Ottawa University. On Monday he was recognized for that performance, earning the distinction of GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Defensive Player of the Week. It is the first weekly award in the career of Hedlund.

The pride of O’Neill, Neb., first arrived at Concordia as a quarterback, a position he played as a freshman. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior has found a home as an inside linebacker. In the win over Ottawa, Hedlund filled the stat sheet with 18 tackles (11 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, an interception and a forced fumble. His interception helped preserve a 31-23 Concordia lead in the fourth quarter.

Hedlund is coming off a second team all-GPAC season as a junior in 2015. He topped Concordia last season with 105 tackles while also posting 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception. Over 21 career games as a Bulldog, Hedlund has amassed 185 tackles (nine for loss), eight interceptions and five pass breakups. This season he currently ranks second among all NAIA players with an average of 15.5 tackles per game.

Hedlund and the Bulldogs (2-0) open up conference play on Saturday when Northwestern (0-2) visits Bulldog Stadium for a 1 p.m. kickoff.


Football enters national rankings at No. 20
September 12, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – For the ninth team under head coach Vance Winter, the Concordia University football team has garnered a top-25 national ranking. The Bulldogs checked in at No. 20 in the first regular-season NAIA coaches’ poll, released on Monday. Concordia had landed just outside the top 25 in the preseason ranking announced in early August.

Behind GPAC defensive player of the week Michael Hedlund, the Bulldogs are rising on the strength of a 2-0 start. Concordia has knocked off a pair of teams from the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, University of Saint Mary, 23-7, and Ottawa University, 34-23. This marks the third time in four years that the Bulldogs have opened up the season at 2-0. They are currently one of 22 NAIA football teams without a loss in 2016.

Concordia is ranked for the first time since Oct. 26 of last year. The Bulldogs earned top-25 placements in back-to-back weeks in late October 2015 before falling out of the poll. Winter’s program enjoyed an extended stay in the top 25 in 2013 when it began the year at 6-0. That season Concordia garnered six-straight top-25 rankings and peaked at No. 14.

The Bulldogs spent nine-straight polls inside the top 25 in 2001 when they went on to share the GPAC title. The 2001 team, led by head coach Courtney Meyer, found itself ranked as high as sixth before achieving a postseason placement of No. 7. Concordia has made a total of 21 top-25 appearances during the GPAC era.

The Bulldogs (2-0) will open up conference play on Saturday when Northwestern (0-2) invades Bulldog Stadium for a 1 p.m. kickoff.


GAME NOTES: Freshly-ranked Bulldogs open GPAC play Saturday
September 12, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Off to a 2-0 start and ranked No. 20 in the NAIA, the Concordia University football team looks ahead to conference play. After knocking off two members of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Bulldogs open up GPAC action by hosting Northwestern at 1 p.m. CT on Saturday. Concordia is trying to remain unbeaten while the Red Raiders are seeking their first victory of 2016.

The Bulldogs came back from a 17-14 halftime deficit to win at Ottawa University, 34-23, last week. That win followed a 23-7 home triumph over the University of Saint Mary on Sept. 3. Meanwhile, Northwestern has suffered losses to Sterling College, 28-21, and to No. 21 Dickinson State University, 42-13.

GAME INFO
Northwestern (0-2) at Concordia (2-0)
Saturday, Sept. 17 | 1 p.m. CT
Bulldog Stadium | Seward, Neb.
Live Webcast: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: KTMX-FM 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Jayson Jorgenson and Tyler Cavalli 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
*National rank in parentheses

Concordia
Offensive PPG: 28.5 (35th)
Defensive PPG: 15.0 (13th)
Total Offense: 313.0 (60th)
Pass Offense: 160.5 (66th)
Rush Offense: 152.5 (38th)
Total Defense: 310.5 (21st)
Pass Defense: 212.0 (T-40th)
Rush Defense: 98.5 (16th)­­
Turnover +/-: +1 (T-26th) 

Northwestern
Offensive PPG: 17.0 (T-65th)
Defensive PPG: 35.0 (T-58th)
Total Offense: 404.5 (24th)
Pass Offense: 251.0 (25th)
Rush Offense: 153.5 (T-36th)
Total Defense: 396.0 (51st)
Pass Defense: 305.5 (73rd)
Rush Defense: 90.5 (14th)
Turnover +/-: -3 (T-63rd) 

Individual Leaders

Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (36-41, 8th season)
Quarterback: Riley Wiltfong – 18/37 (.486), 246 yards, 2 td, 2 int
Running Back: Bryce Collins – Rushing: 49 att, 179 yards, 3.7 avg, 1 td; Receiving: 6 catches, 22 yards
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 9 catches, 166 yards, 18.4 avg, 3 td
Defense: Michael Hedlund – 31 tackles, 1.5 tfl’s, 2 int, 1 ff

Northwestern
Head Coach: Matt McCarty (0-2, 1st season)
Quarterback: Jonathan Kodama – 41/78 (.526), 467 yards, 2 td, 3 int
Running Back: Jevon Jackson – 26 att, 157 yards, 6.0 avg, 1 td
Receiving: JC Koerselman – 12 catches, 139 yards, 11.6 avg, 0 td
Defense: Jerod Hansen – 3 tackles, 2 int 

Football reunion celebration
Concordia will welcome back more than 300 registered guests as part of this weekend’s football reunion celebration. Festivities begin Friday when a dinner and banquet will be held on campus. There will also be a social gathering Saturday night. For more information on the reunion, click HERE.

In the rankings
Winter’s program made a return to the national rankings on Monday (Sept. 12). In the first NAIA national poll of the 2016 regular season, the Bulldogs checked in at No. 20, marking their highest ranking since the 2013 season. It marks the ninth time that the Bulldogs have garnered a top-25 ranking under Winter’s direction. Concordia jumped into the poll in back-to-back weeks last October before falling out. The 2013 squad enjoyed an extended stay in the top 25, spending six-straight weeks in the rankings while peaking at No. 14. The 2013 Bulldogs broke an extended ratings drought that dated back to 2002. The 2001 GPAC co-championship team was ranked in nine polls and finished at No. 7.

Northwestern was listed among “others receiving votes” in the preseason national ranking. In the preseason GPAC polls, the Red Raiders were picked to finish fourth by the media and fifth by the coaches.

Sept. 12 NAIA coaches’ poll

Hedlund collects first career weekly honor
Senior linebacker Michael Hedlund starred for the Concordia defense in last week’s victory at Ottawa. The native of O’Neill, Neb., made 18 stops (11 solos), 1.5 tackles for loss, picked off a pass and forced a fumble as part of a monster day. As a unit, the Bulldogs limited the Braves to 360 total yards of offense. A second team all-conference choice in 2015, Hedlund currently ranks second among all NAIA players in tackles per game (15.5). Last season Hedlund racked up a team high 105 tackles and also added 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception. Hedlund, who has eight career picks, needs 15 more tackles to reach 200 for his career.

Garcia closing in on Wurdeman
Pearland, Texas, native Jared Garcia continues to close in on former All-American tight end Ross Wurdeman’s program record for most career touchdown receptions. Garcia hauled in a 15-yard scoring toss for Riley Wiltfong at Ottawa, running his career touchdown catch count to 22. Wurdeman caught 24 touchdown passes during his career that spanned the 1998 through 2001 seasons. Wurdeman also stands as the school’s all-time leader for receptions (168) and receiving yards (2,458). Garcia has hauled in 94 passes for 1,529 yards over 23 games as a Bulldog. A 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior, Garcia’s 11 touchdown catches in 2014 remain a program single-season record.

Happy returns
Junior Tarence Roby made his first appearance of 2016 on Sept. 10 and wasted little time in making a big impact. He took the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown – his fourth career score. The native of Rockford, Ill., has found creative ways to score. He’s found the end zone three times on special teams and once on defense since arriving in Seward as a transfer from Northern Illinois University. Last week Roby totaled 179 kickoff return yards on four attempts. He also broke up two passes from his cornerback spot. Roby’s first career touchdown came on a kickoff return versus Northwestern.

Roby touchdowns
9/20/2014 – 46-yard fumble return vs. Midland
10/18/2014 – 90-yard kickoff return vs. Northwestern
10/24/2015 – 12-yard blocked punt return vs. Doane
9/10/2016 – 91-yard kickoff return at Ottawa

Kickin’ it
Though it entered 2016 with 17 returning starters, Concordia needed to answer questions about the kicking game after graduating kicker Adam Meirose and punter Sandy Fisher. So far so good. Winter has used senior Jose Garcia at kicker. Garcia has responded by going a perfect 7-for-7 on extra points and 2-for-2 on field goals. He sealed last week’s win with field goals of 34 and 28 yards in the fourth quarter. All-American defensive end Trey Barnes has handled punting duties. He’s punted 15 times for an average of 39.2 yards per attempt while downing opponents inside the 20 on four of those punts. Junior college transfer Brendan Cremin has taken over kickoff duties.

Series vs. Northwestern
Concordia and Northwestern have played nailbiters in each of their last four meetings with those contests having been decided by a combined total of 12 points. The Red Raiders have won the last three meetings after the Bulldogs squeaked out a 17-16 win on their homecoming in 2012. According to data that dates back to 1946, Concordia is 13-25 all-time versus Northwestern.

Last four meetings vs. Northwestern
2015 at Northwestern – L, 14-17
2014 vs. Northwestern – L, 21-27
2013 at Northwestern – L, 28-30
2012 vs. Northwestern – W, 17-16 

Scouting Northwestern
After seven years under the direction of head coach Kyle Achterhoff, Northwestern went in a different direction and promoted Matt McCarty, formerly the team’s defensive coordinator. Achterhoff guided his Red Raider squads to a combined record of 56-19. After allowing an average of 17.7 points per game last season, Northwestern has already surrendered 70 points over two losses to begin 2016. The Red Raiders were victimized last week at Dickinson State by a series of big plays by the Blue Hawks, who scored on touchdown passes of 38 and 76 yards and on a 50-yard interception return. A typically stout Northwestern defense has been particularly susceptible through the air. Last week Kaler Ray burned the Red Raiders for 332 passing yards. Offensively, running back Jevon Jackson has rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown on 26 attempts. Northwestern has a proud football tradition having made three-consecutive playoff appearances from 2012 to 2014. The Red Raiders have not endured a losing season since going 4-5 in 1991.


Why we celebrate Concordia football
September 15, 2016 

Order the book, Cultivating Men of Faith and Character: The History of Concordia Nebraska Football HERE.

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Why is the Concordia University, Nebraska Football program worthy of a lavish weekend celebration or of being the subject of a book? It goes beyond the wins and the losses. It’s true, there have been a number of lean years for Bulldog football in terms of on-field results.

So what’s the big deal? As I embarked on writing the book on Concordia’s football history, I didn’t have a complete answer to such a question. At that point I had been Director of Athletic Communications for three years and had some ideas. I would have already agreed with longtime athletic trainer Stan Schlueter, who told me, “The first thing you think about is the people. I don’t even know how to put it into words. You couldn’t get better people.”

Schlueter was far from the only one who made reference to the people. For more than 90 years, the program has cultivated men of faith and character. The theme fits perfectly with the narrative of the book. Sure we remember some of the great moments and figures. I was still in junior high when Ross Wurdeman crossed the goal line for one of the most significant touchdowns in school history, leading the 2001 Bulldogs to a playoff victory. I wasn’t there. But I lived it through the accounts of Wurdeman and quarterback Jerrod Pimentel. In turn, Ross told me that the portion of the book that builds up to the glorious 2001 season got the juices flowing, like we had gone 15 years back in time.

It's the people. They don’t forget their time at Concordia. Said 1966 graduate Dennis Oetting, “You spend your time on campus and even as you leave it, you’re bonded to the people there. You can’t put it in a can and save it. It’s just there. It’s an awesome feeling.”

I conducted roughly 30 interviews and had conversations with several others in the process of drafting the book. There’s a sense of pride that runs deep for Concordia football coaches and players, past and present. Even non-alums such as myself can recognize that things are different here. I went to a bigger school (the University of Iowa – those of you who know me will say I talk about the Hawkeyes too much!). At times I got lost. It doesn’t happen at Concordia.

A quote from Ron Harms struck me so much that I felt it needed to be included on the back of the book. Harms grew up in Texas and had never attended school or worked at Concordia before being hired as an assistant on Ralph Starenko’s staff. Harms spent five years as head coach, and even though he left for another head coaching opportunity, he offered up the following: “The whole atmosphere at Concordia is just something you’re not going to find any place else.”

And Concordia football players in particular – why are they unique? At a recent dinner I attended over at former head coach Courtney Meyer’s house, the veteran coach remarked proudly that his teams always played hard. Some of them may have lost by lopsided scores at times, but they always played hard. Added Dan Oetting, a 1987 graduate, “Concordia players have always had a reputation for being tough. But before the game they hold hands and pray.”

It’s the people and a “deeper connection” referenced by now assistant coach and alum Corby Osten that make Concordia football worth celebrating. It’s why record-setting quarterback Von Thomas couldn’t wait to come back this weekend from his native Florida.

It was an honor to write the book on Concordia football, and it will be an honor to celebrate the history of the program with more than 300 registered guests this weekend. To all alums making the trip back, welcome home. Here’s to the continued cultivation of men of faith and character and a victory over the Red Raiders!

PS ... don't get Dean Vieselmeyer started.


Bulldogs stay unbeaten as Barnes, Evans star
September 17, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Leaning upon its stout defense, the 20th-ranked Concordia University football team didn’t need a thing of beauty to remain unbeaten. It overcame 14 penalties and only 252 yards of offense in claiming a 9-7 victory over Northwestern in a Saturday afternoon defensive slugfest. The contest was reminiscent of the 17-16 Bulldog victory over Northwestern on homecoming in 2012.

For the second time in four seasons, head coach Vance Winter’s program is off to a 3-0 start. The 2016 conference opener was hard to watch at times, but Bulldog Stadium came alive when defensive back Cory Evans sealed the game in the final seconds with an interception.

Fittingly, it was the defense, which allowed just 217 total yards to the Red Raiders (0-3, 0-1 GPAC), that made the play to put the game away.

“That was an incredible performance defensively,” Winter said. “I thought that we could have gotten off the field on some of those third downs in the third quarter, but it’s just a tough group. They came up with play after play on some fourth downs stops and then the pick at the end. We feel pretty good about a game coming down to the end and our defense needs to make a stop.”

Trey Barnes again played a starring role for Concordia. The senior product of Seward High School enjoyed an impressive day punting the football, pinning Northwestern inside the 20 on three occasions. His final punt of the afternoon placed the Red Raiders at their own nine with just over a minute left. At his defensive end spot, Barnes made his presence felt by taking quarterback Jonathan Kodama to the turf twice.

Kodama and company failed to get anywhere near potential game-winning field goal range on their final possession. After a one-yard rush on a scramble by Kodama, Northwestern used its final timeout with 52 seconds remaining. Kodama then airmailed his pass over the middle, where Evans hauled it in. Playing in his first game this season, the native of West Tampa, Fla., football in hand, raced towards the east bleachers and raised his arms in celebration.

“As a defense we were thinking have to pick up the slack,” Evans said. “When the offense isn’t doing too well we have to pick it up. When we aren’t doing well, the offense will pick us up. Our main goal is three and out – get off the field.”

Northwestern totaled only three yards of offense in the opening quarter – all of which came on JC Koerselman’s touchdown run. The game’s opening score came immediately after Riley Wiltfong had his red zone pass intercepted by Miguel Alvarado who returned the pick 76 yards before being run out of bounds before reaching the goal line.

All of the contest’s 15 points came in the opening quarter. TJ Austin, wearing No. 10 on Saturday in honor of former teammate Von Thomas, concluded a 10-play, 64-yard scoring drive by plunging into the end zone from a yard out. After the defense forced a three and out on the ensuing possession, Concordia marched 42 yards on six plays and put three on the board via Jose Garcia’s 32-yard field goal.

Mistake-plagued game included two missed field goals by Northwestern kicker Julian Dittmann. Not only that, there was a total of 187 yards in penalties in a game without much flow. After Wiltfong’s early interception, the Bulldogs avoided turnovers the rest of the way.

Linebacker Michael Hedlund again topped Concordia in tackles with 10. Evans added seven tackles, including one for loss. Tarence Roby equaled him with seven stops of his own.

The Bulldogs are forging themselves an identity centered upon rugged defense. No matter how ugly Saturday’s game was, Concordia is happy to be 3-0.

“It’s a huge start,” Barnes said. “It’s a year where we start off with some good teams. Now we have to keep that rolling and be able to beat highly-ranked opponents.”

Offensively, Austin went 7-for-11 for 80 yards through the air. Wiltfong threw for 70 yards on 6-of-12 passing. Jared Garcia, who did most of his damage in the first quarter, caught six balls for 78 yards. He now has 100 career receptions. The Red Raiders, strong up front, made life tough on Concordia’s run game, which produced 102 yards on 34 carries. Bryce Collins ran 17 times for 49 yards.

The Bulldogs will be at No. 5 Doane (3-0, 1-0 GPAC) next Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff in Crete. Concordia will attempt to defeat Doane for the first time since 2005. Last season the Tigers knocked off the Bulldogs, 23-20, in overtime.


GAME NOTES: Two undefeated teams brace for clash in Crete
September 19, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Two of the NAIA’s remaining 14 undefeated teams are headed for a collision course on Saturday at Al Papik Field in Crete, Neb. Fifth-ranked Doane will play host to No. 16 Concordia, which is off to a 3-0 start for the second time in four seasons. The two nearby rivals have met each season since 1958.

The Tigers, a 2015 playoff qualifier, blitzed 14th-ranked Dakota Wesleyan, 61-34, in last week’s NAIA game of the week. Doane is averaging 43.0 points per game. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have followed a stout defense to three-straight wins. They are coming off a 9-7 victory over Northwestern in a defensive slugfest.

GAME INFO
(16) Concordia (3-0, 1-0) at (5) Doane (3-0, 1-0)
Saturday, Sept. 24 | 1 p.m. CT
Al Papik Field | Crete, Neb.
Live Webcast: Livestream
Radio: KTMX-FM 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Jayson Jorgenson and Tyler Cavalli 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
*National rank in parentheses

Concordia
Offensive PPG: 22.0 (57th)
Defensive PPG: 12.3 (9th)
Total Offense: 292.7 (67th)
Pass Offense: 157.0 (70th)
Rush Offense: 135.7 (48th)
Total Defense: 277.7 (10th)
Pass Defense: 186.7 (27th)
Rush Defense: 86.7 (T-10th)
Turnover +/-: +1 (31st) 

Doane
Offensive PPG: 43.0 (T-7th)
Defensive PPG: 22.3 (T-27th)
Total Offense: 385.0 (33rd)
Pass Offense: 217.7 (T-36th)
Rush Offense: 167.3 (35th)
Total Defense: 307.3 (21st)
Pass Defense: 192.0 (33rd)
Rush Defense: 115.3 (22nd)
Turnover +/-: +11 (T-1st) 

Individual Leaders

Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (37-41, 8th season)
Quarterback: Riley Wiltfong – 24/49 (.490), 316 yards, 2 td, 3 int
Running Back: Bryce Collins – Rushing: 66 att, 228 yards, 3.5 avg, 1 td; Receiving: 9 catches, 69 yards
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 15 catches, 244 yards, 16.3 avg, 3 td
Defense: Michael Hedlund – 42 tackles, 1.5 tfl’s, 2 int, 1 ff

Doane
Head Coach: Matt Franzen (54-42, 10th season)
Quarterback: Jack Shadley – 46/88 (.523), 583 yards, 6 td, 1 int
Running Back: Nate Meier – 53 att, 211 yards, 4.0 avg, 3 td; Receiving: 7 catches, 52 yards
Receiving: Drew Klein – 17 catches, 275 yards, 16.2 avg, 3 td
Defense: Frank Crawford – 11 tackles, 4.0 tfl’s, 4.0 sacks 

In the rankings
Concordia moved up four notches in the NAIA national coaches’ poll released on Monday (Sept. 19), bumping it to No. 16. The Bulldogs returned to the top 25 last week after receiving votes in the preseason poll. It marks the 10th time that the Bulldogs have garnered a top-25 ranking under Winter’s direction. Concordia jumped into the poll in back-to-back weeks last October before falling out. The 2013 squad enjoyed an extended stay in the top 25, spending six-straight weeks in the rankings while peaking at No. 14. The 2013 Bulldogs broke an extended ratings drought that dated back to 2002. The 2001 GPAC co-championship team was ranked in nine polls and finished at No. 7.

Doane held steady at No. 5 in the national poll. The Tigers have appeared inside the top 25 in 19-straight rankings. After going 9-2 in 2015, Doane garnered a No. 9 ranking in the 2016 preseason poll.

Sept. 19 NAIA coaches’ poll

Dog-gone D
Many of the top teams in Concordia’s history have forged identities as rugged defensive units. Patrick Daberkow, a 2003 alum, has coordinated defenses that finished in the top five nationally in terms of fewest yards allowed per game in two of the past three seasons. Led by stars such as defensive end Trey Barnes and linebacker Michael Hedlund, this year’s team currently ranks No. 10 in the NAIA in total defense. Concordia stifled Northwestern’s offense, holding it to 217 total yards. The only Red Raider points came after an interception gave Northwestern the ball at the Bulldog three-yard line.

Defensive ranks under Daberkow
2016 – 277.7 (10th)
2015 – 279.6 (4th)
2014 – 384.7 (48th)
2013 – 285.5 (4th)
2012 – 356.3 (39th)
2011 – 309.4 (29th)
2010 – 308.3 (25th) 

Three and oh
This year marks the fourth time during the GPAC era (2000-present) that Concordia has started a season at 3-0. In each of the previous three instances (2000, 2001 and 2013), the Bulldogs went on to win at least seven games on the season. The 2001 team enjoyed the most success, finishing the year at 10-2 overall while advancing to the NAIA national quarterfinals. That squad won its first eight games, including a 14-3 victory at Doane in week eight of the season.

The last undefeated season for Concordia football occurred in 1945 when the Herb Meyer-coached Bulldogs went 6-0 following an 8-0 campaign in 1944. The 1931 squad, led by Bernard Arkebauer (19 touchdowns that season) went 7-0.

Hedlund on the tackle
Inside linebacker Michael Hedlund continues to make tackles at rate matched by just one player in the NAIA ranks. The native of O’Neill, Neb., has amassed 42 tackles this season over three games. Last week he registered 11 tackles in the win over Northwestern, giving him his 10th double-digit tackle effort in the last 11 contests. Hedlund now sits four stops shy of 200 tackles for his career that has spanned 22 games since the start of 2014. Hedlund first arrived at Concordia as a quarterback before moving to safety and then linebacker. Daberkow says Hedlund is like having another coach on the field.

100 club
Jared Garcia is believed to be the fifth player in program history to reel in 100 or more career passes. The 2015 first team all-conference choice sits at exactly 100 catches after grabbing six more, including two one-handed grabs, versus Northwestern. A native of Pearland, Texas, Garcia remains two touchdown receptions shy of former tight end Ross Wurdeman for the program record. Garcia has 22 touchdown catches as a Bulldog.

100+ catches, program history
1. Ross Wurdeman (1998-2001) – 168
2. Eric Pralle (1987-91) – 147
3. Dan Danielcyk (1968-71) – 140
4. Travis Soukup (1991-94) – 115
5. Jared Garcia (2014-- ) – 100 

All-American punter?
Seward High School product Trey Barnes entered this season as a known commodity at the defensive end position, but he had never punted in a collegiate game until the 2016 opener. Barnes, who has a team high three sacks, has become a key weapon in the punting game. Last week he pinned Northwestern inside its own 20 on three of six punts. Barnes has been busy so far this season, punting 21 times for an average of 39.4 yards per attempt. He’s landed seven inside the 20.

Series vs. Doane
Doane has been especially dominant recently in this series. The Tigers have won 10-consecutive meetings with the Bulldogs. Concordia’s last win over Doane came by a 23-10 score in 2005. The last two matchups have gone down to the wire with the Tigers winning both by an identical 23-20 final. Last year’s meeting in Seward was decided in overtime.

Scouting Doane
Led by 10th-year head coach Matt Franzen, Doane is now 19-5 since the start of the 2014 season. The Tigers have rattled off wins this season over Friends University (Kan.), 45-21, William Jewell College (Mo.), 23-12, and No. 14 Dakota Wesleyan, 61-34. The Tiger offense has been rolling behind first-year starting quarterback Jack Shadley, who has fired six touchdown passes on the year and was named the GPAC offensive player of the week on Monday (Sept. 19). Doane also likes to pound the rock with Nate Meier, a hard-nosed runner who has piled up 2,459 yards and 26 touchdowns on the ground during his collegiate career. A big key to the Tigers’ fast start has been their opportunistic defense, which has 12 takeaways (six interceptions, six fumble recoveries) already this season. Doane has elevated its program to a level Concordia hopes to soon reach.


Concordia falls in showdown with fifth-ranked Doane
September 24, 2016 

CRETE, Neb. – An inability to finish drives doomed the Concordia University football team in its attempt to end a prolonged drought against rival and fifth-ranked Doane. The Tigers pounced by picking off four Bulldog passes and pulled away in the fourth quarter. Doane won, 27-7, despite being outgained by No. 16 Concordia, 404-309, on Saturday afternoon in an affair that featured lengthy lightning delays prior to the opening and second half kickoffs.

Eighth-year head coach Vance Winter’s squad is now 3-1 this season. The Bulldogs had hoped to knock off the Tigers for the first time since 2005. For most of the day, Concordia’s stout defense kept things tight. But on three red zone trips, the Bulldogs came away with just seven total points.

“We did some good things offensively in between the 20s, but we sputtered,” Winter said. “The turnover differential was a big thing, too. We had some opportunities we didn’t cash in on. It’s just frustrating that we didn’t take advantage. I felt like we controlled a lot of the play. We just didn’t finish drives.”

Doane entered the contest averaging 43.0 points per game, but was kept in check for the better part of the contest. Tiger quarterback Jack Shadley was flustered into a 6-for-17 outing that included passes picked off by both Cory Evans and Le’Dontrae Gooden. Shadley’s second interception came with Doane at the Concordia 16-yard line in the second quarter.

After a scoreless third quarter, Doane put the game out of reach in the final stanza. The Bulldogs suffered a back breaker when Shadley found Aaron Hanlin for a 24-yard touchdown connection on a fourth-and-two play early in the fourth quarter. Then after picking off a TJ Austin toss, the Tigers took a commanding 20-point lead when Nate Meier bulldozed into the end zone from four yards out.

An All-American in 2015, Meier was Doane’s top weapon on Saturday. He carried the ball 26 times for 121 yards. His first run of the day went for 35 yards. As a team, the Tigers totaled 212 rushing yards in a game that was nearly dead even in terms of time of possession.

The one drive Concordia did finish covered 79 yards on six plays and tied the game, 7-7, in the first quarter. It was topped off by Riley Wiltfong’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Jared Garcia, who hauled in the 23rd score of his career. He needs just one more touchdown catch to equal Ross Wurdeman for a program career record.

On the ground, senior Bryce Collins pounded out 90 yards on 23 carries. He’s also nearing a milestone. The native of Boerne, Texas, sits 16 yards shy of becoming the third running back in school history to reach 3,000 career rushing yards.

Wiltfong and Austin combined to complete 18-of-36 passes for 322 yards and a score. Garcia grabbed five passes for 67 yards. Trae Owens complimented Garcia with four receptions for 96 yards while tight end Cameron Christiansen enjoyed a career day that saw him catch three balls for 58 yards.

In addition to his second-quarter interception, Gooded contributed a team high 10 tackles, including one for loss, and a pass breakup. Inside linebacker Michael Hedlund added seven tackles.

The second quarter was full of missed opportunities for Concordia. On consecutive possessions, the Bulldogs missed on a 29-yard field goal try, had a first-down pass in Doane territory intercepted and then turned the ball over on downs in the red zone. Still, the Tigers did not take the lead for good until late in the first half when Shadley crossed the goal line on a five-yard run.

Life on the road continues next Saturday for the Bulldogs, who will travel to Sioux City, Iowa, to take on No. 2 Morningside (2-1). The Mustangs suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday by a 35-21 decision at the hands of NCAA Division III third-ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.


GAME NOTES: Second-straight top 10 opponent lies in wait
September 26, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University football program continues its trek through a challenging stretch at the outset of conference play. Following a 27-7 loss at fifth-ranked Doane, the Bulldogs now turn their sights to a road trip to Sioux City, Iowa, where they will take on No. 6 Morningside, a program that has made 12-straight appearances in the NAIA Football Championship Series. Saturday’s kickoff from Elwood Olsen Stadium is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. CT.

The Mustangs, like Concordia, are coming off their first loss of the 2016 season. Despite 500 passing yards from quarterback Trent Solsma, then No. 2 Morningside fell to NCAA Division III second-ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 35-21, in Wisconsin last week. Winner of five-straight GPAC titles, Morningside was picked by league coaches to again finish in first place.

GAME INFO
(21) Concordia (3-1, 1-1) at (6) Morningside (2-1, 1-0)
Saturday, Oct. 1 | 1:30 p.m. CT
Elwood Olsen Stadium | Sioux City, Iowa
Live Webcast: Live Stream
Radio: KTMX-FM 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Jayson Jorgenson and Tyler Cavalli 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
*National rank in parentheses

Concordia
Offensive PPG: 18.3 (68th)
Defensive PPG: 16.0 (T-9th)
Total Offense: 320.5 (66th)
Pass Offense: 198.3 (52nd)
Rush Offense: 122.3 (61st)
Total Defense: 285.5 (9th)
Pass Defense: 164.3 (18th)
Rush Defense: 109.3 (12th)
Turnover +/-: -1 (T-46th)

Morningside
Offensive PPG: 56.7 (3rd)
Defensive PPG: 16.3 (T-12th)
Total Offense: 628.7 (1st)
Pass Offense: 384.3 (2nd)
Rush Offense: 244.3 (13th)
Total Defense: 259.0 (4th)
Pass Defense: 142.3 (6th)
Rush Defense: 116.7 (18th)
Turnover +/-: +4 (T-14th) 

Individual Leaders

Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (37-42, 8th season)
Quarterback: Riley Wiltfong – 31/63 (.492), 481 yards, 3 td, 4 int
Running Back: Bryce Collins – Rushing: 89 att, 318 yards, 3.6 avg, 1 td; Receiving: 12 catches, 94 yards
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 20 catches, 311 yards, 15.6 avg, 4 td
Defense: Michael Hedlund – 49 tackles, 2.0 tfl’s, 2 int, 1 ff / Trey Barnes – 24 tackles, 7.5 tfl’s, 3 sacks 

Morningside
Head Coach: Steve Ryan (134-38, 15th season)
Quarterback: Trent Solsma – 60/96 (.625), 877 yards, 6 td, 2 int
Running Back: Tyler Kavan – 42 att, 276 yards, 6.6 avg, 7 td
Receiving: Tanner Ver Steeg – 15 catches, 386 yards, 25.7 avg, 2 td
Defense: Caden McDonald – 24 tackles, 7.5 tfl’s, 1 sack, 2 fr 

In the rankings
Concordia made its third-straight appearance in the top 25 this week, checking in at No. 21 in Monday’s (Sept. 26) poll. The Bulldogs fell five spots following the loss at Doane. It marks the 11th time that the Bulldogs have garnered a top 25 ranking under Winter’s direction. Concordia jumped into the poll in back-to-back weeks last October before falling out. The 2013 squad enjoyed an extended stay in the top 25, spending six-straight weeks in the rankings while peaking at No. 14. The 2013 Bulldogs broke an extended ratings drought that dated back to 2002. The 2001 GPAC co-championship team was ranked in nine polls and finished at No. 7.

Morningside also moved backwards in the national poll following its defeat at Wisconsin-Whitewater. The Mustangs landed at No. 6 on Monday, four spots down from their placement a week earlier. Fourth-ranked Doane is now the highest rated team in the GPAC. Five GPAC squads are ranked this week: No. 4 Doane, No. 6 Morningside, No. 16 Dakota Wesleyan, No. 18 Midland and No. 21 Concordia.

Sept. 26 NAIA coaches’ poll

Slowing down Morningside
The Mustangs enter this weekend averaging more than 600 yards of total offense per game, in line with their averages from recent seasons (see below). Slowing down Morningside has proved especially difficult for GPAC opponents. During their run of five-straight conference titles, the Mustangs have lost a grand total of three GPAC games. Concordia has become more competitive with Morningside in recent seasons. In last year’s meeting, the Bulldogs, trailing 27-21 early in the fourth quarter, possessed the ball in Morningside territory before the game unraveled. In 2013, Concordia led then top-ranked Morningside by three at halftime. While the Bulldogs are looking to defeat the Mustangs for the first time since 2003, they have shown an ability to hang in there with Morningside.

Morningside total yards vs. Concordia
*Morningside season average in parentheses
2015 – 517 (593.1)
2014 – 525 (662.2)
2013 – 541 (551.2) 

Concordia total yards vs. Morningside
*Morningside season average allowed in parentheses
2015 – 321 (296.9)
2014 – 360 (300.3)
2013 – 364 (313.6)

Mr. 3,000
After rushing for 90 yards last week at Doane, senior running back Bryce Collins now stands 16 yards shy of 3,000 for his career, which has spanned 34 games since 2013. Only two players in the history of the program have eclipsed 3,000 career rushing yards: Cleve Wester and Gary Seevers. Additionally, Collins surpassed 4,000 career all-purpose yards last week. His career numbers include 727 receiving yards on 74 catches, 59 punt return yards and 279 kick return yards. Collins has found the end zone a total of 30 times (28 rushing, two receiving) as a Bulldog.

Concordia all-time leading rushers
1. Cleve Wester (1982-85) – 3,867
2. Gary Seevers (1953-56) – 3,257
3. Bryce Collins (2013-16) – 2,984
4. Alex Alvarez (1999-03) – 2,959
5. JaMaine Lewis (2004-07) – 2,731 

Playmaking safeties
Concordia got an interception apiece from its safety tandem of Cory Evans and Le’Dontrae Gooden in last week’s contest at Doane. It was the second-straight game that Evans has picked off a pass. His interception on Sept. 17 sealed the 9-7 win over Northwestern. Meanwhile, Gooden now has six interceptions, including five in 2015, as a Bulldog. Gooden is in the midst of a productive season that has seen him pile up 36 tackles over the first four weeks of play. Concordia's star-studded secondary includes corners D'Mauria Martin and Tarence Roby.

Touchdown Garcia
Junior Jared Garcia has caught at least one touchdown pass in three of four games this season and now has 23 career scoring receptions. The 6-foot-3 native of Pearland, Texas, needs just one more touchdown grab to tie Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame tight end Ross Wurdeman for the most in program history. Garcia has been the Bulldogs’ go-to passing target since he arrived in Seward in 2014. Over 23 career games, he’s caught 105 passes for 1,674 yards to go along with his 23 touchdowns. Wurdeman still stands as Concordia’s all-time leading receiver in terms of touchdowns as well as catches (168) and yards (2,458).

200 tackle club
Senior linebacker Michael Hedlund made seven stops last week and eclipsed 200 tackles for his career. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound native of O’Neill, Neb., became the fifth player during Winter’s tenure as head coach to achieve the milestone. Hedlund has a chance to become the most prolific tackler under Winter. Hedlund, who piled up 105 tackles in 2015, trails Ben Klein (‘12) by 43 tackles for that title.

200+ career tackles, coached by Winter
Ben Klein (2008-11) – 246
Jerrod Fleming (2008-11) – 237
Tait Sibbel (2012-15) – 234
Langston Jones (2010-13) – 209
Michael Hedlund (2013-16) – 203 

Versus the top 25
Concordia has dropped its last five meetings with nationally-ranked teams. Prior to 2015, Winter’s program had knocked off at least one top 25 squad each season from 2012 to 2014. The highest-rated victim was No. 11 Northwestern, which left Bulldog Stadium with a 17-16 defeat on homecoming 2012. Over the past four seasons, Concordia has gone a combined 4-11 versus the top 25 (see below). During that time, Morningside has never been ranked lower than fourth when playing the Bulldogs.

Vs. top 25 since 2012
9/24/16 – L, 7-27 at (5) Doane
11/7/15 – L, 10-17 at (18) Dakota Wesleyan
10/31/15 – L, 21-44 vs. (2) Morningside
10/24/15 – L, 20-23 (OT) vs. (6) Doane
9/19/15 – L, 14-17 at (9) Northwestern
11/8/14 – W, 27-19 vs. (24) Dakota Wesleyan
11/1/14 – L, 21-44 at (1) Morningside
10/18/14 – L, 21-27 vs. (12) Northwestern
9/6/14 – W, 21-15 at (15) Sterling College
11/2/13 – L, 31-48 vs. (1) Morningside
10/12/13 – W, 19-3 vs. (22) Nebraska Wesleyan
11/10/12 – L, 7-17 at (20) Doane
11/3/12 – L, 0-50 at (4) Morningside
10/13/12 – W, 17-16 vs. (11) Northwestern
8/25/12 – L, 37-45 vs. (13) Benedictine College 

GPAC race
Five GPAC teams entered last week with unblemished records. Three of those squads – Concordia, Hastings and Morningside – lost on Sept. 24. That leaves Doane (4-0, 2-0) and Midland (5-0, 2-0) as the lone GPAC teams without a loss. Morningside (1-0) has yet to drop a league game. Meanwhile, three teams sport 1-1 GPAC records: Concordia, Dakota Wesleyan and Northwestern. Hastings (0-1) has only played one conference game.

Series vs. Morningside
Concordia and Morningside met each other for the first time ever in 2002. The Mustangs won the inaugural matchup, 31-14, in Seward. The two sides locked horns in Seward again in 2003 when the Bulldogs concluded a 5-5 season with a 34-19 victory over Morningside. Since then the Mustangs have won all 12 meetings. Concordia has never defeated Morningside in Sioux City.

Scouting Morningside
Despite the loss of prolific three-year starting quarterback Ryan Kasdorf, Morningside’s offense has hardly missed a beat. Dakota Dunes, S.D., native Trent Solsma has taken over as signal caller and has already thrown for 877 yards in three games. The Mustangs have been the class of the conference ever since the University of Sioux Falls left the league after the 2010-11 academic year. Head coach Steve Ryan’s program nearly won a NAIA national title in 2012 when it fell by a score of 30-27 at the hands of Marian University (Ind.) in the championship game. On paper, Morningside has no weaknesses, ranking first nationally in total offense and fourth in the NAIA in total defense. The Mustangs have won 10-straight GPAC games. Prior to last week’s loss at Wisconsin-Whitewater, Morningside dominated its NAIA competition, winning by scores of 62-0 over Ottawa University (Kan.) and 87-14 over Dordt. The Mustangs remain the favorite to win a sixth-straight conference championship.


Collins joins 3,000 club in loss at No. 6 Morningside
October 1, 2016 

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – A pair of interceptions for touchdowns highlighted a dominant first half for host and sixth-ranked Morningside as it celebrated its homecoming on Saturday afternoon with a 55-13 victory over the Concordia University football team. On an otherwise forgettable day for the Bulldogs, senior running back Bryce Collins placed himself in elite company by becoming the third player in the history of the program to eclipse 3,000 career rushing yards.

Eighth-year head coach Vance Winter’s squad has now lost back-to-back road games against teams ranked inside the top 10 nationally. No. 21 Concordia slipped to 3-2 overall and 1-2 in conference play.

“Morningside had a lot to do with our mistakes. They’re a good football team,” Winter said. “You obviously can’t have those mistakes to beat a team like that. We definitely covered the gamut. It kind of snowballed on us.

“We gave up probably 28 points because of the kicking game and on offense. It was a frustrating day.”

Morningside needed all of just 54 total yards of offense to roll up a 24-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. Their best offense over the first 15 minutes was their ball-hawking secondary. Both Darrian Turk and Xavier Spann jumped TJ Austin passes and then found the goal line. The Mustangs later punctuated the opening half with a touchdown heave from Trent Solsma to Chad Berg on a third and goal from the 42. That made it 38-0.

The long afternoon was foreshadowed when Concordia thought it had tied the game, 7-7, via a 99-yard kickoff return by Tarence Roby. But a holding call negated the play. After the Bulldogs were forced to punt, Morningside tacked on a 34-yard field goal by Jared Amundson and the rout was on.

The Concordia defense did a credible job of containing the powerful Mustang offense despite what the final score looked like. The Bulldogs held Morningside to 164 yards fewer than its season average (628.7), forced five punts and got an interception from Le’Dontrae Gooden for the second-straight week.

Collins went over 3,000 career yards in the second quarter when he carried the ball 15 yards for a first down to the Morningside 15. Collins finished his day with 78 yards on 17 carries, including one that went for 34 yards. Collins trails only Cleve Wester (3,867) and Gary Seevers (3,257) on Concordia’s list of all-time leading rushers.

“I think Bryce is one of the most respected guys in the conference,” Winter said. “I know coaches on opposing teams really respect him and we have a great deal of respect for him and how he goes about things.”

With Riley Wiltfong at the controls, the Concordia offense finally gained traction late in the third quarter. After a first down completion in the red zone to Jared Garcia, Wiltfong connected with Deshawn Eure for a 14-yard scoring toss. On their very next possession, the Bulldogs marched 70 yards on eight plays on a drive that got jump started by Jordan Slough’s 31-yard rush. Wiltfong capped the series with a seven-yard touchdown run off the right side with 2:33 remaining in the game.

Wiltfong and company managed 319 total yards and 17 first downs. Wiltfong went 10-for-25 with 134 yards through the air. Garcia caught four passes for 41 yards while Bulldog ball carriers combined to net 174 yards on 36 attempts. Defensively, Concordia was led by the 14 tackles from Michael Hedlund. Gooden made 13 stops in addition to his interception.

Prolific Morningside running back Tyler Kavan was limited to 33 rushing yards on 13 totes. Backup Dante Anderson carried the rock four times for 76 yards and a score. Solsma went 18-for-28 for 215 yards and four touchdown passes.

Winter’s squad played without injured starters in tight end Cameron Christiansen, offensive linemen Keddrick Fuselier and Hallick Lehmann and linebacker Parker Johnson. Making the start at linebacker, Patrick Skwara emerged with a stop in the backfield in a Morningside third-and-one play in the first half. Josh Davis filled in and made his debut at tight end, snagging two passes for 41 yards.

The Bulldogs will be back in Seward next Saturday for homecoming on the Concordia University campus. The Bulldogs will host Briar Cliff (1-5, 0-3 GPAC) at 1 p.m. CT. The Chargers are coming off their own homecoming game in which they were toppled, 38-10, by Dordt in another Saturday afternoon affair.


GAME NOTES: Briar Cliff serves as homecoming opponent
October 3, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Homecoming week on the Concordia University campus will be highlighted by Saturday’s GPAC matchup between the Bulldogs and visiting Briar Cliff. Kickoff from Bulldog Stadium is set for 1 p.m. CT. Eighth-year head coach Vance Winter’s squad hopes to get back in the win column after dropping back-to-back road games against top-10 ranked opponents.

Ninth-year head coach Tom Rethman’s Chargers have lost five in a row since opening the season with a 23-19 win over Waldorf University (Iowa). Briar Cliff has been outscored by a combined total of 118-19 over its first three conference games of 2016. Saturday’s matchup will feature two teams attempting to get their offensive attacks on track.

GAME INFO
Briar Cliff (1-5, 0-3) at Concordia (3-2, 1-2)
Saturday, Oct. 8 | 1 p.m. CT
Bulldog Stadium | Seward, Neb.
Live Webcast: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: KTMX-FM 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Jayson Jorgenson and Tyler Cavalli 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
*National rank in parentheses

Concordia
Offensive PPG: 17.2 (72nd)
Defensive PPG: 23.8 (27th)
Total Offense: 320.2 (67th)
Pass Offense: 187.6 (57th)
Rush Offense: 132.6 (56th)
Total Defense: 321.2 (16th)
Pass Defense: 187.4 (24th)
Rush Defense: 133.8 (30th)
Turnover +/-: -4 (T-58th) 

Briar Cliff
Offensive PPG: 10.5 (T-79th)
Defensive PPG: 32.2 (T-57th)
Total Offense: 252.7 (80th)
Pass Offense: 145.5 (74th)
Rush Offense: 107.2 (69th)
Total Defense: 425.5 (61st)
Pass Defense: 233.2 (53rd)
Rush Defense: 192.3 (59th)
Turnover +/-: -7 (T-75th) 

Individual Leaders

Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (37-43, 8th season)
Quarterback: Riley Wiltfong – 41/88 (.466), 615 yards, 4 td, 5 int
Running Back: Bryce Collins – Rushing: 106 att, 396 yards, 3.7 avg, 1 td; Receiving: 12 catches, 94 yards
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 24 catches, 352 yards, 14.7 avg, 4 td
Defense: Michael Hedlund – 64 tackles, 2.0 tfl’s, 2 int, 1 ff / Trey Barnes – 29 tackles, 8.5 tfl’s, 3 sacks 

Briar Cliff
Head Coach: Tom Rethman (21-73, 9th season)
Quarterback: Jared Ford – 56/115 (.487), 445 yards, 2 td, 6 int
Running Back: Noah Ylagan – Rushing: 137 att, 530 yards, 3.9 avg, 0 td; Receiving: 16 catches, 77 yards, 1 td
Receiving: Miles Jones – 21 catches, 267 yards, 12.7 avg, 3 td
Defense: Ryan Dozier – 63 tackles, 2.5 tfl’s, 1 sack 

In the rankings
Concordia made its third-straight appearance in the top 25 last week, but landed just outside of the rankings in the poll released on Monday (Oct. 3). The Bulldogs were listed first among “others receiving votes.” During head coach Vance Winter’s tenure, Concordia has garnered a total of 11 national rankings, rising as high as 14th in 2013. After this year’s 3-0 start, the Bulldogs vaulted up to No. 16.

Since the inaugural season of Briar Cliff football in 2003, the Chargers have yet to crack the NAIA top 25. Briar Cliff, pegged eighth in the GPAC preseason poll, continues to seek the program’s first ever winning season.

Oct. 3 NAIA coaches’ poll

Own it
Concordia has owned the series with Briar Cliff. The two sides first began meeting in 2003 and have played each season since then. After they split the first four matchups, the Bulldogs have won nine in a row over the Chargers. That streak includes lopsided scores of 48-0 in 2015, 45-7 in 2013, 45-12 in 2012 and 47-12 in 2011. The last five meetings have each been decided by a margin of at least 12 points and by an average margin of 33.2 points. Concordia is now 11-2 all-time versus Briar Cliff.

Last season’s meeting got out of hand early. Touchdowns by Jared Garcia, Trae Owens and Bryce Collins helped Concordia build a 24-0 halftime lead. After a second Garcia touchdown came early in the third quarter, Clint Gardels scooped up a Charger fumble and rumbled 70 yards to the end zone, making it 38-0. The Bulldogs added 10 more points in the contest that closed the 2015 season.

Mr. 3,000
Two time first team all-conference running back Bryce Collins became the third player in the history of the program to surpass 3,000 career rushing yards when he carried the ball for a gain of 15 yards during the second quarter of last week’s loss at Morningside. Collins has been a steady performer ever since arriving at Concordia via Boerne, Texas, in 2013. He has put up yearly rushing totals of 704, 1,016, 946 and 396 so far in 2016. One of four players in school history with 30 or more career total touchdowns, Collins has also exceeded 4,000 career all-purpose yards. Also a threat in the passing game, Collins has caught 74 passes for 727 yards over his 35 games as a Bulldog.

Concordia all-time leading rushers
1. Cleve Wester (1982-85) – 3,867
2. Gary Seevers (1953-56) – 3,257
3. Bryce Collins (2013-16) – 3,062
4. Alex Alvarez (1999-03) – 2,959
5. JaMaine Lewis (2004-07) – 2,731 

Touchdown Garcia
Junior Jared Garcia has caught at least one touchdown pass in three of five games this season and now has 23 career scoring receptions. The 6-foot-3 native of Pearland, Texas, needs just one more touchdown grab to tie Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame tight end Ross Wurdeman for the most in program history. Garcia has been the Bulldogs’ go-to passing target since he arrived in Seward in 2014. Over 24 career games, he’s caught 109 passes for 1,715 yards to go along with his 23 touchdowns. Wurdeman still stands as Concordia’s all-time leading receiver in terms of touchdowns as well as catches (168) and yards (2,458).

Hedlund moves up tackle list
Senior linebacker Michael Hedlund continues to climb the list of top tacklers among players who have worn Bulldog blue during Vance Winter’s tenure (2009-present). Hedlund made 15 more stops last week, running his totals to 64 for the season and 218 for his career. Only three other Winter-era players have amassed more tackles. Former all-conference safety Ben Klein (246) tops the list. With 29 more tackles, Hedlund would move past Klein. Hedlund was named the GPAC defensive player of the week on Sept. 12 after Concordia’s win at Ottawa University (Kan.).

200+ career tackles, coached by Winter
Ben Klein (2008-11) – 246
Jerrod Fleming (2008-11) – 237
Tait Sibbel (2012-15) – 234
Michael Hedlund (2013-16) – 218
Langston Jones (2010-13) – 209

Roby returns
Not just a shutdown corner, junior Tarence Roby has become one of the most dangerous return men in the country. Last week he had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown wiped out by a holding call. The native of Rockford, Ill., already returned a touchdown 91 yards for a score in the victory at Ottawa. Among all NAIA players the 2015 first team all-conference selection ranks ninth in kickoff return yards per attempt (28.9) and 15th in total kickoff return yards (318). With his average of 79.5 all-purpose yards per game, Roby ranks second only to Bryce Collins (98.0) among teammates. Despite playing on the defensive side of the ball, Roby has four career touchdowns (two kick returns, one fumble return, one blocked punt return).

Next man in
Concordia has made adjustments to its two deep this season on both sides of the ball after injuries set in. The Bulldogs have been without starting offensive linemen in tackle Hallick Lehmann and guard Keddrick Fuselier. This week’s starting five up front is listed as Austin Taylor at left tackle, Trey Anderson at left guard, Austin Reese at center, Matthew Romero at right guard and Grady Koch at right tackle. In place of Cameron Christiansen at tight end, Derek Luzum has been elevated to the No. 1 line. Formerly a linebacker, Josh Davis has also converted to tight end. Defensively, senior Matt Keener has slid to outside linebacker after spending nearly his entire career as a defensive back. Patrick Skwara has also jumped into the starting lineup as an inside linebacker, filling the vacancy left by Parker Johnson, who is out with an injury.

Standing in the Hall of Fame
Two former Bulldog football players are set to join the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame as part of an on-campus ceremony on Friday. This year’s class includes quarterback Phil Seevers (’90) and safety Sean Stewart (’03). Seevers led NAIA District 11 with 1,938 passing yards in 1988 when he piled up 2,443 total yards. Over his final three football seasons, Seevers compiled passing totals of 3,109 yards and 25 touchdowns and rushing numbers of 1,365 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was named honorary captain of the 1988 All-Nebraska Football Team, as selected by the Omaha World-Herald. Stewart garnered NAIA All-America accolades three times (second team once, honorable mention twice) as one of the top defensive backs in Concordia football history. During his impressive career, Stewart piled up 290 tackles (11 for loss) and a school career record 20 interceptions. His nine interceptions his senior year are tied for a single-season program standard. Originally from Beaumont, Texas, Stewart was named to the first team of the Great Plains Athletic Conference three times and selected as defensive captain of the 2002 Omaha World-Herald All-Nebraska Football Team during his career as a four-year starter.

Scouting Briar Cliff
The Chargers have had a rough go of late, losing their previous four games by an average margin of 32.0 points per game. Briar Cliff has struggled on both sides of the ball, ranking 80th nationally in total offense and 61st in total defense. Head coach Tom Rethman’s squad has had to move on without starting quarterback Stephen Miller. Freshman Jared Ford has been thrown to the fire in place of Miller. Ford has completed 48.7 percent of his passes and has been burned for six interceptions in 115 attempts. Without a consistent presence at quarterback, Briar Cliff has made liberal use of running back Noah Ylagan, who has carried the ball 137 times for 530 yards. On the other side of the ball, strong side linebacker Ryan Dozier has cleaned up with 63 tackles through six games. The Chargers have fallen in nine-straight GPAC contests dating back to October 2015.


Tackling machine Hedlund represents best of Concordia football
October 4, 2016 

Michael Hedlund has done a little bit of everything. He started his collegiate career as a quarterback before moving to safety and then linebacker. When he was younger, he even took dance and gymnastics classes.

You could call him an “avid tap dancer” – actually, Hedlund would like to set the record straight on that. He may have written about his tap dancing exploits on a preseason 20 questions profile, but he’d really rather chase ball carriers.

“I think one time I was getting ridiculed by Ronald Jackson about how I couldn’t dance,” Hedlund joked. “I shot him a quick tap dance. From there I just kind of ruined it. With how this team dances and how I dance, I don’t think I could win (a dance off). I think I’d embarrass myself.”

There’s nothing embarrassing about Hedlund’s footwork on the field. The native of O’Neill, Neb., may not have the physical stature of the ideal inside linebacker, but he’s more than made up for it with speed, strength and instincts. A year after leading the Bulldogs with 105 tackles, Hedlund is averaging 12.8 stops per game, ranking him sixth among all NAIA players.

Hedlund is as reliable as any player on the team. Defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow knows what he’s going to get out of his senior leader every Saturday.

“He really understands football and he’s a good leader, too,” Daberkow said. “He can rally the troops and get people on the same page. He’s our communicator on defense. I trust him to get it done.”

From a football perspective, Hedlund was miserable his freshman year. Sitting out did not sit well with him. With Von Thomas leading the quarterback group, Hedlund found himself buried on the depth chart. Knowing this, Hedlund volunteered as a long snapper. Anything to get on the field.

Then in the spring of his freshman year, Hedlund was approached by Daberkow about transitioning to safety, a position he had experience playing in high school. But Hedlund didn’t stick there long, only because injuries and lack of depth forced another position change.

“I was kind of used to playing safety,” Hedlund said. “When Mike Carroll blew his ACL, that’s when they threw me at middle backer my sophomore year. That was tough. There were some big dudes on the inside. The first two games I definitely took a beating. That was the hardest change, going from safety to inside backer.”

Now Hedlund looks like a natural at the position. He’s a primary reason why Concordia again boasts one of the top defenses in the country. Hedlund was a fine player in 2015. Now he’s on another level. Take for example, his gargantuan effort in the team’s 34-23 win at Ottawa University on Sept. 10. Hedlund made like Pac-Man in collecting 18 tackles. He also intercepted a pass and forced a fumble in an effort that led to him being named GPAC defensive player of the week.

If conference observers didn’t know about Hedlund beforehand, they do now. It’s totally cliché, but Hedlund is that lunch pail guy. His motor is always running.

“He does a really good job of diagnosing plays early and his effort’s always there,” Daberkow said. “He’ll make a lot of tackles that other guys don’t make because they give up on a play. He’s running guys down from the screen game to the power iso. He’ll take on a pulling guard. He doesn’t shy away from contact. What’s unique about him is that he’s really strong for his size.”

Hedlund’s production is matched by few when it comes to Concordia defenders. Hedlund now ranks fourth among all Vance Winter-era players for career tackles. With continued good health, Hedlund figures to rise to the top of that list. He’s amassed 218 career tackles with five games remaining in the 2016 regular season.

He’s easy to get behind. It’s really no wonder that high school teammate Tait Sibbel wanted Hedlund to join him at Concordia. It’s also not surprising that the town of O’Neill fills with pride in regards to one of its own. A bus of O’Neill natives will be making the trip to Mitchell, S.D., when Concordia visits Dakota Wesleyan on Oct. 15.

An agribusiness major with farming aspirations, born in Norfolk to parents Mike and Carol, Hedlund is someone Daberkow looks to when pitching Concordia to potential Bulldogs. Hedlund will tell them how, “It was always Concordia for me.”

It’s been a great fit for both sides. Unfortunately, there is some bad news. Hedlund is “really not a tap dancer.” But he’s really good at football. Even better, he’s exactly the student-athlete “we wanted in the program” as Daberkow put it. Recently some Concordia football players were involved in a car accident. Hedlund even beat his coaches to the hospital in support of his teammates.

Said Daberkow, “That’s just who he is.”


Winter issues statement on accident involving five student-athletes
October 5, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Five student-athletes and members of the Concordia University football program were involved in a single vehicle accident that occurred Sunday evening (Oct. 2) in southwest Butler County. Two of the five were quickly treated and released from the hospital. The three others remain at Bryan Medical Center West in Lincoln, Neb., as of mid-day Wednesday. Of those three, two continue to receive treatment in the intensive care unit. All student-athletes involved are in a conscious state and have been in communication with head football coach Vance Winter.

Family members, friends and teammates have visited frequently in the days since the accident. Winter issued the following statement.

"On Sunday evening there was a single vehicle crash that involved five of our student athletes from the football program. We are extremely thankful for the amazing work of law enforcement and the rescue squads of the community for their incredible response to this accident. I am also extremely proud of the leadership our team has shown in supporting these young men and their families. On behalf of the Bulldog football team, the student body and the entire Concordia community, we pray for a speedy and full recovery for these young men. We will be here to support these young men and their families through their recovery.”

Media inquiries regarding the accident should be directed to Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications. He can be reached at Jacob.Knabel@cune.edu or at 563-543-1439.


Concordia football to host Military Appreciation Day Oct. 22
October 6, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – In conjunction with its home football game versus Midland on Saturday, Oct. 22, the Concordia University football program will host Military Appreciation Day. It will also be Parent’s Day at Bulldog Stadium, where kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CT. Service people who present military identification at the entrance gates will be admitted free of charge.

Four current Concordia football players are active in military service. They include junior Sebastian Garces (Boerne, Texas), sophomore Kalen Garrett (Doniphan, Neb.), senior Le’Dontrae Gooden (Sacramento, Calif.) and freshman Dylan Olmsted (York, Neb.). All four will be acknowledged for their service during the game.

As part of the day’s festivities, the Nebraska National Guard Museum, located at 201 N 8th St in Seward, will be open for tours between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. Parents will be recognized following the first quarter. Then at halftime, a mock swear in of new national guard servicemen will take place. At the conclusion of the third quarter, any past and present service personnel will be acknowledged. A postgame gathering for Concordia players and parents will be held at the Seward VFW.

Those wishing to attend Military Appreciation Day can purchase admission at the gates located on the east side of Bulldog Stadium.


Garcia breaks record; Bulldogs batter Chargers in homecoming affair
October 8, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – It was a name the score homecoming Saturday for the Concordia University football team, which got that winning vibe back with a 56-0 domination of Briar Cliff inside Bulldog Stadium. A beat up Charger squad provided little resistance as Concordia extended its series win streak to 10.

Eighth-year head coach Vance Winter’s squad shrugged off back-to-back road defeats against top-10 ranked opponents while running its record to 4-2 overall and 2-2 in conference play. It was the Bulldogs’ first outing since five of their student-athletes were involved in a car accident that took place on Oct. 2. Three remain hospitalized.

“There’s no doubt it was fresh on everyone’s minds,” Winter said. “We wanted to play well for those guys. It was brought up quite a bit in the locker room beforehand. We pride ourselves on being a brotherhood and a family. Those guys really wanted to be here competing. I’m glad they’re doing better and continuing to improve.”

Everything worked for an offense that had been plagued by turnovers the previous two weeks. Briar Cliff had no answer for Jared Garcia, who piled up more than 100 yards receiving before halftime. His 18-yard touchdown catch late in the second quarter pushed him to the top of the program’s list for all-time touchdown catches. With his 25th career touchdown grab, Garcia broke the record formerly held by All-American tight end Ross Wurdeman.

“This week we just executed. That was the big key,” Garcia said. “We finished drives and took advantage of the play calls. We took some deep shots and were able to capitalize on them. We meshed this week.”

Garcia was the star of a passing game that got back on track. The duo of TJ Austin and Riley Wiltfong combined to go 15-for-22 for 209 yards and five touchdown tosses. Austin and Wiltfong both found Garcia for a touchdown pass, including one from Austin that went for 44 yards. Fullback Erik Small began the scoring barrage with a touchdown catch of four yards less than four minutes after the opening kickoff.

The Bulldogs dominated struggling Briar Cliff on both sides of the ball. The Charger offense, which has taken a hit with injuries at the quarterback position, managed only 106 total yards on 48 plays. Limited by its quarterback situation, the Chargers attempted just three passes and did not complete a single one. A pass thrown by running back Colandus Rucker III was picked off by D’Mauria Martin, who returned the ball 60 yards to the Briar Cliff 20.

Up front, Briar Cliff (1-6, 0-4 GPAC) had a rough day dealing with Trey Barnes, who registered 11 tackles (three for loss) and a sack. Again making the start at a linebacker spot, senior Patrick Skwara posted nine tackles as part of the stifling defensive effort.

“Coach’s main focus all week was focus,” Skwara said. “We all came in wanting to be real focused. We made sure we each did our one job every play. They came out with a weird scheme that we hadn’t planned for, but we made some adjustments and shut them down.”

With the game well in hand by halftime, Concordia got a good look at many of its reserves. In addition, two Bulldogs found the end zone for the first time in their careers: tight end Derek Luzum and running back Jordan Slough. Josh Davis caught his first touchdown pass since converting to tight end. The offense kept humming no matter the personnel on the field. The Bulldogs amassed 446 total yards in what amounted to their best performance of the season.

Garcia finished with six catches for 136 yards to go along with his two scores. Bryce Collins, who last week surpassed 3,000 career rushing yards, totaled 101 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Slough got heavy duty in the second half and put up 66 rushing yards on 18 attempts. Rucker III ran for 53 yards on 18 carries.

A lengthy road trip awaits next Saturday when the Bulldogs will travel to Mitchell, S.D., to take on 16th-ranked Dakota Wesleyan (4-2, 2-1 GPAC). Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. CT. Concordia also played the Tigers in Mitchell last season and fell by a 17-10 score. Dakota Wesleyan held off Dordt, 42-37, in Saturday afternoon’s action.


Garcia one ups Wurdeman
October 9, 2016 

A soft-spoken native of Pearland, Texas, Jared Garcia does a lot of talking with the way he plays the game of football. With another year of eligibility remaining in 2017, Garcia is already putting himself in elite company when compared to some of the best players to come through the Concordia football program.

Garcia already owned the school record for most touchdown catches in a single season. He set the new standard with 11 his freshman year in 2014. Then on Saturday (Oct. 8), he one upped former All-American tight end Ross Wurdeman (2002 graduate) with his 25th career touchdown snag. That gave him one more than Wurdeman, the previous school record holder.

Fittingly, the record breaker came on the type of leaping grab that has become part of Garcia’s signature style.

“He’s just an outstanding player,” Winter said following Saturday’s 56-0 thumping of Briar Cliff. “I thought one (touchdown) catch he had (versus Briar Cliff) was of the best ones he’s ever had. He’s got a lot of versatility as a receiver and he does a great job of using his body. His athletic ability allows him to go up and get it. We feel good about him being able to come down with the ball and make a play.”

Garcia found himself open more than the Amigo’s drive through against the Briar Cliff secondary, which he shredded for more than 100 receiving yards in the first half alone. He first pulled even with Wurdeman via a 44-yard bomb delivered by TJ Austin on the first play of the second quarter. Just over 10 minutes later, Garcia rose to the top spot with his impressive snag of a Riley Wiltfong 18-yard dart.

“It means a lot,” Garcia said of the record. “I never really had recognition to this point. All glory goes to God. I wouldn’t be in this position without Him. I appreciate it. It’s an honor.”

Garcia has enjoyed much better fortune at the collegiate level in regards to injuries, which derailed much of his high school career at Dawson. Now he’s thriving for a Concordia football team that hopes to make a run at the playoffs.

The 2015 first team all-conference selection also has a chance to chase down two other all-time school records owned by Wurdeman, who is the program standard bearer for career catches (168) and receiving yards (2,458). Through 27 games as a Bulldog, Garcia has amassed 115 receptions and 1,851 receiving yards.

Garcia and the Bulldogs will hit the road next weekend for a trip to Mitchell, S.D., and a battle with No. 16 Dakota Wesleyan (4-2, 2-1 GPAC). Kickoff on Saturday (Oct. 15) is set for 1 p.m. CT from Joe Quintal Field.


GAME NOTES: Bulldogs ready for next road challenge
October 10, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – The third-straight road trip against a top 25 opponent is up next for the Concordia University football team. The Bulldogs got back on track last week with a 56-0 homecoming drubbing of visiting Briar Cliff. The blowout victory followed back-to-back road defeats that came at the hands of the top-two ranked squads in the GPAC

Head coach Vance Winter’s program seeks its first win at Dakota Wesleyan since 2007. Saturday’s game between 24th-ranked Concordia and the No. 16 Tigers is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell, S.D.

The Tigers have been involved in shootouts on a regular basis this season. Behind NAIA offensive player of the week Dillon Turner, Dakota Wesleyan held off improving Dordt, 42-37, last week in Sioux Center, Iowa. Turner has been a prolific playmaking quarterback throughout his career. He’s nearing 6,000 career passing yards.

GAME INFO
(24) Concordia (4-2, 2-2) at (16) Dakota Wesleyan (4-2, 2-1)
Saturday, Oct. 15 | 1 p.m. CT
Joe Quintal Field | Mitchell, S.D.
Live Webcast: Stretch Internet
Radio: KTMX-FM 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Jayson Jorgenson and Matt Dolch 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
*National rank in parentheses

Concordia
Offensive PPG: 23.7 (59th)
Defensive PPG: 19.8 (16th)
Total Offense: 341.2 (59th)
Pass Offense: 191.2 (54th)
Rush Offense: 150.0 (51st)
Total Defense: 285.3 (7th)
Pass Defense: 156.2 (8th)
Rush Defense: 129.2 (19th)
Turnover +/-: -4 (T-57th)

Dakota Wesleyan
Offensive PPG: 39.2 (10th)
Defensive PPG: 31.7 (54th)
Total Offense: 543.2 (5th)
Pass Offense: 276.7 (16th)
Rush Offense: 266.5 (8th)
Total Defense: 428.8 (61st)
Pass Defense: 242.8 (57th)
Rush Defense: 186.0 (60th)
Turnover +/-: -6 (T-69th) 

Individual Leaders

Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (38-43, 8th season)
Quarterback: Riley Wiltfong – 50/99 (.505), 738 yards, 7 td, 5 int; Rushing: 37 att, 143 yards, 2 td
Running Back: Bryce Collins – Rushing: 122 att, 497 yards, 4.1 avg, 2 td; Receiving: 12 catches, 94 yards
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 30 catches, 488 yards, 16.3 avg, 6 td
Defense: Michael Hedlund – 72 tackles, 3.0 tfl’s, 2 int, 1 ff / Trey Barnes – 41 tackles, 11.5 tfl’s, 4 sacks

Dakota Wesleyan
Head Coach: Ross Cimpl (34-15, 5th season)
Quarterback: Dillon Turner – 130/198 (.657), 1,660 yards, 17 td, 5 int; Rushing: 91 att, 672 yards, 7.4 avg, 7 td
Running Back: Jonny Withrow – 67 att, 335 yards, 5.0 avg, 4 td; Receiving: 7 catches, 120 yards, 1 td
Receiving: Dustin Livingston – 33 catches, 556 yards, 16.8 avg, 6 td
Defense: Dillon Rork – 44 tackles, 10 tfl’s, 3.5 sacks 

In the rankings
Concordia has now appeared inside the top 25 in four of the past five weeks. After dropping out of the poll last week, the Bulldogs landed at No. 24 in the rankings released on Monday (Oct. 10). They have appeared as high as No. 16 in 2016. They vaulted up to that position thanks to a 3-0 start. During head coach Vance Winter’s tenure, Concordia has garnered a total of 12 national rankings, rising as high as 14th in 2013.

Dakota Wesleyan has found itself in the top 25 in all six polls this season, including the preseason edition. The Tigers jumped to 14th with the release of the first regular-season poll. They have not fallen below No. 22 during this season. The Tigers have settled in at No. 16 for the past three weeks.

Oct. 10 NAIA coaches’ poll

Thou shall not pass
When Briar Cliff quarterback Jared Ford got knocked out of last week’s game with an injury, the Chargers had no one else to turn to at the quarterback spot. The Bulldog defense pounced and did not allow a single passing yard on three Briar Cliff attempts. One of those attempts resulted in a D’Mauria Martin interception. Two other times in which the Chargers dropped back to pass resulted in sacks – one by Trey Barnes and one by Nolan Schroeder. Forced to nearly go exclusively to the ground game, Briar Cliff still managed just 106 rushing yards on 45 tries.

Under coordinator Patrick Daberkow, Concordia has consistently made life difficult on opposing quarterbacks. Spearheaded by All-American safety Darnell Woods, the 2013 Bulldogs ranked No. 1 nationally in pass defense (134.7). Last season’s secondary nearly matched that, allowing just 144.0 passing yards per game (third best among NAIA programs). This year’s stellar secondary includes corners Martin and Tarance Roby and safeties Cory Evans and Le’Dontrae Gooden.

Garcia one ups Wurdeman
After being shut out of the end zone in the loss at Morningside on Oct. 1, Jared Garcia found the goal line twice as part of the rout of Briar Cliff. His 18-yard leaping scoring grab pushed him past former All-America tight end Ross Wurdeman for the most touchdown catches in program history. Garcia now has 25 career touchdown catches since arriving at Concordia in 2014. His 11 receiving touchdowns his freshman year also set a new single-season standard that had previously been held by Brian Naber (10 touchdown catches). Garcia is also chasing down Wurdeman for other major school receiving records. Wurdeman still owns program records for catches (168) and receiving yards (2,458). A native of Pearland, Texas, Garcia now has 115 receptions and 1,851 yards over 27 career collegiate games.

Catching Seevers
Bryce Collins became the third Concordia ball carrier ever to reach 3,000 yards when he surpassed that figure at Morningside. He added 101 more yards to his total last week versus Briar Cliff, putting him at 3,163 for his career. He’s now less than 100 rushing yards from catching Concordia Athletic Hall of Famer Gary Seevers for second place on the school’s all-time rushing list. Collins will need a huge late-season splurge to get to the top of the list. He stands 704 yards short of Cleve Wester, Concordia’s all-time leading rusher.

Collins now has 15 career 100-yard rushing games following last week’s action. He needs one more rushing touchdown for 30 in his career. He’s one of four players in school history to reach 30 career total touchdowns. The others are Gary Seevers (39), Cleve Wester (37*) and Alex Alvarez (33).

*Wester’s career touchdown total is not complete due to the absence of complete 1985 statistics (Wester’s senior year).

Concordia all-time leading rushers
1. Cleve Wester (1982-85) – 3,867
2. Gary Seevers (1953-56) – 3,257
3. Bryce Collins (2013-16) – 3,163
4. Alex Alvarez (1999-03) – 2,959
5. JaMaine Lewis (2004-07) – 2,731

Hedlund closes in on fellow O’Neill native
Michael Hedlund has a shot this week to pass fellow O’Neill, Neb., native and former high school and college teammate Tait Sibbel on the list of top tacklers that have played during head coach Vance Winter’s tenure. Hedlund’s 226 career tackles ranks fourth best on the list. He’s now eight stops behind Sibbel, who completed his run as a four-year starter at Concordia last season. Hedlund is on pace to record his second-straight 100-tackle season. A year ago Hedlund topped the Bulldogs with 105 tackles. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior linebacker ranks No. 9 among all NAIA players with an average of 12.0 tackles per game.

200+ career tackles, coached by Winter
Ben Klein (2008-11) – 246
Jerrod Fleming (2008-11) – 237
Tait Sibbel (2012-15) – 234
Michael Hedlund (2013-16) – 226
Langston Jones (2010-13) – 209 

Big day for Bulldog passers
With Garcia blowing past the Briar Cliff secondary, Concordia quarterbacks enjoyed their most efficient day of the season. TJ Austin and Riley Wiltfong combined to go 15-for-19 for 209 yards and five touchdowns through the air while totaling 78 rushing yards. Both signal callers completed a pass of more than 40 yards – both going to Garcia. Wiltfong ran for a 25-yard touchdown and tossed for three more scores in one of his best performances as a Bulldog. Austin and Wiltfong shook the turnovers that had plagued them in losses at Doane and Morningside. Wiltfong has now thrown for 738 yards and seven touchdowns.

Quotable
While back-to-back losses momentarily dropped Concordia out of the top 25, the Bulldogs still hope to make a run at a playoff spot. They know there’s no longer any margin for error if they want to keep those hopes alive. Last season only one team that had three losses qualified for the 16-team NAIA playoff. Even Dakota Wesleyan, which stood at 9-2 at the conclusion of the regular season, got left out of the postseason.

Said senior linebacker Patrick Skwara, “I know we can win out and go to the playoffs. It’s just about focusing and doing what we’re supposed to do.”

Turner the Terrific
Junior quarterback Dillon Turner is putting up video game numbers for Dakota Wesleyan. He’s the current national leader in total offense per game (388.7) following his output of 606 total yards in last week’s victory at Dordt. On the national leaderboard, Turner also ranks 10th in pass efficiency (159.4), 11th in passing yards per game (276.7) and 11th in rushing yards per game (112.0). Through six games, Turner has thrown for 17 touchdowns and ran for seven more. His career numbers are also eye popping. He’s passed for 5,767 yards, has run for 1,918 yards and has 80 total touchdowns over 28 career games.

Last season Concordia gave Turner fits in the meeting that took place in Mitchell. Turner completed just 8-of-24 passes for 67 yards. He also was held to 19 rushing yards on 16 attempts. The Tigers managed to eke out a 17-10 win despite being outgained, 326-155.

Series vs. Dakota Wesleyan
The all-time series is dead even at 8-8. The two programs have met 14 times since the formation of the GPAC in 2000. They also met in as nonconference foes in 1984 and 1985. Dakota Wesleyan has enjoyed recent success in the series, coming out on top in five of the last six. Concordia’s most recent victory over Dakota Wesleyan came by a 27-19 score in Seward in 2014. The Tigers have defeated the Bulldogs in each of the last four meetings that have taken place in Mitchell.

Scouting Dakota Wesleyan
With Turner at the controls, Dakota Wesleyan has been all about offense. The Tigers and their opponents have combined to average more than 70 points per game. Dakota Wesleyan has not scored fewer than 30 points in any single game this season. It has also allowed 20 or more points in every contest except for its 55-17 win at the University of Jamestown (N.D.). Both of the Tiger losses this season have come against teams that are currently ranked in the top 20: No. 10 Doane and No. 19 Dakota State University (S.D.). Dakota Wesleyan owns a win over Tabor College (Kan.), which checked in at No. 12 in this week’s rankings. Fifth-year head coach Ross Cimpl has overseen a consistent winner. The Tigers have not dipped worse than 6-4 in any of his first four seasons leading the program.

Stewart uses Concordia to springboard life in Coast Guard
October 11, 2016 

Once an imposing, hard-hitting safety, Sean Stewart charmed, laughed and cried while at the podium during the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony that took place last week. The room burst into laughter when Stewart admitted, “I cried during Lion King.”

From that point on, Stewart commanded the room with stories of his college recruitment, a touching tribute to his wife Nia and some brief words about his life as part of the Coast Guard. Sometimes the nature of his job even prevents him from seeing his family. He wasn’t even quite sure how long it had been since he had seen his mother – perhaps an entire year. Mom, smiling proudly, was there on this night.

Mom looked on as the 2003 graduate vividly recalled his time at Concordia and how it shaped him into what he became.

“Concordia lays a Christian foundation for its students,” Stewart told the audience gathered in the Janzow Campus Center. “I’ve been all over the world conducting law enforcement missions and I’ve been in some dangerous situations. Concordia University provided me the opportunity to become a servant leader in the community and in the world.”

Stewart took his rightful place in the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame last week. His contributions to head coach Courtney Meyer’s football program were immense, but what he’s done since his graduation has been even more impressive. He’s proudly raised a family centered upon Christian values and has put his life on the line for his country.

Concordia couldn’t ask for a better person to represent it. It’s not a place Stewart likely thought he would end up while spending his formative years in Beaumont, Texas. Though he was an excellent football player, he told people he didn’t have any interest in playing the sport in college. Still, the letters poured in by the hundreds. According to former Concordia assistant coach Bill McAllister, Stewart even had a scholarship offer from LSU.

The chances of Stewart landing in Seward may have been worse than 100 to 1. Let him explain.

“I had a box of letters that I received from Oregon, USC, Alabama, Oregon State – you name it,” Stewart said. “The coach from Arkansas came down to see me and wanted me to play for him. I didn’t want to play football. My mom reached into this box and out of all the letters in that box – over 100 letters – Concordia University was the letter she grabbed. She called Coach McAllister or Coach Meyer and said, ‘I want my son to go to school here.’”

When the idea of playing football at Concordia was first brought up to Stewart, he quipped, “Are they D-I?”

“My mom had no idea what Concordia was, but she researched it and found out it was a Christian university,” Stewart said. “My parents wanted to see me play football one last time.”

And wow could he play. Stewart finished his four-year Bulldog career with 290 tackles and a school record 20 interceptions. The All-American equaled a school single-season record with nine picks in 2002. He was a major reason behind Concordia’s co-GPAC title and NAIA playoff berth in 2001.

Listed at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds his senior year, Stewart struck debilitating fear into opposing ball carriers and would-be pass catchers. While speaking to the current Concordia football team in preparation for its homecoming game, Stewart told the student-athletes, “When I hit someone, I tried to take their soul.”

Said Meyer of Stewart, “He was an outstanding safety. He’s probably one of the overall best players that I’ve coached. He is a great young man and humble. Boy could he hit you.”

Humble, but funny. Stewart’s sense of humor resonated often throughout his speech of more than 13 minutes. He began by introducing his family, which includes his son Sean II and daughter Ivy. As he spoke directly to his son, he told him, “You’re 10 times the athlete that I ever was at your age. You’re stronger. Bigger. Not as fast. Not as fast.”

As he proudly donned his Coast Guard uniform, Stewart continually professed his faith and how it’s guided his life. A member of the Coast Guard since 2012, he serves within an atmosphere that promotes secular thoughts. In other words, let’s not talk about God or faith. That’s just not Stewart.

Through his journey that led him to chase his dream to play in the NFL and then to the U.S. Naval War College and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Stewart has been guided by the lessons that were instilled in him while at Concordia.

“It’s an honor and a privilege and I’m proud to say that Concordia University laid a Christian foundation for me,” Stewart said. “It provided me with the tools to become a servant leader throughout this country and throughout this world in whatever I do. It’s provided me a guiding light and Christian values that I’ve instilled in my Christian home.”

It’s safe to say that Stewart is thankful his mother picked Concordia out of that box. More than a decade after his graduation, something about this place still gets him choked up.

“800 North Columbia Avenue. I could never forget that address,” Stewart said. “There are so many memories I had to hold back tears.”


Bulldogs unable to keep up with Turner, high-octane DWU
October 15, 2016 

MITCHELL, S.D. – Dakota Wesleyan University quarterback Dillon Turner was as advertised. The reigning NAIA offensive player of the week fired five touchdown passes while leading the high octane 16th-ranked Tigers to a 52-30 victory over the 24th-ranked Concordia University football team at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell, S.D., on Saturday afternoon.

Hoping to remain in the hunt for the playoffs, eighth-year head coach Vance Winter’s squad slipped to 4-3 overall and 2-3 in conference action.

“He’s a great player, one of the best I’ve seen,” Winter said of Turner. “He made some great throws into tight windows and their receivers made some plays. We really struggled with the big plays and then giving up too many third down conversions. We didn’t play as well as we’re capable of in the first half. Credit Dakota Wesleyan. They played lights out.”

A typically stout Bulldog defense looked mystified while trying to stop an offense commanded in near flawless fashion by Turner. The Dakota Wesleyan signal caller turned in a miserable 8-for-24 performance a year earlier in a 17-10 Tiger win over Concordia. Things were much different this time around. On Saturday Turner piloted an offense that nearly hung 400 total yards on the board in the first half alone.

The back breaker came during a crippling sequence late in the first half. On the Bulldog drive that followed an interception by linebacker Patrick Skwara, Dakota Wesleyan stuffed Bryce Collins on a fourth down try in the red zone. Turner then marched the Tigers 81 yards in 40 seconds on a possession that culminated with a 30-yard touchdown strike to Dustin Livingston. At that point, Concordia was left gasping for air, down 35-10 at halftime.

Dakota Wesleyan’s first half offensive clinic included four touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer and another of 58 yards. Livingston’s big-play first half also featured a 60-yard touchdown catch on a heave from Turner, who finished 23-for-35 for 347 yards.

The Tigers still had to fend off a third quarter push from Concordia. On Dakota Wesleyan’s first possession of the second half, All-American defensive end Trey Barnes came down with an interception off a deflected pass. That set up Jared Garcia’s second of three touchdown catches. On the next offensive possession, Collins scored from three yards out to cap a 13-play, 64-yard drive. Suddenly, Concordia trailed just 35-23.

The ensuing kickoff produced another gift when Luke Loudenburg’s fumble was recovered by D’Mauria Martin at the Tiger 29. Dakota Wesleyan’s defense then forced a turnover on downs. It was a missed opportunity that allowed the Tigers to put the game away when Turner tossed another touchdown pass 11 plays later.

Dakota Wesleyan (5-2, 3-1 GPAC) stockpiled 537 total yards, allowing it to overcome another strong performance by Garcia. He finished with six catches for 101 yards and three scores while extending his school record career touchdown reception total to 28. All of his touchdown catches came from the right arm of Riley Wiltfong. Garcia needed only one hand to reel in a scoring snag of 33 yards that tied the game, 7-7, in the opening quarter.

Senior running back Bryce Collins moved up another rung on the program’s all-time rushing list. The native of Boerne, Texas, who wore No. 23 most of the day after tearing his No. 9 jersey, totaled 97 yards on 18 carries. That figure allowed him to pass Gary Seevers for second all-time in Concordia history. Collins now has 3,260 career rushing yards.

The 537 yards allowed were a season high for a Concordia defense that came into play allowing fewer than 300 yards per contest. It also struggled to get off the field, allowing Dakota Wesleyan to convert 10-of-15 third downs. Steady senior linebacker Michael Hedlund paced the defense with 12 tackles (two for loss). Tarence Roby made eight stops and broke up a pass.

The Concordia offense netted 339 yards, with 190 coming through the air. Wiltfong took the lion’s share of the snaps at quarterback. He went 13-for-38 for 137 yards. One of his passes was picked off and returned for a touchdown.

The Bulldogs will be back at home next Saturday when they are scheduled to welcome No. 21 Midland (6-2, 3-2 GPAC) to Seward in another matchup with a ranked opponent. It will be both Military Appreciation Day and Parent’s Day at Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CT. Last season Concordia staged one of the largest comebacks in program history (down 35-14) when it rallied back to win in overtime, 41-38, at Midland.


GAME NOTES: Bulldogs welcome Midland for Military Appreciation Day
October 17, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – It will be Military Appreciation Day and Parent’s Day on the Concordia University campus as the Bulldog football team hosts Midland in the second-to-last home game of the 2016 season. Kickoff from Bulldog Stadium is set for 1 p.m. CT. It will mark the 65th meeting all-time between the longtime conference rivals.

Concordia will try to shake off its worst defensive performance of the season that came in last week’s 52-30 loss at No. 16 Dakota Wesleyan. Head coach Vance Winter’s squad is 3-0 at home compared to 1-3 on the road.

Meanwhile, 22nd-ranked Midland is a vastly improved team after a 1-10 season in 2015. The Warriors have thrived under the leadership of first-year head coach Jeff Jamrog. Midland pushed No. 5 Morningside last week before falling, 34-17. Jamrog’s squad ranks in the top 20 nationally in both scoring offense and defense.

GAME INFO
No. 22 Midland (6-2, 3-2) at Concordia (4-3, 2-3)
Saturday, Oct. 22 | 1 p.m. CT
Bulldog Stadium | Seward, Neb.
Live Webcast: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: KTMX-FM 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Jayson Jorgenson and Tyler Cavalli

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
*National rank in parentheses

Concordia
Offensive PPG: 24.6 (T-51st)
Defensive PPG: 24.4 (29th)
Total Offense: 340.9 (62nd)
Pass Offense: 191.0 (54th)
Rush Offense: 149.9 (56th)
Total Defense: 321.3 (14th)
Pass Defense: 183.4 (21st)
Rush Defense: 137.9 (26th)
Turnover +/-: -2 (T-45th) 

Midland
Offensive PPG: 33.6 (T-20th)
Defensive PPG: 20.9 (T-19th)
Total Offense: 441.4 (22nd)
Pass Offense: 209.6 (46th)
Rush Offense: 231.8 (14th)
Total Defense: 362.6 (30th)
Pass Defense: 221.8 (47th)
Rush Defense: 140.9 (29th)
Turnover +/-: +9 (T­­-8th) 

Individual Leaders

Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (38-44, 8th season)
Quarterback: Riley Wiltfong – 63/137 (.460), 875 yards, 10 td, 6 int; Rushing: 45 att, 150 yards, 2 td
Running Back: Bryce Collins – Rushing: 140 att, 594 yards, 4.2 avg, 3 td; Receiving: 14 catches, 107 yards
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 36 catches, 589 yards, 16.4 avg, 9 td
Defense: Michael Hedlund – 85 tackles, 4.0 tfl’s, 2 int, 2 ff / Trey Barnes – 48 tackles, 13.5 tfl’s, 4 sacks, int 

Midland
Head Coach: Jeff Jamrog (6-2, 1st season at Midland; 17-27 in 4 seasons at Minnesota State-Mankato)
Quarterback: Garry Cannon – 77/147 (.524), 1,148 yards, 8 td, 6 int; Rushing: 74 att, 304 yards, 3 td
Running Back: Deon Ransom – 150 att, 899 yards, 6.0 avg, 7 td; Receiving: 14 catches, 155 yards, td
Receiving: Javonte Willians – 20 catches, 556 yards, 27.8 avg, 7 td
Defense: Ethan Renner – 42 tackles, 11.0 tfl’s, 6 sacks, int 

In the rankings
Concordia had appeared inside the top 25 in four of five weeks before dropping out of the poll on Monday (Oct. 17). The Bulldogs landed at No. 24 prior to last week’s loss at Dakota Wesleyan. Concordia has appeared as high as No. 16 in 2016. They vaulted up to that position thanks to a 3-0 start. During head coach Vance Winter’s tenure, Concordia has garnered a total of 12 national rankings, rising as high as 14th in 2013.

Midland was well off the top 25 radar in the preseason. The Warriors first cracked the top 25 at 25th on Sept. 19 on the heels of a 4-0 start. Since then, Midland has appeared at No. 18 (Sept. 26), No. 21 (Oct. 3), No. 21 (Oct. 10), and finally, No. 22 this week. Prior to this season, the Warriors had gone unranked since October 2011.

Oct. 17 NAIA coaches’ poll

Military Appreciation Day
Service personnel who present a military ID at the entrance gates will be admitted free of charge as part of Military Appreciation Day. Four current Concordia football players are active in military service. They include junior Sebastian Garces (Boerne, Texas), sophomore Kalen Garrett (Doniphan, Neb.), senior Le’Dontrae Gooden (Sacramento, Calif.) and freshman Dylan Olmsted (York, Neb.). All four will be acknowledged for their service during the game.

Collins passes legend
Two-time first team all-conference running back Bryce Collins continues to push himself up the list of all-time leading rushers in program history. Last week he ran for 97 yards on 18 carries, allowing him to surpass legendary Gary Seevers (3,257) for second place on the Concordia rushing chart (see below). An inaugural inductee into the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame, Seevers piled up his rushing yardage during the 1953 through 1956 seasons. Collins, who now has 3,260 career rushing yards, also reached a career milestone when he found the end zone in the third quarter of the loss at Dakota Wesleyan. It marked Collins’ 30th career rushing touchdown.

Concordia all-time rushing leaders
1. Cleve Wester (1982-85) – 3,867
2. Bryce Collins (2013-16) – 3,260
3. Gary Seevers (1953-56) – 3,257
4. Alex Alvarez (1999-03) – 2,959
5. JaMaine Lewis (2004-07) – 2,731 

Next up: 2,000
The most reliable weapon for the Concordia offense, Jared Garcia keeps raising the bar after moving himself to the top of the program’s list of career touchdown receptions leaders. After catching six balls for 101 yards and three touchdowns last week, Garcia enters this week 52 yards shy of 2,000 career receiving yards. Should he reach 2,000, Garcia would become just the second player in the program’s history to do so, joining former All-American tight end Ross Wurdeman. A recent Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, Wurdeman saw his career receiving touchdowns record broken by Garcia, who now has 28 touchdown catches. Garcia, who hails from Pearland, Texas, also appears poised to eclipse his own single-season touchdown receptions record of 11, set in 2014.

Concordia all-time receiving yards leaders
1. Ross Wurdeman (1998-01) – 2,458
2. Eric Pralle (1987-90) – 1,974
3. Jared Garcia (2014-- ) – 1,952
4. Travis Soukup (1991-94) – 1,880
5. Jim Young (1964-67) – 1,692 

Hedlund chases century mark
In 2015 Michael Hedlund became the first Concordia player since both Erik DeHaven (110) and Sean Stewart (102) to record 100 or more tackles in a single season. Now Hedlund is knocking on the door of his second-straight 100-tackle season. Hedlund’s 85 stops lead the conference by 17 tackles. Should Hedlund surpass 110 tackles, he would break DeHaven’s GPAC-era program record for stops in a single season. Just Bulldog players have reached the century mark since 2000. Not only that, Hedlund needs eight tackles to eclipse Ben Klein for the most among Bulldogs who have played during Winter’s head coaching tenure.

100 tackle seasons, GPAC era
1. Erik DeHaven (2001) – 110
2. Josh Conrad (2000) – 105
2. Michael Hedlund (2015) – 105
4. Sean Stewart (2001) – 102
5. Troy Schlueter (2000) – 100 

200+ career tackles, coached by Winter
Ben Klein (2008-11) – 246
Michael Hedlund (2013-16) – 239
Jerrod Fleming (2008-11) – 237
Tait Sibbel (2012-15) – 234
Langston Jones (2010-13) – 209 

Out of character
A week after shutting out Briar Cliff, the Concordia defense struggled against Dylan Turner and Dakota Wesleyan’s high octane offense. Turner and company piled up 537 total yards – a season high for Bulldog opponents. The Tigers had racked up nearly 400 yards in the first half alone. The numbers were stunning for a Concordia defense that had entered the game with national rankings of seventh in total defense (285.3) and 16th in scoring defense (19.8). Coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit features four players who were either first or second team all-conference in 2015: Trey Barnes (first), Tarence Roby (first), Michael Hedlund (second) and Le’Dontrae Gooden (second).

HSH
Home has been sweet to Concordia so far. If they can defeat both Midland and Hastings to wind down the season, the Bulldogs would complete a perfect 5-0 home mark in 2016. The last time Concordia went undefeated at home occurred in 2000 when it won all six games played inside Bulldog Stadium. The 2001 co-GPAC championship team followed it up by going 5-1 at home. This year’s team has captured home victories over University of Saint Mary (Kan.), Northwestern and Briar Cliff. Dating back to last season, Concordia owns a four-game home win streak. The 2000-01 squads combined for the program’s longest home win streak during the GPAC era. It won nine home contests in a row.

Nebraska Nice
With Nebraska Wesleyan having left the GPAC, Concordia will play a total of just three in-state foes this season. The Bulldogs are 0-for-1 so far with the one being a 27-7 loss at No. 5 Doane on Sept. 24. Concordia has struggled against Doane, losing the last 11 meetings. However, the Bulldogs took care of Hastings (28-3), Midland (41-38, OT) and Nebraska Wesleyan (47-14) during the 2015 season. Concordia has won four straight over Midland, two of the last three versus Hastings and two of the last three against Nebraska Wesleyan before it jumped ship. Concordia has never swept the state during the GPAC era. The last season that the Bulldogs went undefeated against Nebraska opponents was 1970 when they won the Nebraska Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Along the way, Concordia topped Doane (35-0), Hastings (23-0), Dana (9-6), Midland (43-14) and Nebraska Wesleyan (41-14).

Series vs. Midland
Concordia has tightened the all-time series by winning each of the last four meetings with Midland. The Warriors still own a series record of 35-28-1 since the two sides first met in 1944. The two rivals have gone head-to-head every year since 1964. During the GPAC era (2000-present), the Bulldogs have won nine of the 16 matchups. The latest meeting was decided in overtime after Concordia rallied back from a 35-14 deficit last year in Fremont. Quarterback Garrett Folchert spearheaded the furious comeback with second half touchdown passes of 17 and six yards to Jared Garcia and 10 yards on a fourth down play to Brandon Luetchens. In overtime, Bryce Collins followed a Midland field goal with a 16-yard touchdown run to clinch the victory.

Scouting Midland
After four-straight losing seasons, including last year’s miserable 1-10 run, Midland is no longer a pushover. The Warriors have followed the lead of Deon Ransom, the nation’s sixth-leading rusher, to a 6-2 start. Midland ran out to a 5-0 start before losses in two of the last three weeks to the league’s top-two rated teams: Morningside and Doane. First-year head coach Jeff Jamrog has orchestrated the turnaround in Fremont. A former University of Nebraska assistant coach, Jamrog got his first head coaching job at Minnesota State University-Mankato, where he served for four seasons. Midland’s three GPAC wins have come against Briar Cliff (38-3), Dordt (41-33) and Hastings (36-22). The Warriors have featured an aggressive defense that has created 28 takeaways (16 fumble recoveries, 12 interceptions) through the season’s first eight games. A seventh victory would give Midland its highest win total since its 8-3 season in 2010.


Gooden serves military, sets example for younger brother
October 18, 2016

Three days per week, Le’Dontrae Gooden wakes up at 4:30 in the morning, hours before many college students begin hitting the snooze buttons on their alarms. The native of Sacramento, Calif., often blazes a trail between Seward and Lincoln while fulfilling the many responsibilities he’s tasked himself with.

Part student. Part football player. Part military serviceman. Part caretaker. Gooden wears many hats.

“It’s a lot. It’s a hectic schedule,” Gooden says. “It’s my ambition. I want to get it done. I want to show a good example for my little brother. He lives with me. I’m a huge role model to him.”

A pre-medicine major, Gooden first became active in military service as a student-athlete at Southern Oregon University, a school he attended for three years. The 5-foot-10 senior then continued those endeavors upon his arrival in Seward. Gooden, who first enlisted on Oct. 11, 2013, is in an officer’s program at the University of Nebraska that meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

He soon expects to serve the medical unit at the air force base in Lincoln. “Not the type of guy who wants to shoot guns,” Gooden’s aspirations are to become a physician’s assistant able to treat soldiers on the frontlines. In some ways, Gooden’s military service goes hand in hand with football. He likes how both push him to be a better leader and both promote an atmosphere of togetherness.

“The army is teaching me how to lead,” Gooden said. “I take a lot of pride in (serving the country). When you first join a team it means a lot to you, but you don’t understand the full scope of things until you actually get into it and see the things that people are sacrificing. Now I take a lot of pride in the army core values. It was instilled in me growing up, but to see it from a broader perspective makes me have pride in what I do.”

Those strong emotions make the juggling act worth it for Gooden, who has the unique responsibility of not just being a student, a football player and a serviceman to the country, he’s the most influential person on a day-to-day basis in the life of his 17-year-old brother Josh, who moved from the Sacramento area and enrolled at Seward High School.

“My mom and dad thought it was a better fit for him to come here and get on the right path,” Gooden said. “I want to be a role model. He was struggling a little grades-wise. That’s another reason he came out here. He’s an athlete. I think he can be better than me in the next couple of years. He’s on the right rack now, and I want him to come here.”

Le’Dontrae and Josh are two of 10 total siblings that grew up in the Gooden household. Le’Dontrae was eighth in the line, the baby of the family until a sister and then Josh were born. Le’Dontrae says it can be hard at times having Josh under the same roof while still meeting all of his other demands. But he appreciates the way Josh’s attitude has grown in a positive fashion.

Clearly Le’Dontrae believes he’s in a place where both he and Josh can succeed. Seward is home now, but one may have wondered why Le’Dontrae wanted to leave Ashland, Ore. It’s where Gooden made 45 tackles for the 2014 Southern Oregon team that captured the NAIA national championship. After his first year of basic training in the military, Gooden came back and was amazed at how many of his friends had left the school. But everything came together in 2014 for a special season.

“We all meshed together real well and we won that championship,” Gooden said. “And after that a lot of people left again. My dad was like, ‘It’s time for a new start.’ I think I emailed Coach (Patrick) Daberkow. I was literally signing my papers to go to MidAmerica Nazarene University and Coach Daberkow called. He was like, ‘Are you still looking for a school to go to?’

Ready to sign with another school, why did Gooden suddenly pull a complete 180? He says he was struck by the way that Daberkow talked to him. Said Gooden, “I never met someone so friendly over the phone like that. You could tell he was honest and genuine.”

Furthermore, Le’Dontrae, son of a pastor, liked the Christian aspect of Concordia. It just felt right. Daberkow helped get everything in order for Gooden to sign on the dotted line. Without ever having even stepped foot on campus, the California native had made up his mind that he would finish his college career at Concordia.

He's been rewarded for his “leap of faith.” The first players he met when he got to campus in the spring of 2015 were Bryce Collins, Michael Hedlund and Tait Sibbel. “These were good guys,” Le’Dontrae said. “The people here are good, honest people. You don’t get to see that a lot now days. That was a big deal for me.”

Le’Dontrae struggles to come up with any negatives in regards to his transfer to Concordia. He says the medical unit in Lincoln, Nebraska, is superior to the one he was part of in Oregon. Plus, Seward has provided a calm and peaceful place for his brother Josh to get away from distractions and become a better young man himself.

Considering all that Le’Dontrae takes on while still being one of the team’s highest performers in the classroom, it’s safe to say that Josh has the right role model. For Le’Dontrae, the early mornings are just a small price to pay for all that is right in his life. Says Gooden, “Everything happens for a reason. It all just fell into place.”

Military Appreciation Day: Service personnel who present a military ID at the entrance gates will be admitted free of charge as part of Military Appreciation Day on Saturday (Oct. 22). Four current Concordia football players are active in military service. They include junior Sebastian Garces (Boerne, Texas), sophomore Kalen Garrett (Doniphan, Neb.) and freshman Dylan Olmsted (York, Neb.) in addition to Gooden. All four will be acknowledged for their service during the game, which will kick off at 1 p.m. CT vs. No. 22 Midland.


D sacks No. 22 Midland
October 22, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Last week the Bulldog defense had its ego bruised. This week it earned its mojo back. Led by a defense that held Midland to 23 measly first-half yards, the Concordia University football team remained unbeaten at home with a 20-14 victory over an upbeat and 22nd-ranked Midland program on a sun-soaked Saturday afternoon.

Eighth-year head coach Vance Winter’s squad is now 4-0 inside Bulldog Stadium and one win away from completing the first undefeated home season since 2000. Concordia improved to 5-3 overall and 3-3 in conference play while clinching at least a .500 record for the year.

“I thought we had a great week of practice,” Winter said. “You go through a phase where you feel sorry for yourself. These guys responded. We knew how we could finish the season and how we can play. We play really well here. I thought we played a good football game today. We made mistakes, but in terms of physicality and covering people, everything was back to what we are used to.”

Midland (6-3, 3-3 GPAC), which entered the game averaging 441.4 total yards per game, failed to penetrate Bulldog territory until the latter stages of the second quarter. All-American Trey Barnes and company were determined to put behind last week’s performance that resulted in 537 yards of offense for Dakota Wesleyan. Barnes recorded two of Concordia’s four sacks on the day.

With Midland down 20-7 and trying to stage a miraculous late rally, Dylan Pierquin and Patrick Skwara surfaced with back-to-back sacks to force a turnover on downs in the final minutes of the game. It was the type of dominant performance that the Bulldog defensive unit has come to expect of itself.

“I feel like we owned them up front,” said senior defensive lineman Ron Jackson, a Houston, Texas, native. “They couldn’t get any push. They couldn’t get a seal. We have guys like Trey Barnes and Rufus Williams. They don’t back down from a challenge. We just shut them down.”

Before leaving the game with an injury, running back Bryce Collins put Concordia on top with a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, capping an 11-play, 48-yard drive. The ensuing kickoff was coughed up by Rodney Rosier and the Bulldogs recovered the ball after it was jarred loose by Sebastian Garces and recovered by kicker Brendan Cremin.

Concordia waited until its next possession to extend the lead. Two players after a 38-yard punt return by Jared Garcia, Riley Wiltfong fired a 26-yard strike over the middle to Kiyoshi Brey for six. Though Concordia missed on some chances to put points on the board, it got field goals of 39 and 42 yards from Cremin to help seal the victory.

One of the nation’s leading rushers, Midland back Deon Ransom ran only nine times for 29 yards. The bulk of the Warrior yardage came from the throwing of Garry Cannon, who completed 16-of-33 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. His final toss of the day went for 28 yards and a touchdown to Tristin Kamaka with two seconds left in the game.

Junior running back Jordan Slough spelled Collins, who did not play in the second half. Slough rushed 11 times for 36 yards after coming off the bench. The Bulldogs totaled 143 yards on the ground.

“Our coaches just talked all week about coming out and playing a physical football game,” Slough said. “There’s nothing we can do about the past weeks. It’s just from here on out, how are we going to respond and how are we going to finish the season? We came out and responded.”

The always reliable Garcia hauled in eight passes for 102 yards while becoming the second player in program history to eclipse 2,000 career receiving yards. Garcia also dazzled in the punt return game, rattling off returns of 38 and 24 yards. TJ Austin threw for 87 yards and ran for another 52. Wiltfong went 8-for-13 for 104 yards and a touchdown pass. Wiltfong and the Concordia offense did not commit a single turnover.

Senior linebacker Michael Hedlund made eight tackles, giving him 247 for his career. He became the leading tackler among all players during Winter’s head coaching tenure thanks to his efforts on Saturday. Skwara topped the Bulldogs with nine tackles. Barnes finished with seven tackles and four quarterback hurries in addition to his two sacks.

The Bulldogs will travel to play an improved Dordt (4-4, 2-4 GPAC) squad next Saturday. Kickoff from Sioux Center, Iowa, is set for 1 p.m. CT. Concordia is 7-1 all-time versus the Defenders. Dordt came from behind to win at Hastings, 44-43, on Saturday afternoon.


Barnes, Cremin garner weekly recognition from GPAC
October 24, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Two days following a 20-14 victory over No. 22 Midland, both senior defensive lineman Trey Barnes and junior kicker Brendan Cremin have earned accolades from the GPAC. On Monday (Oct. 24) the conference named Barnes the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Defensive Player of the Week and Cremin the Special Teams Player of the Week. It’s the second career weekly award for Barnes and the first for Cremin.

Barnes dominated at the line of scrimmage against a Warrior offense that entered the game averaging more than 440 yards per game. Named a second team All-American in 2015, Barnes registered seven tackles, two sacks and four quarterback hurries. His work up front helped limit Midland to just 23 first half yards and 234 for the game. In addition, it appeared Barnes had scored a touchdown in the first half after an apparent fumble, but the Warrior ball carrier was ruled down. A Seward High School product, Barnes ranks third among all NAIA players in tackles for loss (15.5).

Cremin is in his first season at Concordia after transferring from Modesto Community College. The California native draws long field goal assignments for the Bulldogs. Last week he responded after missing a 48-yard attempt by nailing tries from 39 and 42 yards to help put the game out of reach. In addition, Cremin recovered a fumble on a kickoff in the second quarter. Two of his other kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

Concordia (5-3, 3-3 GPAC) now has a bye week before returning to action on Saturday, Nov. 5 when it travels to Sioux Center, Iowa, for a 1 p.m. CT kickoff at Dordt (4-4, 2-4 GPAC). The Defenders had this week’s GPAC offensive player of the week in Bryce Lidtka, who ran for 240 yards and two scores in their 44-43 win at Hastings.

 


Winter to step down at conclusion of 2016 season
October 31, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Nearing the conclusion of his eighth season as head football coach at Concordia University, Vance Winter has announced that he will resign his post following the completion of the 2016 season. The Bulldogs have games remaining on Nov. 5 at Dordt and Nov. 12 versus Hastings. Winter is in his 12th season overall at Concordia. He first arrived in Seward as an assistant coach in 2005.

The national search is now underway to secure the 10th head coach in program history. Winter’s staff includes three full-time assistants: Curran White, Patrick Daberkow and Corby Osten. Current leader of a nationally-ranked squad, Winter cited family reasons for his decision to step down.

"These 12 years spent at Concordia have been a blessing to my family and I,” Winter said. “I have been truly blessed to be a part of the brotherhood and to coach some amazing young men. With two games left in this season, it is my hope that the focus remains on the players, particularly the seniors who have given so much to the program and this university. They are such a special group. My main goal in the short term is to ensure that we finish this season the right way. It’s not about me. It’s about our student-athletes.

“After prayer and careful consideration, I felt the best course of action for myself and for my family was for me to step down. I’m so thankful for the way my wife Tanya and our children have supported me and allowed me to go all in as a head football coach. I am proud of the work of so many people to improve our program from where it was at the start to the level it is now. The role of head football coach has become increasingly demanding in terms of time and energy. While I thoroughly enjoy my daily interactions with our players and the practices and game days, I have struggled with some other aspects of the job that have affected my time with my family. I wish nothing but the best for our student-athletes and this university.”

Winter has helped elevate a program from a 1-9 season the year prior to being named head coach to a top 25 caliber NAIA program. Winter owns an overall record of 39-44 at the helm of the Bulldogs. He ranks fifth on the school’s all-time wins list among the nine head coaches in program history. One more victory would pull Winter even with Walter Hellwege (40-32-9) for fourth place. In addition, Concordia has garnered a total of 13 national rankings during Winter’s tenure.

Originally from Miller, S.D., Winter oversaw record-breaking quarterback Von Thomas, a 2015 graduate. The star signal caller piled up 6,988 yards of total offense over three seasons. Winter has also coached All-Americans in defensive lineman Trey Barnes (2015), safety Darnell Woods (2013) and kicker Kenny Zoeller (2012).  The Winter era has seen Jared Garcia break the school record for touchdown receptions and Bryce Collins’ climb to 3,000 career rushing yards. Another high point came in 2013 when Concordia won its first six games of the season and jumped to No. 14 in the national coaches’ poll.

During his coaching career, Winter has made stops at Peru State College (defensive coordinator, linebackers 2004-05), Wayne State College (linebackers 2002-04), and Dakota State University (running backs 2000-01). Winter was a four-year letter winner while playing middle linebacker for Dakota State University. A team captain in 1999, Winter was a two-time honorable mention all-conference linebacker for the Trojans and the team's leading tackler in 1998 and 1999.

Vance and his wife Tanya have three children: a son Jackson, daughter Clara and son Jesse.

Statement from Devin Smith, Director of Athletics
Coach Winter shared his news with us last week and it really caught us all off guard. In my mind, I truly thought after the win over Midland University he would reconsider, but it seemed that each time he spoke about his desire to step away he became more and more at peace with his decision.

We thank him for his incredible passion that he has poured out over the years and we respect his decision to focus on his vocation as father and husband. Coaching is an intense business and it takes so much out of a person and we all understand his desire to be present with his family at this time.

As Coach Winter’s service winds down it will be remembered as a time of celebration for all the great strides the program has made under his leadership. We went from just trying to get first downs in games to challenging the best in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. Winter’s tenure and influence is marked by increased competitiveness on the field, incredible facility improvements, improved scholarship processes, staffing additions and budgets that put the Bulldogs in a position to foster a first class student-experience.

The last three to four years there was not one game where we did not think we had a chance to win and that is a testament to his guidance and planning. His persistence, passion and intense competitiveness influenced the student-athletes and staff to dig deeper during each practice and game day. Vance is greatly respected by our players, staff and alums for his desire to reach heights we haven’t seen since 2001.

We thank him for all he has done to inspire pride in Bulldog football. 

Former quarterback Von Thomas on Winter’s impact
He's pointed this program in the right the direction. Some people wouldn't understand what kind of man he is unless they coached beside him or played for him. One event that sticks out to me that I will never forget is when him and Coach Daberkow allowed me to spend time with my family after my cousin was killed in Miami. That showed me he cared for me more as a human being than a football player. He has been with me through my ups and downs at Concordia. There was never a moment where I felt alone because I always knew I could contact him. He's a huge reason why I am the man I am today. He instilled certain qualities in me throughout my career at Concordia. I have nothing but love for Coach Winter. I wish nothing but the best for him and his family and will always be supportive of his decisions because he has done the same for me without hesitation.


GAME NOTES: Off bye week, Bulldogs set for trip to Dordt
October 31, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Coming off an unusual late-season bye, the Concordia University football team is refreshed and hopeful of finishing strong in a season that has just two games remaining on the schedule. Up next is the final road trip of the 2016 campaign. Saturday’s kickoff from Open Space Park Football Field in Sioux Center, Iowa, is slated for 1 p.m. CT. It will be the final home game of the year for Dordt.

Last time Concordia appeared on the football field it polished off a 20-14 home win over then No. 22 Midland. The Bulldogs have clinched at least a .500 record and sit at 5-3 overall and 3-3 in the conference. With two victories to close the season, Concordia would finish with its highest season winning percentage since 2001.

Meanwhile, the Defenders are one of the most improved teams in the nation behind a prolific running game that ranks fourth in the nation. Dordt, under the direction of first-year head coach Joel Penner, owns conference victories over Briar Cliff and Hastings.

GAME INFO
No. 21 Concordia (5-3, 3-3) at Dordt (4-5, 2-5)
Saturday, Nov. 5 | 1 p.m. CT
Open Space Park Football Field | Sioux Center, Iowa
Live Webcast: Dordt athletics website
Radio: KTMX-FM 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Jayson Jorgenson and Tyler Cavalli 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
*National rank in parentheses

Concordia
Offensive PPG: 24.0 (T-53rd)
Defensive PPG: 23.1 (25th)
Total Offense: 340.0 (52nd)
Pass Offense: 191.0 (51st)
Rush Offense: 149.0 (53rd)
Total Defense: 310.4 (9th)
Pass Defense: 182.4 (23rd)
Rush Defense: 128.0 (16th)
Turnover +/-: 0 (T-34th) 

Dordt
Offensive PPG: 29.9 (T-34th)
Defensive PPG: 44.6 (78th)
Total Offense: 456.1 (17th)
Pass Offense: 177.6 (59th)
Rush Offense: 278.6 (4th)
Total Defense: 533.4 (83rd)
Pass Defense: 274.6 (77th)
Rush Defense: 258.9 (79th)
Turnover +/-: -6 (T-62nd) 

Individual Leaders

Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (39-44, 8th season)
Quarterback: Riley Wiltfong – 71/150 (.473), 979 yards, 11 td, 6 int; Rushing: 53 att, 164 yards, 2 td
Running Back: Bryce Collins – Rushing: 153 att, 632 yards, 4.1 avg, 4 td; Receiving: 15 catches, 124 yards
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 44 catches, 691 yards, 15.7 avg, 9 td
Defense: Michael Hedlund – 93 tackles, 4.0 tfl’s, 2 int, 2 ff / Trey Barnes – 55 tackles, 15.5 tfl’s, 6 sacks, int 

Dordt
Head Coach: Joel Penner (4-5, 1st season)
Quarterback: Brock Lamle – 103/209 (.493), 1,519 yards, 9 td, 7 int; Rushing: 83 att, 329 yards, 2 td
Running Back: Bryce Lidtka – 229 att, 1,349 yards, 5.9 avg, 19 td
Receiving: Jason Miller – 65 catches, 1,145 yards, 17.6 avg, 9 td
Defense: Joey Loevetere – 81 tackles, 4 int, 3 fr 

In the rankings
For the second-straight week, Concordia checked in at No. 21 in the NAIA national coaches’ poll. The Bulldogs have garnered six national rankings this season out of nine polls, including the preseason edition. Concordia has appeared as high as No. 16 in 2016. They vaulted up to that position thanks to a 3-0 start. During head coach Vance Winter’s tenure, Concordia has garnered a total of 14 national rankings, rising as high as 14th in 2013.

2016 Concordia rankings
Aug. 8 – RV
Sept. 12 – 20th
Sept. 19 – 16th
Sept. 26 – 21st
Oct. 3 – RV
Oct. 10 – 24th
Oct. 17 – NR
Oct. 24 – 21st
Oct. 31 – 21st 

Dordt has yet to receive a national ranking since the program kicked off its first season in 2008. The Defenders were picked to finish last in the GPAC by both the coaches and media in the preseason.

Oct. 31 NAIA coaches’ poll

Winter to step down after 2016 season
On Monday Vance Winter announced that he will be resigning his position as head coach, effective upon reaching the conclusion of this season. Winter is in his 12th season overall at Concordia. The Dakota State University alum first arrived as an assistant coach in 2005, serving on previous head coach Courtney Meyer’s staff. Winter is now 39-44 over his eight seasons as head coach. With one more victory, Winter would pull even with Walter Hellwege (40-32-9) for the fourth most coaching victories among the nine head coaches in program history. Originally from Miller, S.D., Winter oversaw record-breaking quarterback Von Thomas, a 2015 graduate. The star signal caller piled up 6,988 yards of total offense over three seasons. Winter has also coached All-Americans in defensive lineman Trey Barnes (2015), safety Darnell Woods (2013) and kicker Kenny Zoeller (2012).  The Winter era has seen Jared Garcia break the school record for touchdown receptions and Bryce Collins’ climb to 3,000 career rushing yards. Another high point came in 2013 when Concordia won its first six games of the season and jumped to No. 14 in the national coaches’ poll.

Collins on the move
Two-time first team all-conference running back Bryce Collins did not play in the second half of the victory over Midland but is back at the No. 1 spot on this week’s two deep. He will enter the final two games of his career with 3,298 rushing yards over 38 games as a Bulldog. In the game at Dakota Wesleyan, Collins surpassed legendary Gary Seevers (3,257) for second place on the Concordia rushing chart (see below). An inaugural inductee into the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame, Seevers piled up his rushing yardage during the 1953 through 1956 seasons. Collins also is one of five running backs in program history to record a 1,000-yard rushing season.

Concordia all-time rushing leaders
1. Cleve Wester (1982-85) – 3,867
2. Bryce Collins (2013-16) – 3,298
3. Gary Seevers (1953-56) – 3,257
4. Alex Alvarez (1999-03) – 2,959
5. JaMaine Lewis (2004-07) – 2,731 

Chasing Wurdeman … again
The most reliable weapon for the Concordia offense, Jared Garcia keeps raising the bar after moving himself to the top of the program’s list of career touchdown receptions leaders. In the win over Midland, Garcia caught eight passes for 102 yards, pushing him past 2,000 career receiving yards while moving him ahead of Eric Pralle for second the school’s list of all-time leading receivers (see below). Garcia and former All-American tight end Ross Wurdeman are the only pass catchers in program history to reach the 2,000-yard mark. Garcia stands 404 receiving yards behind Wurdeman with another full season ahead of him in 2017. Garcia has been especially productive the past three games, going past 100 receiving yards each time. During that three-game stretch, Garcia has hauled in 20 passes for 339 yards and five touchdowns. He’s run his career totals to 129 receptions and 28 receiving touchdowns.

Concordia all-time receiving yards leaders
1. Ross Wurdeman (1998-01) – 2,458
2. Jared Garcia (2014-- ) – 2,054
3. Eric Pralle (1987-90) – 1,974
4. Travis Soukup (1991-94) – 1,880
5. Jim Young (1964-67) – 1,692

Hedlund chases century mark
In 2015 Michael Hedlund became the first Concordia player since both Erik DeHaven (110) and Sean Stewart (102) to record 100 or more tackles in a single season. Now Hedlund is knocking on the door of his second-straight 100-tackle season. Hedlund’s 93 stops lead the conference by 12 tackles. Should Hedlund surpass 110 tackles, he would break DeHaven’s GPAC-era program record for stops in a single season. Just five Bulldog players have reached the century mark since 2000. Not only that, Hedlund has now surpassed Ben Klein for the most career tackles among Bulldogs that have played during Winter’s tenure. A quarterback as a freshman, Hedlund has 247 career tackles.

100 tackle seasons, GPAC era
1. Erik DeHaven (2001) – 110
2. Josh Conrad (2000) – 105
2. Michael Hedlund (2015) – 105
4. Sean Stewart (2001) – 102
5. Troy Schlueter (2000) – 100

200+ career tackles, coached by Winter
Michael Hedlund (2013-16) – 247
Ben Klein (2008-11) – 246
Jerrod Fleming (2008-11) – 237
Tait Sibbel (2012-15) – 234
Langston Jones (2010-13) – 209 

Back in the top 10
While offensive stars like Collins and Garcia have rightfully drawn attention by piling up numbers, it’s Concordia’s rugged defense that has been a constant for a program that has improved significantly over the past few seasons. Coordinated by Patrick Daberkow, the Bulldogs have produced total defense national rankings of fourth in 2013, 48th in 2014, fourth in 2015 and ninth so far in 2016. Concordia jumped back into the top 10 of the national total defense ranks while sitting idle this past week. The Bulldogs rebounded impressively from the blowout loss at Dakota Wesleyan by limiting Midland to 234 total yards. In that game, senior Trey Barnes dominated. He recorded a pair of sacks and four quarterback hurries and was named the GPAC defensive player of the week for the second time in his career. Dylan Pierquin and Patrick Skwara also had a sack apiece in the victory.

HSH
Home has been sweet to Concordia so far. If they can defeat Hastings in the regular season finale, the Bulldogs would complete a perfect 5-0 home mark in 2016. The last time Concordia went undefeated at home occurred in 2000 when it won all six games played inside Bulldog Stadium. The 2001 co-GPAC championship team followed it up by going 5-1 at home. This year’s team has captured home victories over University of Saint Mary (Kan.), Northwestern, Briar Cliff and Midland. Dating back to last season, Concordia owns a five-game home win streak. The 2000-01 squads combined for the program’s longest home win streak during the GPAC era. They won nine home contests in a row.

Series vs. Dordt
Other than a blip in 2008, Concordia has dominated Dordt. The Bulldogs are 7-1 all-time in a series that started in 2008. Each of Concordia’s seven wins over the Defenders have come by double digit margins. In last season’s 34-21 Bulldog win over Dordt, Bryce Collins ran for 156 yards and TJ Austin and Garrett Folchert combined to throw for three touchdown passes. On the other side of the ball, senior linebacker Tait Sibbel made five tackles for loss while the Defenders were limited to 297 total yards.

Year-by-year versus Dordt
2015 – W, 34-21 (Sioux Center)
2014 – W, 38-14 (Seward)
2013 – W, 32-0 (Sioux Center)
2012 – W, 52-12 (Seward)
2011 – W, 21-7 (Sioux Center)
2010 – W, 24-7 (Seward)
2009 – W, 28-12 (Seward)
2008 – L, 14-17 (Sioux Center) 

Scouting Dordt
Behind first-year head coach Joel Penner and running back Bryce Lidtka, Dordt has four victories in a single season for the first time in program history. Lidtka has carried the mail this season for the Defenders. He has surpassed 200 rushing yards on three separate occasions and ranks second nationally in rushing yards. Lidtka is the national leader in points scored (118). In last season’s matchup with Concordia, Lidtka ran nine times for 45 yards. In the passing game, Jason Miller (1,145 receiving yards) has caught 65 of the team’s 109 completed passes. The Defenders average 456.1 yards per game offensively, but their defense ranks 77th nationally or worse in total defense, rush defense, pass defense and scoring defense. Dordt has allowed more than 40 points in seven of nine games this season.


Gooden, Lehmann named academic all-district
November 4, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Seniors Le’Dontrae Gooden and Hallick Lehmann represented Concordia University football on the 2016 Academic All-District 3 Football teams of the College Division announced on Thursday (Nov. 3). Selections were made by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). This marks the second-straight year that Lehmann has garnered the honor. It’s the first career academic all-district award for Gooden.

The CoSIDA 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. For more information about the Academic All-District™ and Academic All-America® Teams program, please visit http://cosida.com.

Gooden, a native of Sacramento, Calif., is in his second season as a starting safety for a stout Bulldog defense that ranks in the top 10 nationally in total defense. A transfer from Southern Oregon University, Gooden has amassed 60 tackles (3.5 for loss) and two interceptions while starting each of the first eight games of 2016. A pre-medicine major, Gooden serves the 313th medical unit in Lincoln as an active military serviceman.

Lehmann, who hails from Albion, Neb., has battled injury this season. Prior to his injury, Lehmann has held down the role of starting left tackle along the Concordia offensive line that has helped pave the way for senior running back Bryce Collins to surpass 3,000 career rushing yards. Lehmann was named an Academic All-American in 2015.

The College Division of District 3 includes the states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Gooden and Lehmann will now go on the balloting for Academic All-America honors, which will be announced on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

2016-17 academic all-district honorees
Le’Dontrae Gooden, Football
Hallick Lehmann, Football

2015-16 academic all-district honorees
(*Academic All-American)
*Amy Ahlers, Golf
*Stephanie Coley, Track & Field
*Chandler Folkerts, Basketball
*Hallick Lehmann, Football
Adam Meirose, Football
Becky Mueller, Basketball
*CJ Muller, Track & Field
*Kim Wood, Cross Country/Track & Field 

2014-15 academic all-district honorees
(*Academic All-American)
Amy Ahlers, Golf
*Brendan Buchanan, Soccer
Stephanie Coley, Track & Field
*Chandler Folkerts, Basketball
Jaydee Jurgensen, Baseball
Adam Meirose, Football
Bailey Morris, Basketball
*Rachel Mussell, Soccer
Shawn Rodehorst, Golf
Ben Sievert, Cross Country/Track & Field
Melissa Stine, Soccer


Collins carries the mail as Bulldogs deliver road win
November 5, 2016 

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – The 21st-ranked Concordia University football team got the fight it expected from an improved Dordt team on Saturday afternoon. The Defenders just couldn’t handle Bryce Collins, who bullied his way to 179 yards and three touchdowns on the ground to power the 35-28 victory in Sioux Center, Iowa.

The first conference road win of the season allowed eighth-year head coach Vance Winter’s squad to move to 6-3 overall and 4-3 in conference play. The Bulldogs have guaranteed their third winning season in the past four years.

“They played really hard and they have some real good players,” Winter said of Dordt. “We had some struggles to stop them early, which is kind of expected because a lot of teams have struggled to stop them. I thought we responded well in the second half and played solid. We knew what kind of fight we were going to be in for.”

While leaning upon the legs of Collins, Concordia took control of the game after shaking off an 18-14 halftime deficit. Collins ran for 41 of his yards on the opening possession of the second half that covered 68 yards. Collins capped the drive on play No. 9 by running 11 yards to the end zone. The Bulldogs eventually bumped their lead to two touchdowns (35-21) via a Jared Garcia scoring grab and then Collins’ third touchdown of the day.

“He looked good. He looked fresh,” Winter said of Collins. “The bye week was helpful for him. He was really explosive and I thought the offensive line did a nice job opening some holes along with Erik (Small) and our tight ends. He really had a good game.”

Dordt (4-6, 2-6 GPAC) gave itself a chance in the final minute of the game when quarterback Brock Lamle found Jake Dodge for a 53-yard touchdown hookup that got the Defenders within one score. However, TJ Austin fielded the ensuing onside kick and Concordia ran out the clock.

The Bulldogs thought they had sealed up the game just a couple of minutes earlier when Michael Hedlund picked off Lamle’s pass and gave Concordia the ball at the Dordt 24. The Bulldogs ended up turning it over on downs with 1:19 left in the contest.

Hedlund and company did a commendable job of limiting Dordt’s explosive offense. The Defenders finished with 402 total yards – below their season average of 456.1. Bryce Lidtka, who came into the game ranked No. 2 nationally in rushing yardage, was contained for 107 yards on 25 carries.

Austin and Riley Wiltfong both fired one touchdown pass apiece. They combined to go 18-for-29 for 196 yards through the air. Once again, Garcia was the favored target. He caught seven passes for 74 yards. Deshawn Eure hauled in a nine-yard scoring strike from Austin in the second quarter.

Hedlund piled up nine tackles and became the first Bulldog in the GPAC era to record multiple 100-tackle seasons. All-American Trey Barnes also enjoyed another big day that included a pair of sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. Matt Keener topped the team with 10 stops while nose guard Ron Jackson plugged the middle with eight tackles.

Winter moved into a tie for fourth on Concordia’s all-time coaching wins list on Saturday. His 40 victories equal the total produced by the program’s very first head coach, Walter Hellwege (40-32-9).

The Bulldogs will conclude the 2016 regular season next Saturday when Hastings (4-6, 1-6 GPAC) visits Seward for a 1 p.m. CT kickoff. It will mark the final regular-season game in Winter’s tenure, who became the ninth head coach in program history when he took over the Bulldogs in 2009. Last season Concordia’s defense dominated in a 28-3 home victory over Hastings.


GAME NOTES: Top-20 national finish in sight as 2016 season nears end
November 7, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – The final game of the 2016 regular season has arrived for the 21st-ranked Concordia University football program, which will celebrate its senior class on Saturday when it hosts rival Hastings. Kickoff from Bulldog Stadium is set for 1 p.m. CT. Eighth-year head coach Vance Winter’s program has already clinched its third winning season in four years.

Following a bye, Concordia returned to action last week and held off an improved Dordt team while earning its first GPAC road win of the season. The Bulldogs rode Bryce Collins (career high 179 rushing yards and three touchdowns) to a 35-28 victory in Sioux Center, Iowa.

Meanwhile, Hastings enters Saturday’s game fresh off a 62-3 loss at the hands of No. 5 Morningside. A week earlier the Broncos picked up their first conference win of the season by knocking off Briar Cliff, 35-6, in a game played at the Dakota Dome. Hastings has struggled to get in the win column since opening the season with three nonconference victories.

GAME INFO
Hastings (4-6, 1-6 GPAC) at No. 21 Concordia (6-3, 4-3)
Saturday, Nov. 12 | 1 p.m. CT
Bulldog Stadium | Seward, Neb.
Live Webcast: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: KTMX-FM 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Jayson Jorgenson and Tyler Cavalli 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
*National rank in parentheses

Concordia
Offensive PPG: 25.2 (53rd)
Defensive PPG: 23.7 (25th)
Total Offense: 348.0 (54th)
Pass Offense: 191.6 (51st)
Rush Offense: 156.4 (50th)
Total Defense: 320.6 (15th)
Pass Defense: 184.9 (21st)
Rush Defense: 135.7 (22nd)
Turnover +/-: +1 (T-33rd) 

Hastings
Offensive PPG: 27.9 (38th)
Defensive PPG: 33.1 (61st)
Total Offense: 408.5 (29th)
Pass Offense: 212.0 (41st)
Rush Offense: 196.5 (25th)
Total Defense: 484.5 (78th)
Pass Defense: 228.3 (54th)
Rush Defense: 256.2 (78th)
Turnover +/-: -3 (T-48th) 

Individual Leaders

Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (40-44, 8th season)
Quarterback: Riley Wiltfong – 80/167 (.479), 1,070 yards, 12 td, 6 int; Rushing: 59 att, 176 yards, 2 td
Running Back: Bryce Collins – Rushing: 183 att, 811 yards, 4.4 avg, 7 td; Receiving: 18 catches, 150 yards
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 52 catches, 789 yards, 15.2 avg, 10 td
Defense: Michael Hedlund – 105 tackles, 4 tfl’s, 3 int, 2 ff / Trey Barnes – 61 tackles, 19 tfl’s, 8 sacks, int

Hastings
Head Coach: Tony Harper (29-31, 6th season)
Quarterback: Jason Gaines – 66/144 (.458), 957 yards, 6 td, 3 int
Running Back: Tahj Willingham – 99 att, 657 yards, 6.6 avg, 8 td
Receiving: Jordan Johnson – 41 catches, 872 yards, 21.3 avg, 7 td
Defense: Kelly McBride – 79 tackles, 4 tfl’s, 1 sack, 1 fr

In the rankings
For the third-straight week, Concordia checked in at No. 21 in the NAIA national coaches’ poll. The Bulldogs have garnered seven national rankings this season out of 10 polls, including the preseason edition. Concordia has appeared as high as No. 16 in 2016. They vaulted up to that position thanks to a 3-0 start. During head coach Vance Winter’s tenure, Concordia has earned a total of 15 national rankings, rising as high as 14th in 2013.

2016 Concordia rankings
Aug. 8 – RV
Sept. 12 – 20th
Sept. 19 – 16th
Sept. 26 – 21st
Oct. 3 – RV
Oct. 10 – 24th
Oct. 17 – NR
Oct. 24 – 21st
Oct. 31 – 21st
Nov. 7 – 21st 

Hastings has not cracked the national top 25 this season. The Broncos were listed among “others receiving votes” following their 3-0 start to the season. Hastings has been absent in the national poll since landing at No. 25 in late October of 2012.

Nov. 7 NAIA coaches’ poll

Winter to step down after 2016 season
On Oct. 31 Vance Winter announced that he will be resigning his position as head coach, effective upon reaching the conclusion of this season. Winter is in his 12th season overall at Concordia. The Dakota State University alum first arrived as an assistant coach in 2005, serving on previous head coach Courtney Meyer’s staff. Winter is now 40-44 over his eight seasons as head coach. With the win at Dordt, Winter pulled even with Walter Hellwege (40-32-9) for the fourth most coaching victories among the nine head coaches in program history. Originally from Miller, S.D., Winter oversaw record-breaking quarterback Von Thomas, a 2015 graduate. The star signal caller piled up 6,988 yards of total offense over three seasons. Winter has also coached All-Americans in defensive lineman Trey Barnes (2015), safety Darnell Woods (2013) and kicker Kenny Zoeller (2012).  The Winter era has seen Jared Garcia break the school record for touchdown receptions and Bryce Collins’ climb to 3,000 career rushing yards. Another high point came in 2013 when Concordia won its first six games of the season and jumped to No. 14 in the national coaches’ poll.

Winningest coaches in program history
1. Courtney Meyer (1990-2008) – 70-115-1
2. Larry Oetting (1977-89) – 63-64
3. Herb Meyer (1941-54) – 62-34-8
4. Walter Hellwege (1925-40) – 40-32-9
4. Vance Winter (2009-present) – 40-44 

The senior class
The current class of seniors has produced a four-year record of 24-17. Not since the 2000 through 2003 seasons has the program seen a better four-year run. The seniors on the 2003 squad helped the Bulldogs to a cumulative record of 27-16 and a co-GPAC championship in 2001. In terms of accolades, this year’s senior group is headed by 2015 second team All-American defensive end Trey Barnes, two-time first team all-conference running back Bryce Collins and 2015 second team all-GPAC choices in safety Le’Dontrae Gooden and linebacker Michael Hedlund (more on Hedlund below).

Collins ranks as the second leading rusher in the history of the program with 3,447 career rushing yards. Over his four seasons as a Bulldog, he’s posted single-season rushing totals of 704, 1,016, 946 and 811, respectively. Collins has found the end zone 36 times (34 rushing) throughout his career. He has also piled up more than 4,500 career all-purpose yards.

Barnes thrived after being moved to the defensive side of the ball. During his unique career, Barnes has totaled 18 sacks, 41.5 tackles for loss, 158 tackles, 575 rushing yards, 136 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. This season Barnes has registered eight sacks and 19 tackles for loss.

Gooden came to Concordia last fall after transferring from Southern Oregon University. He has amassed 122 tackles and seven interceptions in his two seasons as a Bulldog. Last season he intercepted five passes on his way to second team all-conference recognition.

Garcia resets career highs
Jared Garcia’s pass-catching talents have been a constant no matter who has thrown him the football over the past three seasons. In last week’s win at Dordt, Garcia caught eight passes for 98 yards and a touchdown, allowing him to set new single-season career highs for catches (52) and receiving yards (789). His 10 touchdown grabs put him one off his own school record that he set in 2014 as a freshman. From a program career perspective, Garcia ranks No. 1 in touchdown catches (29), No. 2 in receiving yards (2,152) and No. 4 in catches (137). Garcia will need a monster performance on Saturday to break the school’s single-season records for receptions and receiving yards (see below).

Concordia all-time receiving yards leaders
1. Ross Wurdeman (1998-01) – 2,458
2. Jared Garcia (2014-- ) – 2,152
3. Eric Pralle (1987-90) – 1,974
4. Travis Soukup (1991-94) – 1,880
5. Jim Young (1964-67) – 1,692 

Concordia all-time catches leaders
1. Ross Wurdeman (1998-01) – 168
2. Eric Pralle (1987-91) – 147
3. Dan Danielcyzk (1968-71) – 140
4. Jared Garcia (2014-- ) – 137
5. Travis Souckup (1991-94) – 115

Concordia single-season receiving records
Catches: 62, Eric Pralle (1990)
Yards: 951, Clarence Woods (1988)
Touchdowns: 11, Jared Garcia (2014) 

Hedlund records back-to-back 100-tackle seasons
By making 12 stops last week, senior linebacker Michael Hedlund became the first Bulldog in the GPAC era (2000-present) to record multiple 100-tackle seasons. Hedlund now has two of the six 100-tackle seasons by Concordia defenders since the GPAC first formed. The native of O’Neill, Neb., currently stands at 105 tackles, the same total he had last season, putting him five off the program GPAC-era record held by Erik DeHaven. In addition, Hedlund has made more tackles than any other player during Winter’s tenure as head coach. The converted quarterback garnered second team all-conference recognition last season.

100 tackle seasons, GPAC era
1. Erik DeHaven (2001) – 110
2. Michael Hedlund (2016) – 105
2. Michael Hedlund (2015) – 105
2. Josh Conrad (2000) – 105
5. Sean Stewart (2001) – 102
6. Troy Schlueter (2000) – 100

200+ career tackles, coached by Winter
Michael Hedlund (2013-16) – 259
Ben Klein (2008-11) – 246
Jerrod Fleming (2008-11) – 237
Tait Sibbel (2012-15) – 234
Langston Jones (2010-13) – 209 

Rarefied air
While Concordia has made more regular appearances in the top 25 over the past few seasons, it still has yet to finish a year ranked since the 2001 squad completed that campaign with a No. 7 national placement. A 7-3 final record would also mark the program’s highest win percentage in a season since the 2001 team went 10-2 overall.

HSH
Home has been sweet to Concordia so far. If they can defeat Hastings in the regular season finale, the Bulldogs would complete a perfect 5-0 home mark in 2016. The last time Concordia went undefeated at home occurred in 2000 when it won all six games played inside Bulldog Stadium. The 2001 co-GPAC championship team followed it up by going 5-1 at home. This year’s team has captured home victories over University of Saint Mary (Kan.), Northwestern, Briar Cliff and Midland. Dating back to last season, Concordia owns a five-game home win streak. The 2000-01 squads combined for the program’s longest home win streak during the GPAC era. They won nine home contests in a row.

Series vs. Hastings
The very first meeting between Concordia and Hastings took place in 1938 when the Broncos “B” team won, 12-0. According to data that goes back to 1946, Hastings has gone 34-13-1 in 48 matchups with the Bulldogs. Since the GPAC began in 2000, Concordia is 5-11 versus the Broncos. The Bulldogs are looking to make it two in a row over their rivals to the west following last season’s dominant 28-3 win over Hastings. In the 2015 meeting that took place in Seward, Concordia held the Bronco offense to a paltry 146 total yards. Trey Barnes came up with eight tackles (three for loss) and two sacks to lead the Bulldogs.

Scouting Hastings
Jordan Johnson gives Hastings one of the most exciting deep play threats in the nation. He has averaged 21.3 yards per catch on 41 receptions. With Johnson and running back Tahj Willingham starring on that side of the ball, the Broncos have been a solid offensive team that averages more than 400 yards per game. The struggles have come on defense for a unit that ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in terms of yards allowed per game. Hastings has surrendered more than 30 points in seven of its 10 games this season. Following a 6-4 record in 2014 and a 5-5 mark in 2015, the Broncos will finish with a losing record for just the second time in 10 years. Sixth-year head coach Tony Harper’s highest win totals were six in both 2011 and 2014.


Barnes and company send Winter, seniors out a winner
November 12, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Down 14 early in the third quarter, the 21st-ranked Concordia University football team turned to Trey Barnes and the defense in an effort to turn the tide on senior day. It worked. The Bulldogs stormed back while using a flurry of big plays on their way to a 31-28 victory inside Bulldog Stadium on a sunny and breezy Saturday afternoon.

The win appropriately capped the eight-year head coaching tenure of Vance Winter, who will step away from his post. The final season for Winter produced an overall mark of 7-3 and conference record of 5-3. No Concordia football team has posted a higher winning percentage since 2001.

“It shows a ton of character,” Winter said of the comeback. “I thought we were playing really tight in the first half. There were some plays out there we just didn’t quite make. We got a big response with the safety. Scoring on D was just a huge energizer for our team. This group weathers the storm. They keep fighting.”

In his final game as a Bulldog, Barnes put on a show in front of the hometown fans. The Seward High School product scored a touchdown on a 16-yard fumble return, forced a fumble on a sack and totaled three tackles for loss. Wait, there’s more. He booted punts of 75 and 69 yards while continually flipping the field. Then late in the game, he just about sealed it with an interception on a pass he got his hands on before the ball fell to the ground.

The eighth touchdown of Barnes’ career came soon after Hastings (4-7, 1-7 GPAC) failed to move the ball out of the shadow of its own goalpost. Leading 21-7, the Broncos saw their lead reduced by two points early in the third quarter when Patrick Skwara tackled Tahj Willingham for a safety. On the very next Hastings possession, Skwara met Willingham with a vicious hit that jarred the ball loose, allowing Barnes the chance to find the end zone.

“It’s a blessing to be honest,” Barnes said. “We have so many good people that I play next to. They make those plays possible.”

With 3:47 left in the third quarter, Concordia took the lead for good. It marched 76 yards on eight plays with the final one being a 10-yard Riley Wiltfong touchdown run. The two-point try was then converted when Jackson Hall found Jared Garcia on a reverse pass. Suddenly the Bulldogs led 24-21 thanks to a big third quarter effort.

Hastings showed some resiliency itself in battling back from a 31-21 disadvantage. Bronco quarterback Jason Gaines delivered a 12-yard touchdown pass to Willingham to complete a 51-yard scoring drive with 4:47 left in the fourth quarter. The Broncos then got one final possession while trailing 31-28. Hastings moved the ball 37 yards to its own 49, but it came up empty on fourth-and-one when Skwara brought the heat and forced an incomplete pass to finally put the game on ice.

Though Concordia allowed 399 yards to the Hastings offense, it found a way to overcome with big plays on both sides of the ball.

“This wasn’t the Bulldog team, especially defensively, that we’ve seen all year,” Barnes said of the early struggles. “We were kind of flat footed coming out. We fixed it up, talked about it halftime and got some momentum plays to get us going.”

The passing game sputtered much of the day for the Bulldogs, but quarterback TJ Austin electrified the crowd with his 65-yard touchdown run that bumped Concordia’s lead to 10 less than a minute into the fourth quarter. The quarterback duo of Austin and Wiltfong combined to run for 128 yards and two touchdowns on 19 attempts.

Once again, senior Bryce Collins churned out the tough yards on the ground. He rushed 18 times for 70 yards and a touchdown in his final game as a Bulldog. The native of Boerne, Texas, ended his career with more than 3,500 rushing yards (second in program history) and 37 total touchdowns. But this day was not about stats. The seniors wanted to win not just because it was their last chance as Bulldogs, but also to honor Winter.

“It was very important,” Collins said. “Coach puts in all the work and effort like we do during the offseason to make us better. Leaving him with 7-3 for his last coaching game at Concordia is incredible.”

Skwara’s big day featured 11 tackles (two for loss) and the aforementioned forced fumble. Corner Tarence Roby came up to make 10 tackles while linebacker Kordell Glause added eight tackles – two for loss.

The Broncos piled up 237 yards rushing. Jake Fowler led the ground attack with 123 yards and two touchdowns.

Barnes, Collins and the rest of the senior group that includes standout linebacker Michael Hedlund completed their careers with four-year records of 25-17. It’s a senior class that Winter was proud to take the field with together, one final time.

“They committed to a program that hadn’t had a winning season since 2001,” Winter said. “They bought into everything about our program and everything about our school. I couldn’t be more proud of that group and what they’re about. They’re going to be incredibly successful people.”

Winter went 41-44 over his eight seasons as head coach at Concordia. The program will have a new leader when it kicks off the 2017 season next fall.

With the win, the Bulldogs completed their first undefeated home season since 2000. Concordia won all five games played inside Bulldog Stadium in 2016.


Bulldogs move into top 20 in final regular-season coaches' poll
November 14, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – After capping the 2016 season with a come-from-behind 31-28 win over Hastings, the Concordia University football team moved up three spots in the NAIA Football Coaches’ Top 25 Poll released on Sunday. Concordia landed at No. 18 after holding steady at No. 21 the previous three weeks.

One more poll will be released this season after the NAIA Football Championship Series concludes. The Bulldogs will almost assuredly be inside the top 25 when the postseason rating is unveiled on Dec. 20. Concordia has not finished a season with a national ranking since the co-GPAC championship 2001 squad checked in at No. 7 in that season’s final poll.

Head coach Vance Winter’s squad has been a regular in the national poll this season, garnering rankings in eight of the 11 top-25 polls released in 2016. The Bulldogs vaulted to 16th in the ranking after beginning this season at 3-0.

The highest ranking achieved during Winter’s eight-year tenure was 14th following a 6-0 start to the 2013 season. Concordia has found itself ranked in the national poll 16 times during Winter’s reign. The year prior to Winter’s promotion to head coach, the Bulldogs won just one game.

The 2016 Bulldogs polished off an undefeated home season for the first time since 2000. Concordia toppled University of Saint Mary (Kan.), Northwestern, Briar Cliff, No. 22 Midland and Hastings this season inside Bulldog Stadium. The Bulldogs also won road games over Ottawa University (Kan.) and Dordt.

2016 Concordia rankings
Aug. 8 – RV
Sept. 12 – 20th
Sept. 19 – 16th
Sept. 26 – 21st
Oct. 3 – RV
Oct. 10 – 24th
Oct. 17 – NR
Oct. 24 – 21st
Oct. 31 – 21st
Nov. 7 – 21st
Nov. 13 – 18th


Barnes pulls in GPAC special teams honor
November 14, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – Trey Barnes put on a show in his final game in a Concordia football uniform. Following a career day as a punter in the 31-28 win over Hastings, Barnes picked up GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Special Teams Player of the Week recognition, as announced by the conference on Monday (Nov. 14).  Barnes also garnered GPAC defensive player of the week accolades on Oct. 24. This is the Seward native’s third career weekly award.

In the victory over Hastings, Barnes punted seven times for an average of 48.9 yards per attempt. He boomed a career long punt of 75 yards and added another that covered 69 yards. Four of his punts were downed inside the Bronco 20-yard line. With a punting average of 40.7 this season, Barnes ranks No. 1 in the GPAC and 10th nationally.

The Seward High School product was also a major pain for the Hastings offense. From his defensive end spot, Barnes registered seven tackles (three for loss), a sack, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. His 16-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the third quarter helped Concordia dig out of what had been a 21-7 deficit.

A second team All-American in 2015, Barnes is poised for more postseason honors this year. Barnes completed his senior season with 68 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, nine sacks, two forces fumbles and an interception. He leads the nation in tackles for loss per game (2.2).

“It’s been a pretty incredible career for Trey Barnes,” said head coach Vance Winter following last week’s game. “He’s the best athlete that I’ve ever coached. He does so many things well and he’s a winner. I love the guy to death.”

Barnes and the Bulldogs jumped up three spots to No. 18 in the NAIA national coaches’ poll released on Sunday. Concordia (7-3, 5-3 GPAC) will finish a season with a national ranking for the first time since 2001.


Winter named coach of the year; 13 Bulldogs tabbed all-conference
November 15, 2016 

SEWARD, Neb. – An impressive haul of all-conference honors flooded in for the Concordia University football program after it completed its most successful season since 2001. Capping off his eighth and final season as head football coach for the Bulldogs, Vance Winter collected some hardware. The conference named Winter the Hauff Mid-America/GPAC Coach of the Year.

In addition, Concordia garnered five first team and five second team all-conference selections (see full list at bottom). Four Bulldogs also achieved honorable mention status.

After a second-straight dominant season, senior Trey Barnes found himself on the first team for a second year in a row. The Seward High School product is a first teamer at both defensive line and punter. In his final collegiate season, Barnes totaled 68 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, nine sacks, two forced fumbles, an interception and a fumble return for a touchdown. He led the nation in stops in the backfield per game (2.2). As a punter, Barnes topped the conference with an average of 40.7. This week he was also named GPAC special teams player of the week after a career day punting the football. One of his punts went a career long 75 yards.

Receiver Jared Garcia also makes his second-straight appearance on the GPAC’s first team. He was a second team all-league choice as a freshman in 2014. This season the native of Pearland, Texas, posted career highs for catches (55) and receiving yards (825) while also grabbing 10 touchdown receptions. In 2016 Garcia became the program’s all-time touchdown catches leader. Through three seasons as a Bulldog, Garcia has 140 receptions for 2,188 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Also on the defense’s first team, senior linebacker Michael Hedlund moved up the ranks after a second team all-conference honor as a junior in 2015. Hedlund led all GPAC players with 107 tackles in 2016. It was the second-straight 100-tackle campaign for the O’Neill, Neb., native. Hedlund also picked off three passes this season. He concluded his career with a Winter-era high of 261 tackles. In addition, he recorded 11.5 tackles for loss and nine interceptions over his career.

An honorable mention choice in 2015, junior cornerback D’Mauria Martin has landed on the first team this year. Martin teamed up with Tarence Roby, the corner opposite of him, to hold opposing offenses to an average of 182.6 passing yards per game in 2016. Martin, who hails from Converse, Texas, made 24 tackles, intercepted a pass and broke up seven throws in 2016. Roby, a Rockford, Ill., native, has been named first team all-conference as a kick returner and second team All-GPAC as a defensive back. Roby recorded 39 tackles and five pass breakups. On kickoffs, he averaged 27.7 yards per return (11th best in the nation) while taking one kick 91 yards for a touchdown.

After first team All-GPAC honors as a sophomore and junior, running back Bryce Collins is on this year’s second team offense. As a senior, the Boerne, Texas, native rushed 201 times for 881 yards and eight touchdowns while also catching 20 passes for 176 yards. His 3,547 career rushing yards rank second all-time in program history. His standout career also included 37 total touchdowns and 4,694 all-purpose yards over 40 games played.

The GPAC’s second team defense is loaded with Bulldogs. In addition to Roby, senior defensive backs Cory Evans and Le’Dontrae Gooden made the list. So too did senior nose guard Ron Jackson. Gooden is making his second-straight appearance on the second team. Gooden (Sacramento, Calif.) ranked third on the team with 64 tackles. He added two interceptions. Evans (West Tampa, Fla.) made 39 tackles and picked off two passes. A run stuffer up the middle, Jackson (Houston, Texas) notched 38 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, and forced a fumble.

The honorable mention listed included two starting offensive linemen in sophomores Grady Koch (Doniphan, Neb.) and Matt Romero (Centennial, Colo.), who helped pave the way for Collins and the running game. Senior defensive lineman Nolan Schroeder (Davenport, Neb.) and senior fullback Erik Small (Los Alamitos, Calif.) were the other two Bulldogs to receive honorable mention. Schroeder contributed 22 tackles, two sacks and four pass breakups. Small’s one catch this season went for a touchdown.

In his eight seasons as head coach, Winter went a combined 41-44. He produced winnings seasons in three of his final four years. The Bulldogs appeared at No. 18 in the NAIA national coaches’ poll released on Sunday and will finish a season with a national ranking for the first time since 2001. Winter ends his career at Concordia ranked fourth among the nine head coaches in program history in terms of overall wins. Winter is the first Bulldog head football coach to be named conference coach of the year since Courtney Meyer in 2001.

2016 GPAC All-Conference

COACH OF THE YEAR: Vance Winter

FIRST TEAM
Trey Barnes, DL/P
Jared Garcia, WR
Michael Hedlund, LB
D’Mauria Martin, DB
Tarence Roby, KR

SECOND TEAM
Bryce Collins, RB
Cory Evans, DB
Le’Dontrae Gooden, DB
Ron Jackson, DL
Tarence Roby, DB

HONORABLE MENTION
Grady Koch, OL
Matt Romero, OL
Nolan Schroeder, DL
Erik Small, FB