|Aug. 25||(13) Benedictine College||Seward, Neb.||L 37-45|
|Sept. 8||Dakota Wesleyan *||Seward, Neb.||L 23-26|
|Sept. 15||Hastings College *||Hastings, Neb.||L 26-34|
|Sept. 22||Dordt College *||Seward, Neb.||W 52-12|
|Sept. 29||Dakota State Univ.||Madison, S.D.||W 28-7|
|Oct. 6||Briar Cliff Univ. *||Sioux City, Iowa||W 45-12|
|Oct. 13||(11) Northwestern College *||Seward, Neb.||W 17-16|
|Oct. 20||Nebraska Wesleyan *||Lincoln, Neb.||L 6-16|
|Oct. 27||Midland University *||Seward, Neb.||W 23-14|
|Nov. 3||(4) Morningside College *||Sioux City, Iowa||L 0-50|
|Nov. 10||(20) Doane College *||Crete, Neb.||L 7-17|
|1||John Hunter||DB||5-10||185||Jr.||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|1||Sandy Fisher||WR/P||6-0||180||Fr.||Lakewood, Colo.|
|2||Mitch Walkup||K||6-0||190||So.||York, Neb.|
|2||Nakemm Evans||LB||6-2||225||So.||Lincoln, Neb.|
|3||Noah Smith||WR||5-10||190||Jr.||Largo, Fla.|
|4||Colten Quinabo||WR||6-0||190||Sr.||Wailuku, Hawaii|
|4||Andrew Jacobsen||CB||5-11||190||Fr.||Sidney, Neb.|
|5||Jeff Balz||WR||5-11||180||Sr.||Elkhorn, Neb.|
|5||Adam Meirose||K/P||5-10||200||Fr.||Lincoln, Neb.|
|6||Brad Schick||S||6-1||180||Jr.||Battle Creek, Neb.|
|6||Davon Hodge||ATH||6-0||190||Fr.||Lancaster, Texas|
|7||Zach Moje||K||5-10||165||Fr.||Pilger, Neb.|
|7||Avery Oliver||LB||6-1||210||Fr.||San Antonio, Texas|
|8||Zack Warner||WR||5-11||195||Sr.||Palmyra, Neb.|
|8||Daniel Moore||K||5-10||180||So.||Papillion, Neb.|
|9||Darnell Woods||DB||6-3||205||Jr.||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|9||Marshall Grimmett||QB||6-2||195||Fr.||Castle Pines, Colo.|
|10||Von Thomas||QB||6-2||200||R-So.||Miami, Fla.|
|10/13||Trey Haggerty||CB||5-10||175||Fr.||Cedar Hill, Texas|
|11||Garrett Schimonitz||QB||5-11||175||Fr.||Paxton, Neb.|
|11||Ryan Coffey||DB||6-0||190||Jr.||Columbus, Neb.|
|12||Justin Haun||QB||6-1||205||R-Fr.||St. Louis, Mo.|
|13||Brandon Namuth||QB||6-2||190||Fr.||Lawellen, Neb.|
|14||Chase Murman||QB||6-3||200||Fr.||Glenvil, Neb.|
|15||Joshua Royer||DB||5-10||195||Fr.||Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.|
|16||Garrett Folchert||QB||5-11||180||Fr.||Ogallala, Neb.|
|17||Deleon Dallas||WR||6-4||220||Sr.||San Diego, Calif.|
|18||James Ferguson||WR||5-8||175||Jr.||Columbus, Neb.|
|19||Josh Brown||TE||6-4||230||Jr.||Aurora, Colo.|
|20||Mitch Reed||RB||5-10||190||So.||Genoa, Neb.|
|21||Derek Blessing||CB||5-10||205||Jr.||Ogallala, Neb.|
|22||Jake Gieselman||LB||5-8||205||Jr.||Malcolm, Neb.|
|23||Spencer Zysset||DB||6-0||170||So.||Hastings, Neb.|
|24||Akeem Christian-Starks||RB||5-10||200||Sr.||Santa Ana, Calif.|
|25||Landon Oelke||CB||6-0||190||So.||Dalhart, Texas|
|26||Aaron Walker||LB||5-10||185||R-Fr.||Memphis, Tenn.|
|27||Victor Brown||RB||6-1||190||Fr.||Houston, Texas|
|27||Erich Strehlke||LB||5-10||205||Fr.||Mayer, Minn.|
|28||Evan Carroll||WR||5-11||190||So.||Malcolm, Neb.|
|29||Tait Sibbel||S||6-2||195||Fr.||O'Neill, Neb.|
|30||Tyler Aden||RB||5-10||190||Fr.||Gothenburg, Neb.|
|30||Collin Christiansen||LB||6-1||190||So.||Palmer, Alaska|
|31||Michael Grau||K||Fr.||Lawton, Iowa|
|31||Jared Leifeld||TB||5-10||215||Fr.||Humphrey, Neb.|
|32||Taylor Dudley||P||6-0||180||Fr.||Loungmount, Colo.|
|33||Steven Hickman||WR||5-10||185||Fr.||Houston, Texas|
|33||Drew Baxter||S||5-11||200||Jr.||Rockwall, Texas|
|34||Aaron Gillory||RB||5-11||230||R-Jr.||Houston, Texas|
|34/48||Chris Garcia||LB||5-10||190||Fr.||El Paso, Texas|
|35||Devin Elley||TB||5-11||210||So.||Hastings, Neb.|
|36||Joe Marshall||P||6-0||195||Jr.||Malcolm, Neb.|
|37||Clay Mauro||LB||6-0||220||Fr.||Ely, Nev.|
|38||Tyler Pflueger||LB||6-0||215||Fr.||Norfolk, Neb.|
|39||Tom Malander||LB||6-0||200||Sr.||Fullerton, Neb.|
|40||Tyler Broekemeier||LB||5-11||205||Jr.||Elk Point, S.D.|
|41||Michael Carroll||LB||5-11||210||So.||Aliso Viejo, Calif.|
|42||Langston Jones||LB||6-2||225||Jr.||Loveland, Colo.|
|43||Adam Bailey||WR||5-11||185||Fr.||North Platte, Neb.|
|44||Will Cox||TE||6-3||235||Sr.||Paducah, Ky.|
|45||Geoff Kleinschmit||S||6-0||195||So.||Croston, Neb.|
|45||Robert Garcia||WR||6-1||185||Fr.||Santa Fe, Texas|
|46||Brennan Talcott||LB||5-10||185||So.||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|47||Josh Slechta||TE||6-3||220||Fr.||Kennard, Neb.|
|48||John Nunes||RB||5-10||175||Fr.||Baltimore, Md.|
|49||J.T. Beck||K||5-10||165||Fr.||Seward, Neb.|
|50||Josh Powell||OL||6-0||260||R-So.||Kennesaw, Neb.|
|51||Jadon Schneider||LB||6-0||205||Fr.||Millarville, AB, Canada|
|52||Kyle Little||LB||6-2||230||Sr.||Brock, Neb.|
|53||Adam Aschenbrenner||OL||6-0||265||So.||Malcolm, Neb.|
|54||Colton Schneider||LB||6-2||215||Jr.||Millarville, AB, Canada|
|54||Cody Fitch||LB||6-3||190||Fr.||Creighton, Neb.|
|55||Colin Elley||LB||5-11||205||So.||Hastings, Neb.|
|56||Dylan Heithoff||LB||6-5||245||Jr.||Elgin, Neb.|
|57||Michael Voelker||DL||6-3||255||Sr.||Linn, Kan.|
|58||Micah Pomerenke||OL||6-3||260||Sr.||Seward, Neb.|
|59||Cody Hawk||DL||6-2||260||Jr.||Dodge, Neb.|
|60||Seth Schlenger||OL||6-1||250||Fr.||Colorado Springs, Colo.|
|61||Michael Hernandez||OL||5-11||250||Fr.||El Paso, Texas|
|62||Adam Faulstich||OL||6-1||270||Sr.||Concordia, Mo.|
|63||Dylan Klassen||OL||6-1||270||Jr.||Humphrey, Neb.|
|64||Alex Callan||OL||6-3||260||Sr.||Wahoo, Neb.|
|65||Brian Quinn||OL||6-1||270||R-So.||Bellevue, Neb.|
|66||Zach Lurz||LB||6-1||205||Fr.||Torrington, Wyo.|
|67||Austin Faulstich||OL||5-11||240||So.||Concordia, Mo.|
|68||Glennon Manninger||OL||6-2||260||So.||Omaha, Neb.|
|69||Justin Kathman||DL||6-2||270||So.||Juniata, Neb.|
|70||Sawyer Birtell||OL||6-7||290||So.||Madison, Neb.|
|71||Adam Lueders||DL||6-7||285||Jr.||Johnson, Neb.|
|72||Theo Sheridan||OL||6-1||275||So.||Long Beach, Calif.|
|73||Joel Ripke||TE||6-7||260||So.||Lafayette, Ind.|
|74||Brian Gorman||OL||6-0||230||Fr.||Colorado Springs, Colo.|
|75||Ben Balduc||OL||6-1||300||Fr.||Roanoke, Texas|
|76||Darvin Woods||DL||6-2||265||Fr.||Phoenix, Ariz.|
|77||Charlie Oberkrom||OL||6-2||310||So.||Jefferson City, Mo.|
|78||Joseph Koenig||DL||6-2||270||So.||Orlando, Fla.|
|79||Mitchell Cherney||OL||6-7||299||Jr.||Burnsville, Minn.|
|80||Mitch Kreifels||WR||6-6||200||So.||Lincoln, Neb.|
|81||Riley Herren||WR||6-0||185||Fr.||Lone Tree, Colo.|
|82||Jimmie Bunting||TE||6-3||260||Jr.||Brock, Neb.|
|83||Danny Hassler||TE||6-1||220||Jr.||Dodge, Neb.|
|84||Danny Ruggeri||WR||6-2||200||Fr.||St. Louis, Mo.|
|85||Jordan Larrington||TE||6-3||220||Jr.||Elm Creek, Neb.|
|86||Kenny Zoeller||K||6-0||180||Sr.||Spring, Texas|
|87||Derek Klaus||WR||6-0||185||Jr.||Beatrice, Neb.|
|88||Cody Eitzmann||WR||5-9||155||R-Fr.||Deshler, Neb.|
|89||Clinton Gardels||TE||6-6||205||Fr.||Wilcox, Neb.|
|90||Caleb Haack||TE||6-1||185||Fr.||Omaha, Neb.|
|91||Jordan Kollbaum||LB||6-1||185||Fr.||Cole Camp, Mo.|
|92||Andrew Crist||TE||6-2||220||Fr.||Springfield, Mo.|
|93||Adam Borne||DL||5-8||240||So.||Frisco, Texas|
|95||Tanner Moyer||LB||6-0||200||Fr.||Fremont, Neb.|
|96||Michael Gill||DL||5-11||235||Fr.||Ogallala, Neb.|
|97||Kyle Rakow||DL||6-2||240||So.||Pleasant Dale, Neb.|
|98||Alex Melius||DL||6-3||245||So.||Lincoln, Neb.|
|RS||Daniel Chrismer||OL||5-11||235||Sr.||St. Charles, Mo.|
|RS||Kade Clark||TE||6-2||205||So.||Kennesaw, Neb.|
|RS||Bobby Cody||DL||6-2||255||Sr.||Alamosa, Colo.|
|RS||Isaiah Garza||DL||5-9||225||So.||Hailey, Idaho|
|RS||Eric Hyde||FB||5-8||195||Sr.||Lincoln, Neb.|
|Tobias Martin||S||6-0||195||Jr.||Wahoo, Neb.|
|RS||Jordan Miller||OL||5-11||230||So.||Tomball, Texas|
|Lukas Vigil||WR||5-9||165||Sr.||Durango, Colo.|
Head Coach: Vance Winter
Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator: Curran White
Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs: Patrick Daberkow
Defensive Line/Special Teams/JV Head Coach: Corby Osten
Wide Receivers/Strength & Conditioning: James Landers
Inside Linebackers/JV Defensive Coordinator: Trent Laune
9 MAR 2012
The Concordia University, Nebraska football program is proud to announce the hiring of Curran White as the Bulldogs new assistant head coach/offensive coordinator.
White comes to Concordia after spending the last six seasons as the offensive line coach/run game coordinator at Missouri Valley College (MVC). Prior to that, coach White spent four seasons at Wayne State College, first as graduate assistant (2001-02), then as an assistant coach (2003-05).
“We are very excited that coach White has accepted our offer to be the offensive coordinator of the Bulldogs,” said Concordia head coach Vance Winter. “I have always admired the way his guys play and I am so excited to see our offensive develop under his leadership.”
In addition to coach White’s on-field responsibilities at MVC, he served as the Vikings recruiting coordinator. During his tenure with MVC, White helped lead the Vikings to a combined 55-14 record and four NAIA Championships Series berths. Last season, coach White’s rushing attack averaged 224 yards per game.
Coach White’s history of developing his players includes seven MVC linemen who have earned First Team All-Heart of America Athletic Conference selections since 2006.
“His strengths as a football coach consistently show up on film when you watch his players,” added Winter. “Curran is extremely prepared for this opportunity, and the thing that most excites me from a football perspective is that he is a great teacher.”
Winter and White first met on the coaching staff at Wayne State in 2002. At the time, Winter was the linebackers coach, while White was worked with receivers and offensive line.
“I am excited at the opportunity to come to Concordia. The campus community and the city of Seward are a great fit for me and my family,” said White. “I have a good relationship with coach Winter and I have confidence in the direction of the program under his leadership. I look forward to joining the staff and preparing the team for a great 2012 season.”
“While [coach White’s] body of work on the field has been stellar, I am more impressed with the many positive things I know about Curran as a person and staff member,” concluded Winter. “He will be a great mentor to our players and I am also very confident he will be a tremendous asset to our program, campus and community.”
White earned his bachelor’s degree from Wayne State in 2001 in business administration and finance. He went on to earn his master’s in sports management at Wayne State in 2004. During his playing days, White was a two-year starter at Wayne State after transferring from Santa Rosa Junior College in 1998. White started 22-games in two years at center for Wayne State, earning All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Honorable Mention and Academic All-Conference in 1999.
Curran White’s Coaching Career
2012 Concordia, Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator
2005-11 Missouri Valley College, Offensive Line Coach/Run Coordinator/Recruiting Coordinator
2003-05 Wayne State, Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
2001-02 Wayne State, Graduate Assistant
22 MAY 2012
Harms coached at Concordia from 1962-69, taking over as the head coach in 1964. During his six seasons at the helm the Bulldogs posted a 25-27-3 record. A highly decorated winner, Ron Harms was named the NAIA Coach of the Year, the AFCA Regional Coach of the Year, the NAIA District Coach of the Year, the CNN NCAA Division II Coach of the Year and the Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year. Harms enjoyed a 33-year career in which he won 14 conference championships and one NAIA national title.
Harms' migrated to Adams State College in 1970 and again won a conference title in his third year on campus. Harms earned a 21-14-2 record in four seasons as the Grizzlies' head coach.
In 1979, Harms experienced ultimate success in his first year at Texas A&M - Kingsville, posting a 12-1 record while winning the NAIA national championship and the Lone Star Conference title. Over the following 20 seasons, Harms guided the Javelinas to 10 Lone Star Conference crowns, including six consecutive from 1992-97, and 12 seasons of eight or more wins. In all, he pushed Texas A&M - Kingsville to a 172-72 record before his retirement following the 1999 season. Harms completed his career with a 218-113-5 (65.6%) record.
Harms was a member of the American Football Coaches Association and served on many NCAA committees. He was a board member of Crime Stoppers and served as the president of the congregations of St. Paul Lutheran Church of Kingsville, Texas, and Faith Church of Aransas Pass, Texas. He is a member of the Lone Star Hall of Honor and the Texas A&M - Kingsville Javelina Hall of Fame.
The Divisional College Football Hall of Fame considers players and coaches from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Divisions II, III, and the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) for induction. This year's class will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame during the Enshrinement Festival, July 20-21, in South Bend, Ind. The class includes:
2012 DIVISIONAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS
16 JUL 2012
By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director
A 13-7 Bulldog victory over Peru State on Aug. 28, 2010, came at a heavy price for Concordia's Aaron Gillory. The highly-touted redshirt freshman running back, playing in his first collegiate game, suffered an injury that would keep the Houston native sidelined for two full seasons.
“It was a short-yardage play where I wedged through the middle and made contact with a linebacker,” Gillory said. “And then one of the defensive lineman came from my back left side and either got tripped up or lost his balance and rolled into my left leg as I was planted and buckled me.”
The start of a promising college career was quickly put on hold for Gillory, who would soon find out that he had torn his left ACL, MCL and lateral meniscus on his fourth career rushing attempt. Little did he know at the time that the injury would lead him down a long road to recovery that would include five surgeries and numerous setbacks. It became painfully obvious that the blow would severely try his will to return to the gridiron.
The story of Gillory’s arrival on the practice field for full-contact participation in the spring of 2012 is one of triumph, toughness and perseverance. Just months ago, the 5-foot-11, 230-pound junior doubted whether it would be possible, but that didn’t stop him from doing everything he could to get back to football shape.
“I had a little doubt once I had to have my last surgery,” Gillory said. “Because I just planned and planned on playing this last season, and I was like, ‘well, I have to have another surgery.’ Once I had it and I started rehabbing, I was just having a lot of trouble (with the pain).
“But that was my goal was ‘I will play again.’ Even though other things happen, like I had to have (my ACL) taken out, ‘I will play again.’”
Gillory found inspiration in his now 37-year-old brother Ronald, who Gillory says has been on crutches since four years of age due to a disease called McCune-Albright syndrome, which is commonly associated with softer, fibrous bone tissue. Relatively speaking, Gillory’s knee issues did not seem so rough.
“Compared to what he’s been through, mine was just a little blip,” Gillory said. “It was nothing. Some people were like, ‘I don’t know why you would want to play again. That seems so awful.’ But there are people that go through much worse stuff.”
Gillory finds strength in just how normal a life his elder brother lives despite being legally disabled.
“He definitely had a big part in the way I handled it all,” Gillory said. “Just seeing him, he’s scarred up all down his legs. It’s a one-in-a-million disease that he has.
“But he doesn’t let his disability hold him back at all. He does anything and everything that I can do, so it’s pretty cool.”
Gillory credits the overwhelming support he received from his brother, the rest of his family, coaches, teammates and the Seward community for helping him get past the doubts that started to creep in only a couple weeks after a successful surgery in the fall of 2010. Abnormal draining of his knee led him back to the doctor for what was diagnosed as a staph infection, which required him to go back under the knife immediately. Gillory had surgery on consecutive days to clean up his knee.
But draining persisted and a fourth surgery was necessary to remove the ACL altogether. The procedure went well and Gillory decided to try to give it a go in the spring of 2011 without the benefit of an ACL in his left knee. The reoccurrence of pain led to another examination that revealed damage to his meniscus. In August of 2011, Gillory went back to the operating table to get his ACL replaced and his meniscus cleaned up in hopes of making it back in 2012.
Now it appears his resilience is paying off.
“He’s worked so hard to get back to where he’s at,” head coach Vance Winter said. “I don’t know many young men that would probably be able to stick it out through the stuff he’s been through. He looked great this spring and he’s put himself in great position.”
The former University of Houston walk on football player has trained aggressively since his last surgery and is nearing 100 percent. Gillory figures to be a key cog in new offensive coordinator Curran White’s spread rushing attack. Gillory even talked about his hopes of being a team leader and putting up healthy rushing totals in 2012 with his physical running style.
“We are really excited about what Aaron can do this fall,” White said. “He is going to be a big component of what we are trying to accomplish offensively. He had a nice spring. I felt like he showed a great combination of speed and power. He is probably the strongest guy in our program and he is a load to try and bring down. Aaron has really battled and worked incredibly hard to get to this point and we feel like he could have a big year.”
Winter, who enters his fourth year at the helm of the program in 2012, has been thoroughly impressed by Gillory’s work ethic and determination.
“He kept an amazingly positive attitude throughout,” Winter said. “He’s been through a ton of trials. God has tested him in a variety of ways and he has been an amazingly positive and supportive teammate throughout the whole process. I just pray that he gets some fulfillment out of this year because he’s worked so hard. He’s just been working out like a crazy man to get back.”
The chiseled Gillory shows none of the pain nor anguish one might expect from such a grueling and mentally trying battle with knee injuries. He believes it is finally his time to shine.
18 JUL 2012
Junior-to-be Dylan Heithoff has been named a West Region NAIA Preseason All-Star by USA Football News. The outside linebacker and Elgin, Neb., native is one of 16 student-athletes from the Great Plains Athletic Conference selected by USA Football News.
"Dylan is a guy we expect to be one of the top defensive players in the conference,” head football coach Vance Winter said. “He has an ability to make impact plays and our defensive coaches will put him in a great position to be that type of player."
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Heithoff recorded 42 tackles, 9.5 for loss, and forced one fumble in 2011. His three sacks tied for third most on the team. Following the 2011 season, Heithoff earned GPAC Second Team All-Conference honors.
To view complete NAIA all-region selections by USA Football News, click here.
02 AUG 2012
Head coach Vance Winter’s Bulldogs have been picked to finish eighth in the Great Plains Athletic Conference by both the coaches and the media, the GPAC announced Thursday at the league’s football media day held at the Country Inn & Suites Hotel in Lincoln, Neb.
Concordia also landed at No. 8 in the GPAC at the conclusion of the 2011 season after a 3-6 conference mark. The Bulldogs began league play at 3-1 before losing their final five games of the season.
But Concordia figures to have an improved squad now in year four of Winter’s tenure. An upgrade in talent has the Bulldogs’ head coach optimistic about the 2012 season.
“We really like our roster,” Winter said during Thursday’s press conference. “We feel like as we’ve grinded away and worked at this for three years, we feel like this is the most talented overall roster we’ve had.”
The revamped Bulldog offense led by new offensive coordinator Curran White emerged as a topic of conversation on Thursday with Winter at the podium. Without giving too much information about the system away, Winter responded to questions about the offensive changes.
“Everybody up here probably has a good idea of what Missouri Valley (White’s previous coaching stop) has run the past few years. We’re very similar,” Winter said. “A lot of similar traits offensively. There’s some new wrinkles Coach White has added to base around our personnel, but no more option.”
One of the main points of emphasis behind the new offense is the need to get the ball in the hands of playmakers like senior receiver Colten Quinabo (Wailuku, Hawaii), who Winter praised for his great spring performance.
“I think everybody works for that 50-50 (pass-run balance),” Winter said. “Still, we’re not going to be a run-and-shoot football team. We want to be able to run the ball. I just think we needed to find a way to use our athletes better. We need to find a way to use our athletes and spread out the field more. I think we’ve got some guys that have some ability to where we can obviously move the chains better than we have the past few years.”
Despite the losses of all-conference standouts Jerrod Fleming, Benjamin Klein and Derek Rodine on defense, Concordia expects to have a strong unit once again. Linebacker Dylan Heithoff and defensive lineman Michael Voelker will anchor that side of the ball under the direction of defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow.
“We’re short with experienced depth at certain positions, but our expectations defensively are still very high,” Winter said. “I think Coach Daberkow and his staff will have those guys playing fast and physical week after week, and we’ll get a great group out there.
“Defensively, we feel like we have some difference-maker type guys at each position group.”
The media placed defending GPAC champion Morningside atop its poll with 76 points and five first-place votes. The coaches gave the top nod to Northwestern, which garnered 78 points and six first-place votes.
Briar Cliff and Dordt were the only programs picked to finish lower than Concordia by the coaches and media, reflecting the final 2011 standings.
Doane dedicates season to Cody Fanning: Doane head football coach Matt Franzen and his Tiger squad are dedicating their 2012 season to former starting defensive back Cody Fanning, who died in late April due to injuries he sustained in an automobile accident. In his Thursday press conference, Franzen said that Fanning’s mother was “blown away” by a letter of condolence she received from Vance Winter. “I just had so much respect for Cody,” Winter said. “He represented what small college football is all about.” Fanning would have been entering his senior year at Doane this fall.
GPAC Preseason Football Coaches’ Poll
*first-place votes in parentheses
1. Northwestern – 78 points (6)
2. Morningside – 76 (4)
3. Hastings – 53
T4. Dakota Wesleyan – 51
T4. Doane – 51
T4. Midland – 51
7. Nebraska Wesleyan – 38
8. Concordia – 24
9. Briar Cliff – 16
10. Dordt – 12
GPAC Preseason Football Media Poll
*first-place votes in parentheses
1. Morningside – 76 (5)
2. Northwestern – 74 (3)
3. Doane – 60
4. Hastings – 49
5. Midland – 47
6. Nebraska Wesleyan – 45
7. Dakota Wesleyan – 34
8. Concordia – 31
9. Briar Cliff – 15
10. Dordt – 9
21 AUG 2012
At a glance:
2011 Record: 4-7 Overall; 3-6 Great Plains Athletic Conference
Head Coach: Vance Winter
Record at School: 11-21 (three years)
Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 6, Special Teams – 2
Key Offensive Returners: OL Adam Faulstich, RB Aaron Gillory, QB Justin Haun, OL Dylan Klassen, WR Colten Quinabo, QB Von Thomas, K Kenny Zoeller
Key Defensive Returners: S Drew Baxter, CB Derek Blessing, OLB Dylan Heithoff, ILB Langston Jones, ILB Kyle Little, OLB Tom Malander, DL Michael Voelker, CB Darnell Woods
Key Losses: RB Ryan Adams, LB Jerrod Fleming, DB Benjamin Klein, DL Derek Rodine, QB Cohl Tufford, OL Charles Washington
2011 GPAC All-Conference (*denotes returnee): Ryan Adams (Honorable Mention), Heath Broekemeier (Honorable Mention), Jerrod Fleming (First Team), *Dylan Heithoff (Second Team), *Langston Jones (Honorable Mention), Benjamin Klein (First Team), *Tom Malander (Honorable Mention), Derek Rodine (Second Team), Nate Sindt (Honorable Mention), *Michael Voelker (Honorable Mention), Charles Washington (Second Team), Darnell Woods (Honorable Mention)
The buzz surrounding Bulldog football since spring camp has centered largely upon the new offensive scheme brought in by first-year offensive coordinator Curran White, who previously served as the offensive line coach/run game coordinator at Missouri Valley College. Gone is the triple option in favor of a more wide-open spread offense.
“I thought our transition was overwhelmingly positive in the spring,” head coach Vance Winter said. “We didn’t know how it was going to go in terms of installing an entire system in the spring, and Coach White was hired in March. It was hectic and fast. Our guys did a great job in learning the system.
“It was by far our best spring since we’ve been here.”
The Bulldogs hope this approach helps them improve upon last season’s averages of 16.7 points and 249.5 yards of total offense per game during a 4-7 2011 season that included a 3-6 Great Plains Athletic Conference mark. Concordia especially struggled down the stretch, losing its last five games in which it managed to score a combined 40 points.
Within their new offensive style, the Bulldogs hope to get the ball in the hands of 6-foot senior receiver Colten Quinabo more often. The Wailuku, Hawaii, native caught 18 passes for a team-leading 253 yards during his junior campaign in 2011. Quinabo had his best day against then No. 6-ranked Morningside on Nov. 5 when he hauled in six catches for 100 yards, providing a glimpse of the kind of weapon he can be in 2012.
“Colten had an outstanding spring and was really able to show his talents in the new offensive system,” Winter said. “We expect Colten to be a major focal point of our offensive improvement this fall.”
Winter believes the new system is well-suited for the rest of his offensive personnel as well. Whether it be sophomore Von Thomas or redshirt freshman Justin Haun at the quarterback position, Bulldog fans should expect to see more of an aerial attack in 2012. Both Thomas, who saw action in nine games last season, and Haun impressed throughout spring and fall camp, according to Winter.
However, the increased emphasis on throwing the football does not mean White will shy away from establishing the running game. The return of bruising junior running back Aaron Gillory from an ACL injury gives Concordia a potential workhorse feature back. The former University of Houston walk on was a prized member of Winter’s 2010 recruiting haul.
Creating room for Gillory to run will be an offensive line led by four returning starters, including senior Adam Faulstich and junior Dylan Klassen. Guard Josh Powell, out in 2011 due to injury, improves the interior of the line.
The offensive front, with more simplified duties, picked up White’s scheme quickly in the spring.
“I was really pleased with the progress of the offense this spring,” White said. “We tried to be aggressive with our installation schedule and they had a lot of new stuff thrown at them in a short time period. They did a great job picking up a new system and new terminology. We were able to get the bulk of our playbook put in. We have some bright guys so they are quick learners.”
On the other side of the ball, Concordia has the makings of another stout unit under the guidance of third-year defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow. The Bulldogs return stalwart junior outside linebacker Dylan Heithoff (GPAC Second Team All-Conference in 2011) and senior Michael Voelker (GPAC Honorable Mention All-Conference), who aided a defense that finished a respectable 27th nationally in rush defense (116.5) and 29th in total defense (309.4).
The return of Heithoff and Voelker eases the pain of losing leading tackler Jerrod Fleming from the linebacker corps and steady defensive back Ben Klein.
“Dylan is a guy we expect to be one of the top defensive players in the conference,” Winter said. “He has an ability to make impact plays and our defensive coaches will put him in a great position to be that type of player.
“Michael is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the entire conference. He has really put on good size this offseason and I am excited to see what he will do this fall.”
Voelker, who has been a mainstay on the Bulldog defensive front since arriving at Concordia, gave high praise to Heithoff. Voelker shares Winter’s enthusiasm for the kind of talent Heithoff has displayed. With Voelker eating up space in the interior of the 3-4 defense and Heithoff making plays on the edge, the Bulldogs are excited about their defense despite key losses like Fleming.
“We’ve got a lot of room for improvement,” Voelker said. “We lost some really good guys from last year. We have to replace them, but I think we can. The biggest improvement we can make is finishing games and making sure we shut them down. There were a few games were we showed we can really stop everyone and there were a few games where we lost our identity.”
Other impact returnees on defense include safety Drew Baxter (53 tackles in 2011), cornerback Darnell Woods and linebackers Tom Malander, Langston Jones and Kyle Little. Jones, Malander and Woods were each recognized as Honorable Mention All-Conference by the GPAC last season.
On special teams, senior kicker Kenny Zoeller looks to improve upon his 6-for-15 performance on field goal tries last season. Junior punter Joe Marshall (34.0 average on 70 punts in 2011) also returns, giving the Bulldogs an experienced kicking game.
The 2012 squad will get a boost from its freshman class, five to 10 of which Winter believes have an opportunity to see the field immediately.
If the spring and early part of fall camp is any indication, Concordia appears primed to enjoy its first .500 or better season since 2004.
“Personally, I think we can be on the higher end (of the GPAC),” Voelker said. “I know we have the talent. We just have to find a way to get it all together and get over the mountain that we’ve been climbing. It’s been a long climb, but we’re right there. I know we can be in the upper half of our conference.
“Once we get there, it will feel sweet.”
The Bulldogs open their season Saturday at home against No. 13 Benedictine (Kan.). Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.
26 AUG 2012
SEWARD, Neb. – The Bulldogs went toe-to-toe with 13th-ranked Benedictine (Kan.) on Saturday night in the football season opener for both teams. After being pummeled 45-0 by the Ravens a year ago, Concordia’s new-look offense provided an entertaining game for a jam-packed throng of fans at Bulldog Stadium. Ultimately, high-powered Benedictine was too much and walked away a 45-37 winner.
Concordia’s Derek Blessing sent electricity channeling through the stadium when his 56-yard punt return touchdown with 2:56 remaining in the game brought the Bulldogs within eight. However, the ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Ravens, who needed just one first down to salt away the victory with Concordia out of timeouts.
“There were some good things, but we feel as a team that we should have made those plays,” quarterback Von Thomas said. “We’ll go through adversity and bounce back and keep on pushing.”
The Ravens appeared to be on cruise control after running back Cameron Fore plowed into the end zone from two yards out to give Benedictine a seemingly commanding lead at 45-23 with 11:14 left in the contest.
That’s when Thomas went to work. Blessing, a terror all night for the Benedictine coverage units, busted off a 51-yard kick return to set Thomas and the offense up at the Raven 44-yard line. The 6-foot-2 signal caller then orchestrated a five-play, 44-yard drive that culminated with an eight-yard Thomas touchdown scamper with 9:39 to go to make the score 45-29. A successful hook up from Thomas to Colten Quinabo on the two-point attempt brought Concordia to within two touchdowns.
“We stayed positive. We kept pushing,” Thomas said. “Guys had faith in me. I have faith in my guys, and we trust our coaching staff 100 percent.”
Concordia then mustered another long drive after forcing a Raven punt. The Bulldogs charged 74 yards on eight plays before being stopped on downs at the Benedictine five-yard line. A first and 10 at the 11 had been set up by a 41-yard strike from Thomas to receiver Noah Smith.
The Ravens then got one first down on the next possession before punting it away to the dangerous Blessing, who dashed straight up the middle and didn’t stop until he crossed the end zone.
The Bulldogs, outgained 407-295 in the game, played evenly with Benedictine throughout the first half as a multitude of errors plagued the Ravens. After grinding out a 62-yard, 14-play drive on their first possession to go up 7-0, the visitors served up a prime scoring opportunity for head coach Vance Winter’s squad.
A snap high over Raven punter Dylan McGuire’s head trickled all the way to the Benedictine 18-yard line, setting the Bulldogs up in the red zone. Concordia failed to record a first down and settled for a Kenny Zoeller 27-yard field goal.
A fumbled kick return and an interception thrown by Benedictine quarterback Bill Noonan set up two more Zoeller field goals to give the Bulldogs a 9-7 lead just over a minute into the second quarter. The senior kicker nailed all three of his field goal tries on the night.
A bizarre touchdown occurred at the 6:28 mark of the second stanza when Fore fumbled the ball into the end zone and offensive lineman Hayden Smith pounced on top, putting the Ravens up 14-9.
The Bulldogs answered with a touchdown pass from Thomas to fullback Will Cox before Benedictine closed the half with a Zach Keenan 37-yard field goal to take a 17-16 lead into the locker room.
Thomas finished 15-for-32 passing with 157 yards and a pair of touchdown tosses. He also led the team in rushing with 69 yards and a touchdown on 11 attempts.
Defensively, senior linebacker Kyle Little had a big day as he registered 10 total tackles, an interception and a sack. Sophomore linebacker Nakemm Evans came up with 13 stops, including one for loss, to lead Concordia.
Fore finished with 107 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 23 carries to power the Raven rushing attack. Benedictine piled up 207 yards on the ground despite the 43-yard loss on the botched snap in the first quarter. Noonan had an efficient 16-for-21 effort through the air with 188 passing yards and one touchdown.
The Bulldogs now have a bye before hosting Dakota Wesleyan on Sept. 8 at 1 p.m. in their GPAC opener.
08 SEP 2012
SEWARD, Neb. – The rash of turnovers, penalties and dropped passes aside, Saturday’s GPAC football opener between the Bulldogs and visiting Dakota Wesleyan proved to be a thriller. After drubbing Concordia each of the last two seasons, Dakota Wesleyan needed a fifth Concordia turnover to seal a 26-23 victory at Bulldog Stadium.
“We put our defense in bad spots. Our defense was on the field way too long in the first half,” Concordia head coach Vance Winter said. “The first half was probably one of the stranger halves I’ve ever seen in football. We just made some uncharacteristic errors that cost us today. And it’s disappointing because we got things figured out a little bit in the second half offensively.
“Just too many mistakes, too many dropped passes, too many turnovers. Those kinds of things cost you.”
The outcome remained in doubt until sophomore quarterback Von Thomas lofted a pass that the Tigers’ Josh Thompson picked off in the end zone with 21 seconds left in the game. The interception came on a Bulldog first and 10 at the Dakota Wesleyan 16-yard line. Concordia (0-2, 0-1 GPAC) had marched the ball 64 yards on 10 plays to get within range of a dramatic last-minute victory before Thompson dashed those hopes.
The crippling interception came on the heels of a clutch fourth and 15 conversion in which Thomas found junior receiver Derek Klaus for a gain of 19 yards to the Tiger 34-yard line. Three plays later Klaus caught a nine-yard pass from Thomas to convert on a third down and place the ball at the 16, prior to the game-clinching turnover on the next snap.
The two teams traded blows for much of the second half in sun-soaked Seward, Neb. Thomas capped a 10-play, 58-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown scamper off of right tackle to put the Bulldogs in front 23-20 with 7:03 remaining in the game. The drive began on the Concordia 42-yard line after the ball was jarred loose from Tiger running back Josh Endres by Dylan Heithoff and recovered by Ryan Coffey.
It didn’t take long for Dakota Wesleyan (2-0, 1-0 GPAC) to answer with a five-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that culminated with a 49-yard scoring strike from quarterback Jon Bane to receiver Michael Brown. The ensuing extra point was blocked, keeping the score at 26-23 in favor of the Tigers with 4:47 to play.
Much of the game was marred by gaffes on both sides. Each squad handed out five turnovers and they combined for 20 penalties covering 219 yards. In addition, Thomas had numerous passes slip through his receivers’ fingers on potential game-changing plays.
“We’ve all picked up this new offense really well,” said senior receiver Jeff Balz, who caught three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. “There are still little kinks, little chips, little things we need to get figured out, especially when we get down close. I think we can get it. We’re all definitely disappointed about this loss and a lot of it comes down to offense in the red zone.”
The first half closely resembled Concordia’s game one loss to 13th-ranked Benedictine (Kan.) in the way that the Bulldogs were forced to settle for field goals. Concordia senior kicker Kenny Zoeller improved to 6-for-6 on field goals tries this season by connecting on attempts from 35 yards out twice and once from 22 yards away as the offense bogged down.
Dakota Wesleyan out-gained the Bulldogs 396-305, relying heavily upon its workhorse running back in Endres. He carried the ball 41 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Bane, a second team all-conference quarterback last season, threw for 239 yards and two scores.
However, the Tigers’ offense, like Concordia’s, often got sidetracked by turnovers. Bulldog senior defensive lineman Michael Voelker enjoyed a great game, disrupting play up front. He had six tackles, a sack and forced a fumble that resulted in one of the five Dakota Wesleyan turnovers.
“Coach all the last couple weeks emphasized always ripping at the ball and going after the ball,” Voelker said. “We just keep that mentality throughout the game. We just keep going after the ball and trying to rip it out.”
On the other side of the ball, Bulldog drives were often stymied by senior defensive back Dustin Bergmeier, who intercepted three Thomas passes. Concordia’s signal caller finished 16-for-34 passing with 204 yards and one touchdown toss. For the second-straight game, he also led the team in rushing, this time going for 39 yards and a score on 10 attempts.
Defensively, Concordia was led by the 12 total tackles of freshman safety Tait Sibbel, who had a solid game in his first career start. Junior safety Ryan Coffey chipped in 11 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Two tight losses to quality opponents are evidence of the progress made by Winter’s squad since last season, but the Bulldogs are determined to get over the hump.
“We’ve got to learn how to finish. That’s all it is,” Voelker said. “We’ve got to learn how to keep making plays and finish. We’ve just got to believe.”
“We left points on the field the whole first half,” Winter said. “We had two times down where we were in plus position where we dropped passes. Those guys aren’t trying to drop those things, but it’s disappointing. You have to make those types of plays if you’re going to beat good teams.”
Concordia will continue GPAC play on Sept. 15 when it travels to play at Hastings in a 6 p.m. contest. The Bulldogs shut out the Broncos 10-0 in last year’s meeting.
15 SEP 2012
HASTINGS, Neb. – Hastings quarterback John Dostal raced 50 yards to the end zone, slipping away from would-be Bulldog tacklers in allowing the Broncos to pull away with a 34-26 Homecoming victory under the lights on Saturday. The Hastings signal caller’s touchdown at the 8:23 mark of the fourth quarter all but put visiting Concordia and its mistake-prone offense out of reach. A Von Thomas five-yard touchdown toss to receiver Jeff Balz in the back of the end zone in the final minute proved too late.
The Bulldogs (0-3, 0-2 GPAC) had cut the deficit to eight at 27-19 with a Kenny Zoeller 29-yard field goal with 13:50 left in the game. Concordia then got the ball back still trailing by eight with a chance to even the score. However, Thomas lofted a pass deep downfield that Kane Elenburg intercepted at midfield to set up Dostal’s back-breaking scamper that made the score 34-19.
A Bulldog offense that moved the ball affectively and totaled 429 yards was again plagued by turnovers as they lost three fumbles and Thomas fired two interceptions. On the other side, Hastings played turnover free.
“Offensively, we’re our own worst enemy,” Concordia head coach Vance Winter said. “If we don’t make those mistakes, we’re hard to stop.”
The Bulldogs scored first on Thomas’ eight-yard touchdown that capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive on the team’s first possession of the game. Concordia played mostly mistake free until the second quarter when turnovers on three out of four possessions aided the Broncos (2-0, 2-0 GPAC) in taking a 24-14 lead to the locker room.
A second-consecutive five turnover game had Winter echoing the comments he made after last week’s 26-23 home loss to Dakota Wesleyan.
“It’s the same old thing. It’s just like last week,” Winter said. “Guys aren’t trying to make mistakes. We’re walking a fine line. We have to make those plays and stop making the critical mistakes. Again, we left a lot of things out there.”
Defensively, big plays and missed tackles bit Concorida hard with Dostal burning the Bulldog secondary at the 9:22 mark of the second quarter with a 72-yard touchdown hook up with receiver Trevor Bohn, who finished with 180 receiving yards on six catches.
Thomas concluded his day 24-for-43 with 270 yards through the air and one touchdown pass. He again impacted the game significantly with his mobility in rushing for two touchdowns, his third and fourth of the season, and 88 yards on the ground on 12 attempts. Junior running back Aaron Gillory posted 36 yards rushing on 14 carries. Balz’s 69 yards receiving were tops on the team.
Dostal lit up the sky with 280 passing yards and also led his squad with 70 rushing yards. He completed 15 of 33 pass attempts and fired one touchdown in leading the Broncos to 445 total yards of offense, including 164 rushing.
Junior cornerback Derek Blessing continued his stellar work in the return game, going for 90 yards on four punt returns with a long of 42. The Ogallala, Neb., native also posted eight tackles and a pass break up on defense. Linebacker Langston Jones paced the Bulldogs with nine total tackles, including 2.5 for loss.
Zoeller connected on his only field goal attempt of the night to improve to 7-for-7 this season on field goal attempts.
Hastings running back Keenen Ballage scored a pair of touchdowns but was limited to 62 yards rushing on 23 carries.
Saturday’s eight-point loss marked Concordia’s third-straight defeat by eight points or less, following a 45-37 loss to then No. 13 Benedictine in week one and a three-point nailbiting downer against Dakota Wesleyan on Sept. 8.
The combined totals of 874 yards and 60 points gave Saturday’s game a much different feel than the 2011 meeting between the two teams. Concordia knocked off Hastings 10-0 in Seward last year in a game in which neither team eclipsed 200 yards of offense.
The Bulldogs return home for Parent’s Day next Saturday with Dordt College paying a visit to Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. Concordia defeated the Defenders 21-7 last Sept. 24 in a game played in Sioux Center, Iowa.
18 SEP 2012
To: All Parents/Guardians of Football Squad
From: Vance Winter, Head Football Coach
You are cordially invited to attend Parent’s Day on Saturday, Sept. 22 when the Bulldogs host Dordt College. The following activities are scheduled for parents and relatives:
I understand that not all of you can attend, however, we appreciate your support. We are grateful for the outstanding group of young men we are privileged to coach. We are improving immensely as a football program and it is great to watch these guys improve daily. We will continue to get better throughout the rest of this season, and I believe an exciting future is in store for Bulldog football.
We look forward to seeing you soon and pray for safe travels to Seward.
Coach Vance Winter
22 SEP 2012
SEWARD, Neb. – After struggling with turnovers in two of their first three losses, the Bulldogs flipped the script on Saturday in a 52-12 thrashing of visiting Dordt College (0-4, 0-3 GPAC). Concordia (1-3, 1-2 GPAC) took advantage of five Defender first-half turnovers and exploded for a 31-point second quarter that all but decided the contest.
“It was a good effort from our guys,” head coach Vance Winter said. “I thought we played for 60 minutes and took care of the little things that have been hurting us the past few games. We came out and we executed well I thought in all three phases.”
Junior cornerback Derek Blessing, who leads the NAIA with an average of 28.0 yards per punt return, continued his mockery of opposing coverage units. With just over three minutes remaining in the first half, Dordt kicked it deep to Blessing who caught the ball at his own 29. He raced straight up the middle and appeared to be stopped at the Dordt 40 before trucking over a would-be tackler and sprinting to the end zone for a 71-yard touchdown return.
“Every time I get the ball I just see what my other guys are doing,” Blessing said. “Without the other 10 guys on the team I wouldn’t be able to do that. They’re getting blocks for me. They’re making plays and it makes me look good. I just want to give a shout out to those guys.”
The electrifying Blessing boosted Concordia’s lead to 35-0, appearing to cap the team’s scoring in a brilliant first half. But Dordt’s Bryce Rusler threw his third interception of the game, plucked by freshman Tait Sibbel, to set up senior kicker Kenny Zoeller’s 30-yard field goal as the first half expired.
The Bulldog scoring binge got started early in the first quarter when Concordia quickly took advantage of a Defender miscue. Blessing began his terrific game with an interception that he returned 52 yards to the Dordt 20-yard line on the Defenders’ opening possession. Sophomore quarterback Von Thomas then found Noah Smith, who caught the pass over the middle and angled into the end zone from 20 yards out for the game’s first score.
The onslaught picked back up in the second quarter when Smith caught a 12-yard touchdown toss from Thomas to cap a 16-play 74-yard drive that ate 5:28 off the clock. Garrett Folchert immediately took advantage of the look he got from the Dordt defense and took the snap across the goal line for the two-point conversion and a 15-0 lead.
Zoeller responded with his first and second field goals of the game to extend the Concordia lead to 21-0 with 7:48 left in the half. The Spring, Texas, native improved to 10-for-10 on field goal tries with his performance on Saturday. He currently leads the NAIA with those 10 field goal makes.
The Bulldogs forced another turnover midway through the second quarter when Sibbel recovered Kyle Henricks’ fumble at the Dordt 44-yard line. Concordia cashed in with Victor Brown’s first career touchdown, a 15-yard rumble that made the score 28-0 with 4:37 left in the half and finished a five-play drive.
After Henricks scampered into the end zone from four yards out on Dordt’s opening possession of the second half, Thomas answered with his third and final touchdown pass, a 12-yard strike to Zach Warner to extend the lead back to 45-6 with 5:47 left in the third quarter.
Trai Pickney added a one-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter prior to Concordia’s final touchdown. Justin Haun, who relieved Thomas at quarterback, fired a 17-yard touchdown pass to Josh Slechta to provide the final margin, 52-12.
The 52-point effort marked the Bulldogs’ first 50-point output since Sept. 28, 2004, when Concordia defeated Dakota Wesleyan 55-13.
Saturday’s performance was by far the team’s most efficient after losses by eight points or less in each of Concordia’s first three games.
“I think came out and we all played hard,” Blessing said. “We knew what our focus was and what we had to do. We just came out and executed today.”
Blessing finished his day with two interceptions to aid a Bulldog squad that went from minus-five in turnovers in last week’s 34-26 loss to plus-four against Dordt.
Thomas ended up 14-for-23 passing with 164 yards and three touchdowns. Smith had four catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns and both Brown and Aaron Gillory added 49 yards on the ground as Concordia outgained the Defenders 361-245.
Dordt, which remains winless on the season, was led by the 55 rushing yards of Pickney. The Defenders also got 12 total tackles and two forced fumbles from Ray Cleveland.
The Bulldogs break away from GPAC play next week and travel to Dakota State for a 4 p.m. matchup in Madison, S.D. Concordia defeated Dakota State 49-21 on Oct. 1 of last year.
24 SEP 2012
Concordia junior cornerback and return man Derek Blessing has collected GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Special Teams Player of the Week honors, the league announced on Monday. Blessing put together another electrifying performance on Sept. 22, returning a punt 71 yards for a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 52-12 win over Dordt.
“Derek’s got great vision. That’s the biggest thing,” special teams coordinator Corby Osten said. “We try to set up each punt return knowing that if he gets a head of steam, he’s going to be tough to stop. He’s usually going to make the first guy miss. If we just get him that seam, he’s gone.”
Terrific blocking allowed Blessing to race straight up the middle practically untouched until he got to the Dordt 40-yard line, bowled over a would-be tackler and dashed into the end zone for his second punt return touchdown of the season. He also added a 40-yard kickoff return for a total of 111 return yards in the blowout victory.
“Every time I get the ball I just see what my other guys are doing,” Blessing said following the game. “Without the other 10 guys on the team I wouldn’t be able to do that. They’re getting blocks for me. They’re making plays and it makes me look good. I just want to give a shout out to those guys.”
In addition, the converted running back had a big day at corner with a pair of interceptions, one of which he returned 52 yards to set up a Concordia touchdown on the next play, and three total tackles.
The Ogallala, Neb., native, leads the nation with an average of 28.0 yards per punt return and is second in the NAIA with 224 total punt return yards. He is also third nationally with an average of 35.2 yards per kick return. Despite being a defensive player, Blessing is 18th in the NAIA in all purpose yards with 487.
29 SEP 2012
MADISON, S.D. – Concordia head coach Vance Winter returned to his alma mater amid Dakota State’s homecoming on Saturday. After a sluggish first half offensively, the Bulldogs awakened over the final 30 minutes and came away 28-7 victors.
“The first half was like a root canal,” Winter said. “They came out and they really moved the football. We knew we would get their best shot on homecoming, and that’s what we got.”
Trailing 7-0 coming out of the halftime locker room, Concordia (2-3, 1-2 GPAC) finally got on the board when freshman running back Victor Brown capped a 13-play, 66-yard drive with a two-yard plunge into the end zone. The drive, which occurred on the opening possession of the second half, spanned 5:47 and energized a team that needed a shot in the arm.
“It was a sleepwalking fest in the first half,” Winter said. “Dakota State did a bunch of stuff that we didn’t react well to. We were very fortunate to only be down 7-0.
“In the second half we got back to doing what we had planned on. To Dakota State’s credit, they did a lot of things that we didn’t handle very well.”
The score remained deadlocked until late in the third quarter when sophomore quarterback Von Thomas hooked up with junior tight end Jordan Larrington for his first of three touchdown passes on the evening. The strike put the exclamation mark on another long drive, this one covering 75 yards on 10 plays.
Thomas completed his trifecta of touchdown tosses with a 14-yard connection to junior receiver Noah Smith with 4:59 left in the game and then a nine-yard hook up with senior wide out Colten Quinabo with only 1:36 remaining. The aerial assault put the game out of reach and extended the Trojan losing streak to nine straight.
“We’ve got a great group of guys,” Winter said. “The way we responded shows their mental toughness. Absolutely nothing was going right for us in that first half. We just wanted it to be over and get to the locker room and get refocused. We were a different team in the second half.”
Dakota State (0-6) outgained Concordia 406-280 for the game, but the Bulldog defense forced two turnovers and refused to break in the red zone. The Concordia defense also held up well against the run, allowing 97 rushing yards on 30 attempts.
Thomas finished 18-for-24 passing with 154 yards and three touchdowns, marking his second-straight game with a trio of scoring tosses. The Miami, Fla., native now has 10 touchdown passes on the year to go against five interceptions. He and his teammates were turnover free on Saturday.
Concordia sophomore running back Aaron Gillory ran effectively, going for a game-high 67 rushing yards on 15 attempts. Thomas added 23 rushing yards on eight carries.
The Trojans piled up most of their yards through the air as Brandon Large, a transfer from NCAA Division I Eastern Illinois, went 30-for-53 for 309 yards and one interception. Large entered the game 13th in the NAIA with an average of 243 passing yards per game.
Buoyed by an aggressive blitzing defense and some Concordia dropped passes, Dakota State limited the Bulldogs to only 15 offensive plays in the first half as the Trojans controlled the ball. Concordia was happy to reverse that trend in the second half and finished with 28:02 in time of possession for the game, but still concluded the contest with 24 less offensive plays than Dakota State.
Defensively, Concordia was led by the 10 total tackles from junior Cornerback Derek Blessing. Opposite Blessing at the other corner spot, junior Darnell Woods came up with his first interception of the season.
The Bulldogs are back on the road next Saturday when they travel to Sioux City, Iowa, to take on Briar Cliff (1-4, 1-3 GPAC).
06 OCT 2012
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The Bulldogs crashed the opposition’s homecoming party for the second-straight week in breezing by Briar Cliff 45-12 at Memorial Field in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday. Concordia (3-3, 2-2 GPAC) put up season highs in total offense (479 yards) and rushing yards (337) on the way to a sixth-consecutive win in the series versus the Chargers.
“This was the most complete, physical game we’ve played this season,” head coach Vance Winter said. “We came ready to play. Briar Cliff made some plays early in the game, but we responded. From a blocking and tackling standpoint, this was our best performance of the year.”
Concordia got off to an ominous start when Briar Cliff marched 68 yards on six plays, finishing the game’s opening drive with a 32-yard touchdown pass from quarterback P.J. Quiroga to Bryce Harshman. Leading 6-0, the Chargers had all the momentum on their side after Von Thomas’ pass was tipped and intercepted by Briar Cliff’s Paul Blanchard at the Concordia 42-yard line, thwarting the Bulldogs’ first offensive series.
Junior safety Darnell Woods then came up with what Winter called the biggest play of the game. He picked off Quiroga’s pass and raced 60 yards to the Charger 20-yard line. The game-changing turnover led to a Thomas seven-yard touchdown run that put Concordia in front 7-6. It was all Bulldogs from that point on.
Thomas closed the first quarter with touchdown tosses of 29 yards to senior receiver Colten Quinabo and four yards to senior fullback Will Cox to provide a 21-6 margin. The Quinabo score capped a nine-play, 92-yard drive that featured dominant play up front, characteristic of the entire game.
Behind that punishing offensive line, Concordia went to the ground and consistently gashed the Briar Cliff defense. Freshman Victor Brown piled up 94 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries before giving way to sophomore Mitch Reed, who was every bit as effective. Reed, a Genoa, Neb., native, amassed a game-high 125 yards on 15 carries.
“We were very physical up front,” Winter said. “All of our backs did a nice job. It was good to see us put up that big of rushing numbers.
“Mitch is a good runner. He came in midway through the third quarter and provided some more spark. He runs full speed, really physical and gets the most out of every play.”
Reed scampered 39 yards for a touchdown at the 13:25 mark of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 38-12, putting the Chargers well out of reach. For good measure, the Bulldogs added one more score at the midway point of the fourth quarter when backup quarterback Justin Haun plunged into the end zone from a yard out. Haun became the sixth Bulldog to find pay dirt on the afternoon.
The loss was the most lopsided of the season for Briar Cliff, which had competed admirably in its 41-28 loss to then No. 21 Doane and 24-13 defeat to No. 22 Dakota Wesleyan. The Chargers entered Saturday hoping to earn their second-straight victory.
“It’s never easy to go on the road and win, and to do it on someone else’s homecoming,” Winter said. “They hit us in the mouth early and our guys responded very well.”
Thomas finished 11-for-19 passing with 135 yards and two touchdowns. The dual-threat signal caller from Miami, Fla., also put up 47 yards rushing and one touchdown on seven attempts.
Defensively, Concordia was led by the play of Woods, who tied Derek Blessing for the team lead with nine tackles. Woods picked off a pair of passes and totaled 106 return yards on those interceptions. Freshman Trey Haggerty and junior Ryan Coffey each plucked an interception of their own.
The Bulldogs return home on Oct. 13 for their homecoming game versus No. 11 Northwestern (5-1, 3-1 GPAC). Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. from Bulldog Stadium.
13 OCT 2012
SEWARD, Neb. – Bulldog Stadium erupted with jubilation as Northwestern’s Mike O’Brien missed wide right from 25 yards out on a field goal attempt in the final minute, preserving a 17-16 Bulldog upset of No. 11 Northwestern on Saturday. Behind a lockdown defensive effort in the second half, Concordia extended its win streak to four games and produced the biggest shocker in GPAC football action this season.
“It’s big,” junior cornerback Derek Blessing said. “We’ve been working on this for the last three years – even more than that. We put in our hard work and it just comes down to this. We played our hearts out.”
Concordia (4-3, 3-2 GPAC) held the Red Raiders to 86 yards of offense in the second half, but still trailed nearly the entire game until senior kicker Kenny Zoeller’s 24-yard field goal gave the Bulldogs their first lead at 17-16 with 2:43 remaining in the game. Zoeller’s 12th field goal make of the season, which turned out to be the game winner, capped an 11-play, 41-yard drive.
Northwestern (5-2, 3-2 GPAC) took over at its own 20-yard line after Zoeller booted a touchback. With all three timeouts remaining, the Red Raiders inserted junior starting quarterback Davis Bloemendaal back into the game after he had missed most of the second half due to an injury suffered late in the first half.
Bloemendaal completed 6 of 7 passes for 69 yards on the final drive in marching Northwestern to the Concordia eight-yard line with :43 left to set up a potential game-winning field goal by O’Brien. But a struggling kicking game that missed an extra point in the first quarter failed once again, sending the Bulldog sideline into a frenzy of excitement.
“Our guys have shown a ton of perseverance and kept working. We could have folded after the 0-3 start,” Concordia head coach Vance Winter said. “We could have went into woe-is-me mode. Our guys have continued to fight. I’m just so proud of the effort and the work. Today’s game was like our whole season, except we finished the deal today.”
Blessing may have turned in the biggest play of Saturday’s game. The Ogallala, Neb., native, the NAIA’s best punt returner with an average of 26.1 yards per return entering the contest, made up for an offense that struggled to score against the stout Red Raider defense. With Concordia down 16-7 midway through the fourth quarter, Blessing caught Nathayn DeHoyos’ punt at the 50 and raced to the end zone for his third punt return touchdown of the season.
“We switched it up,” Blessing said. “Coach said let’s go middle return, so I caught the ball and looked straight up the middle. Our guys just made a big hole for me. I saw the hole, saw two guys down field and I saw one or two of our guys down field. They blocked it perfect. It’s theirs, not mine.”
Like it did throughout the second half, the defense responded on Northwestern’s ensuing possession and forced a three-and-out. DeHoyos’ 35-yard punt, followed by a six-yard Blessing return to the Northwestern 49-yard line, set the stage for the final score of the game.
The key play of the next possession came on a Bulldog third-and-six from the Northwestern 34 when quarterback Von Thomas used his exceptional mobility and elusiveness to extend the drive. With a defender grasping both arms around Thomas near midfield, the 6-foot-2 signal caller somehow slipped away and found running back Aaron Gillory for a gain of 12 and a first down. Thomas ran for 10 yards on the next play to position Zoeller for a chip-shot field goal.
“It wasn’t pretty at all,” Thomas said. “I just trusted my guys and trusted my ability to keep the chains moving and make big plays. It’s all about confidence.”
Thomas showed plenty of it on Saturday, as he shook off a critical lost fumble in the red zone late in the first half and an interception to make enough plays to help Concordia snap a nine-game losing streak to Northwestern. Thomas led running back Victor Brown perfectly on a 59-yard touchdown pass on a streak route straight down the seam that got the Bulldogs on the board and cut their deficit to 9-7 with 5:55 left in the second quarter.
The Red Raiders answered with 1:27 left in the half when Bloemendaal found junior receiver Brice Byker for a 28-yard touchdown pass to seemingly put Northwestern in control. The Red Raiders took a 16-7 lead into the locker room thanks in part to a 249-172 edge in total yards. However, Northwestern would go scoreless over the final 30 minutes.
Thomas, a Miami, Fla., native finished 16 of 29 passing for 218 yards and a touchdown pass. Senior receiver Colten Quinabo caught six of those passes for 48 yards, while Aaron Gillory led Concordia with 60 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were paced by the 11 stops made by linebacker Kyle Little. Freshman safety Tait Sibbel checked in with eight total tackles, including a key stuff of quarterback Braden Miltenberger on a fourth-and-two with the Red Raiders driving late in the first half.
Bloemendaal led the Northwestern offensive attack with 150 yards passing and one touchdown and another 75 yards on the ground. The prolific rushing duo of Brandon Smith and Theo Bartman was held to 110 yards on 28 carries, roughly 100 yards below their combined season average.
The win feels great for Thomas, who believes even better things are on the horizon.
“We still haven’t reached our peak yet,” Thomas said. “We’re still working. We’re excited to get this big win against the No. 11 team in the nation, but we’re going to keep working and keep progressing.”
While Concordia players may have talked about having room for further improvement, Saturday’s victory was a sweet reward for a team that lost its first three games all by eight points or less against quality competition.
However, Winter is already looking ahead to next Saturday’s 1 p.m. game at rival Nebraska Wesleyan (2-4, 1-4 GPAC).
“It’s a win, it’s just a win,” Winter said of the upset of Northwestern. “We can’t think of it as anything more. We have to go out and play good football week in and week out. We’ve got another tough test next week against Nebraska Wesleyan.”
15 OCT 2012
Junior cornerback/return man Derek Blessing has been named the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season, the league announced Monday. Blessing received the same honor on Sept. 24.
The Ogallala, Neb., native made perhaps the biggest play of the Bulldogs’ 17-16 upset of No. 11 Northwestern on Oct. 13 when he fielded the Red Raider punt on a bounce and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. That score pulled Concordia within 16-14 with 8:03 left in the game.
“We switched it up,” Blessing said following the game. “Coach said let’s go middle return, so I caught the ball and looked straight up the middle. Our guys just made a big hole for me. I saw the hole, saw two guys down field and I saw one or two of our guys down field. They blocked it perfect. It’s theirs, not mine.”
Head coach Vance Winter singled out the punt return as the key play that turned the tide and allowed Concordia to pull out the comeback win.
“We just needed a play. We need something to happen. We needed a big play,” Winter said. “Derek Blessing in the punt return was just huge, and we could feel it then.”
The touchdown marked the third punt return Blessing has taken back for a score this season. He also had a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown versus Benedictine and a 56-yard return for a score against Dordt. He is now second in the NAIA with an average of 22.1 yards per punt return and No. 1 with 353 total punt return yards.
In the victory over the Red Raiders, Blessing piled up 118 punt return yards on seven chances. Defensively, Blessing made five total tackles and had one pass break up.
20 OCT 2012
LINCOLN, Neb. – The trip 27 miles east to Lincoln continues to be a rough journey for the Bulldogs, who struggled offensively on the way to a 16-6 loss to rival Nebraska Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Prairie Wolves improved to 14-1 in the last 15 meetings in the series played in Lincoln, Neb.
“Wesleyan’s defense took away a lot of things we like to do,” Concordia head coach Vance Winter said. “They really dominated us up front. They have an unbelievably good defense, as good as we’ve played against all season. Their defense is as good as advertised.”
The Bulldog offense sputtered to a season low six points and 210 total yards against that stingy Nebraska Wesleyan unit that entered the game with the NAIA’s 16th-ranked defense (284.4 ypg). Concordia’s offensive highlight of the day came when quarterback Von Thomas fired a perfect 39-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Colten Quinabo early in the second quarter. The Bulldogs led 6-0 but would fail to score over the final 40:22 of the game.
Prairie Wolf senior defensive back Cody Eiler, a thorn in Concordia’s side all day, thwarted a prime scoring chance early in the fourth quarter when he picked off Thomas’ pass in the end zone on a third and goal from the four. Eiler’s interception, one of three on the day for the Nebraska Wesleyan star, kept the Prairie Wolves in front 9-6 and ended one of the Bulldogs’ more promising drives of the game.
Nebraska Wesleyan would proceed to eat 5:31 off the clock on the ensuing possession before punting it away to give Concordia one last opportunity while trailing by just three points. After gaining one first down on a 16-yard connection from Thomas to Noah Smith, the Bulldogs were forced to punt for the ninth time in the game.
The Prairie Wolves then marched 55 yards on five plays, finishing the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Francis to receiver Brooks Erhart to give Nebraska Wesleyan a commanding 16-6 lead with only 3:33 left in the game. Thomas would be intercepted one last time by Eiler on the final Concordia possession to seal the Prairie Wolf victory on homecoming at Abel Stadium.
“We were nervous about this game because their strengths matched up well against our weaknesses,” Winter said. “They handled us in the trenches and we didn’t do a good job with their pressure. We didn’t give our defense a chance. They were on the field all game.
“We just got beat. We’ve got to stick together and get ready to roll next week.”
The Bulldogs came up with a pair of interceptions themselves, but failed to turn either one into points. Junior linebacker Langston Jones plucked a Francis pass with one hand and raced 34 yards to the Nebraska Wesleyan 46-yard line early in the second quarter. Concordia then went three-and-out and punted it away.
Then midway through the second quarter with the Bulldogs up 6-0, safety Darnell Woods snared his team-leading fourth interception of the season on a Francis pass. Again Concordia was set up with opportune field position at its own 40, but again it was turned away by the Prairie Wolf defense after a holding penalty negated a first-down pass.
Thomas finished 15 of 38 passing for 172 yards and one touchdown. He also led the team with a mere 17 yards rushing for a ground attack that was held to 38 yards on 18 attempts. The lack of a rushing game contributed to Nebraska Wesleyan’s total of 39:23 in time of possession.
Quinabo had his best game of the season, catching nine passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Francis, the Nebraska Wesleyan signal caller, shook off his two second quarter interceptions and ended up 26-for-38 through the air with 256 yards and a touchdown pass in powering the Prairie Wolves to a 355-210 advantage in total yards.
Woods had an outstanding game at safety with a team high 11 tackles to go along with the interception and a pass break up. Junior linebacker Dylan Heithoff and Jones each came up with nine stops, while Heithoff also added a half a sack and a tackle for loss.
“A lot of guys played well for us defensively,” Winter said. “Special teams, which has been a huge advantage for us all year, was pretty much a wash today. The key was that Wesleyan’s offense was much more functional than ours.”
Junior cornerback/return man Derek Blessing, the reigning GPAC Special Teams Player of the Week, was limited to three punt returns for 24 yards and two kick returns for 32 yards on the day.
Saturday’s game marked the fourth game this season that Concordia has served as the visiting team for the opposition’s homecoming. The Bulldogs are 2-2 in those four contests with wins over Dakota State and Briar Cliff.
Concordia will return home on Oct. 27 for Senior Day in the final game at Bulldog Stadium this season. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. versus Midland (3-4, 2-4 GPAC).
27 OCT 2012
SEWARD, Neb. – The Bulldogs overcame a pair of potentially costly mistakes thanks to a dominant defensive effort that led Concordia (5-4, 4-3 GPAC) to a 23-14 Senior Day victory over visiting Midland on Saturday. The Bulldog defense suffocated the Warrior offense in limiting them to 118 total yards.
“Defensively, it was just a great effort because that’s an improving offense,” Concordia head coach Vance Winter said. “They’ve been a much improved offense as the season’s gone on. We put them in bad spots to set up the points we scored. It was a great performance.”
The Midland (3-5, 2-5 GPAC) offense had one last shot to make up for a game’s worth of struggles after a Joe Marshall punt pinned the Warriors back at their own one-yard line with 3:58 left in the game and Concordia holding onto a 16-14 advantage. However, Midland failed to move the chains even once and turned it over on downs as quarterback Mike Karls’ pass sailed high on fourth and four.
Three plays later Bulldog running back Aaron Gillory plunged into the end zone from three yards out to put the game out of reach with under a minute remaining. The junior running back finished with 68 rushing yards on 16 carries for a ground attack that piled up 236 rushing yards on the day.
“We really made an emphasis this week that we wanted to run the football better,” Winter said. “We did it well in spurts today. We really struggled with some inconsistency on offense and didn’t finish some drives the way we would like, but our kicking game with Kenny (Zoeller) was big in making all three field goals.”
But the biggest story on this day was the performance of a Bulldog defense that allowed only 24 passing yards. Midland’s longest drive of the game was only 30 yards and it went three-and-out on five occasions.
“I think we played free for once,” senior defensive lineman Michael Voelker said. “We knew the offense could take care of business. We just had to do our job. We just tried to play lights out. We were close. We gave up one touchdown – it was a cheap one – but we came out aggressive and we did our jobs.”
One of the Warriors’ more promising drives culminated with a turnover after junior cornerback Derek Blessing ripped the ball free from Martin Kene and junior Cody Hawk lunged on top at the Midland 41-yard line with 5:41 left in the fourth quarter. The turnover came on the heels of two Midland first downs as the Bulldogs clung to a 16-14 lead.
The Warriors took a 14-13 at the 5:34 mark of the third quarter when Marshall’s punt was blocked by Derek Coufal and plucked out of the air by Riley Royal who raced 22 yards to the end zone. The touchdown marked the second of the day off of Concordia turnovers.
The Bulldogs regained the lead early in the fourth quarter when senior kicker Kenny Zoeller booted his third field goal of the day, and 15th of the season, to make the score 16-14. Zoeller’s kick capped a 63-yard, 13-play drive that milked 7:16 off the clock.
Midland also led 7-0 after cashing in on a Riley Gross interception that positioned the Warriors at the Concordia 28 late in the first quarter. Dominic Blood scored Midland’s only offensive touchdown of the day by pounding across the goal line from five yards away to finish a six-play scoring drive.
The Bulldogs responded quickly with a touchdown of their own on the next drive. Sophomore quarterback Von Thomas, who finished with a game high 107 yards on the ground, went off right tackle and sprinted 24 yards to the end zone to complete an eight-play, 75 yard drive that finished at the 12:06 mark of the second quarter.
Saturday’s effort was the first 100-yard rushing game in the career of Thomas, who leads the team with 410 rushing yards on the season. Thomas is the second Bulldog this season to go over 100 yards on the ground, joining sophomore Mitch Reed who amassed 125 rushing yards in the rout of Briar Cliff.
Zoeller, who entered the game second in the NAIA in field goal makes, also connected on field goals of 36 and 32 yards on the day. The Spring, Texas, native has rebounded from a tough junior year to become of the top kickers in the nation this season.
“Coach Courtney Meyer has emphasized visualization,” Zoeller said in deflecting credit for his stellar season. “That’s what it is – visualize the kick going in and it’s going to go in. I’ve been putting a lot of work into that and just remaining consistent. I also have to give credit to my snapper and my holder.”
Voelker, Zoeller and 15 other seniors were acknowledged prior to the game as they prepared to play at Bulldog Stadium for the final time of their careers.
“Great guys,” Voelker said of his fellow seniors. “Just a whole group of great guys that want to keep fighting and keep winning. We stuck around. We’ve been through a lot of trials and errors. It’s a great group to work with. I love every single one of them. I love this whole team. It was a great win.”
Voelker had five tackles, including one for loss. Junior linebackers Langston Jones and Dylan Heithoff tied for the team lead with seven stops each. Jones also added a sack on what turned out to be the final play of the game.
The senior class was part of a 2009 team that went 3-7 in Winter’s first year at the helm. With five wins this season, Winter set a new personal high as Bulldog head coach.
Next up for Concordia is a date with first-place and undefeated Morningside (8-0, 7-0 GPAC) at 1 p.m. on Nov. 3.
03 NOV 2012
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Fourth-ranked Morningside continues to make a mockery of an outstanding GPAC football league. On Saturday the Mustangs ripped apart Concordia from the opening whistle on the way to a 50-0 victory at Elwood Olsen Stadium in Sioux City, Iowa.
“We were outclassed in every way. They are a legit football team,” Bulldog head football coach Vance Winter said of the Morningside squad that clinched the GPAC title with the win. “They had a sense of purpose from the beginning.”
The Mustangs’ Joel Nixon, the conference’s most efficient passer, powered an offense that piled up 616 total yards to Concordia’s 199. Nixon got started early with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Joel McCabe barely four minutes into the game. He then found Kyle Schuck late in the quarter for an eight-yard touchdown connection to make it 13-0.
It only got worse from there as the Mustangs (9-0, 8-0 GPAC) racked up 28 points in the second quarter, including two touchdown runs by Jon Halvorson. Schuck’s second touchdown catch of the game with :06 remaining in the first half put the game well out of reach at 41-0.
Nixon finished 23-for-27 passing with 338 yards and five touchdowns, while Halvorson recorded a game high 70 yards on the ground. Nixon added 54 yards rushing, including a long of 20.
For Concordia (5-5, 4-4 GPAC), sophomore quarterback Von Thomas connected on 17-of-32 pass attempts for 185 yards. He found his favorite target in senior Colten Quinabo eight times for 146 yards, including a hook up of 72 yards.
Bulldog senior defensive lineman Michael Voelker enjoyed a nice day on the interior of the defense. The Linn, Kan., native made eight total tackles, 2.5 for loss, and came up with Concordia’s only sack of the afternoon.
The Bulldogs lost the turnover battle 2-0 and managed only 14 rushing yards on 31 attempts in falling to Morningside for the ninth-straight time. Concordia last defeated the Mustangs in 2003.
While very little went right on Saturday, Winter believes his team will bounce back quickly in preparation for next week’s rivalry game at No. 24 Doane.
“We will respond,” Winter said. “We got humbled pretty good today. That is a Morningside team that will be in the running for the national title. We found out just how far we have to go to get to the top of this conference.
“We’re going to get back to work and refocus.”
Concordia will try to end a six-game skid against the Tigers on Nov. 10 and post a winning season for the first time since 2001. Doane (6-3, 5-3 GPAC) defeated Dordt 55-6 on Saturday and will enter the game against the Bulldogs with back-to-back blowout wins.
“They’ve had the upper hand for quite a while,” Winter said. “We need to change that. They are a really quality team. They are probably the second or third best team in our conference. It’s going to take a real big effort to win.”
08 NOV 2012
Concordia football student-athlete Mitchell Cherney has been named to CoSIDA’s Capital One Academic All-District 6 team of the College Division. The College Division of District 6 encompasses the states of Kansas, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota and includes a total of 26 football honorees.
Nearly 4,000 student-athletes across all sports nationally receive All-District honors for their all-around accomplishments in the classroom, in the community and in competition. Student-athletes (sophomores through seniors) who have achieved cumulative grade-point averages above 3.5 and have performed at a high level on the playing field receive greatest consideration for the All-District teams.
Cherney, a junior from Burnsville, Minn., has served as the backup left tackle for the majority of the 2012 season. He is part of an offensive unit that has improved from 16.7 points per game last season to 25.7 in 2012. The biology and chemistry major is also a standout in the classroom with one of the highest cumulative GPAs among members of the Bulldog football team.
As a Capital One Academic All-District 6 honoree, Cherney will now be placed on the CoSIDA Academic All-America® ballot. Academic All-Americans will be announced at a later date.
*NOTE: Each district is separated into College Division, NCAA Division I, II and III teams.
Capital One Academic All-District 6: College Division
NEBRASKA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
David City, Neb.
KANSAS WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
NEBRASKA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
North Platte, Neb.
Jefferson City, Mo.
DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY
KANSAS WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
DAKOTA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY (NE)
NEBRASKA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
NEBRASKA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
NEBRASKA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
Grand Island, Neb.
Garden City, Kan.
KANSAS WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
Blue Springs, Mo.
PERU STATE COLLEGE
KANSAS WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
PERU STATE COLLEGE
NEBRASKA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
10 Nov 2012
CRETE, Neb. – A pair of potential game-changing turnovers forced by the Concordia defense were not enough for the Bulldogs to overcome a stagnant offensive performance on Saturday. Host and 20th-ranked Doane (7-3, 6-3 GPAC) won its seventh-straight game over Concordia (5-6, 4-5 GPAC) with a 17-7 victory in a defensive battle at Simon Field in Crete, Neb.
“We shot ourselves in the foot too much,” Bulldog head coach Vance Winter said. “Credit Doane’s defense. They did a great job. They have some real good football players. We didn’t make enough plays. It seemed like we had a critical mistake offensively on each drive, whether it was turnovers or penalties.”
Trailing 10-0 early in the second half, Concordia junior defensive back Darnell Woods plucked a pass from Doane quarterback Jeff Weander and raced 48 yards to the end zone. Despite an offense that had barely mustered 100 total yards to that point, the Bulldogs had life with their deficit cut to three.
The Concordia defense made another big play early in the fourth quarter in attempt to spark the upset. The Tigers’ Jamal Peterson ran eight yards to the Doane 44 where junior corner Derek Blessing stripped the football. Freshman safety Tait Sibbel scooped up the fumble and returned it 11 yards to set the Bulldog offense up at Doane’s 33-yard line with 10:20 remaining in the game.
However, Concordia failed to take advantage of its great field position as a false start, a one-yard Von Thomas run and two incompletions made it fourth-and-14 at the 37. The Bulldogs decided to go for it only to see Thomas’ pass downfield picked off by Sheldon Garcia, who returned the interception 21 yards to the 43 with 9:34 left.
The Tigers then put the game out of reach with a 12-play, 57-yard touchdown drive spanning 6:22. Doane quarterback Jess Ver Velde capped the drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to Holden Wetzler that made it 17-7 with 3:12 left in the game.
The 10-point spread was plenty enough for a Tiger defensive unit that held Concordia to just 181 yards of total offense and tallied four interceptions of Thomas. The Bulldog signal caller’s number – 9-for-34 passing for 97 yards – were a reflection of a tough offensive day.
“Von competed his tail off,” Winter said. “He fought like crazy. We moved the ball well at times between the 30’s, but we couldn’t get that big play.”
The Bulldogs got much better results defensively as they held a Doane offense that combined for 103 points over its previous two games to only 263 total yards.
Linebacker Langston Jones led Concordia with 10 total tackles, while Blessing and Sibbel picked up eight apiece. Woods, who nabbed his team-leading fifth interception of the season, added seven stops (one for loss).
“All of them played great,” Winter said of the defensive effort. “They were physical and it was a real good tackling day. Our defensive coaches did a great job preparing them. We got back to basics and had a real nice day.”
Doane running back Clayton Moore finished with 103 yards rushing on 32 carries. Defensively, the Tigers got two interceptions from Garcia.
Concordia had been gunning for its first winning season since 2001 when then head coach Courtney Meyer’s Bulldogs reached the NAIA Football Championship Series. With its five wins this season, the Bulldogs recorded their highest win total in a season since going 5-5 in 2004.
With the loss, Concordia finishes the season in seventh place in the GPAC, one game behind a trio of squads tied for fourth at 5-4 in conference play.
Of Concordia’s six losses in 2012, only one came by a margin of more than 10 points and three were by eight points or less. This season’s team was noticeably improved from previous seasons.
“No doubt we’re moving in the right direction,” Winter said. “Anyone who’s watched us knows we’re a much better football team than what we’ve been.
We’ve got to have a big offseason. We’re going to focus on developing our guys and having a great recruiting class. We’re not going to waste any time.”
13 NOV 2012
After one of the program’s most successful campaigns in recent seasons, Concordia football received seven combined first and second team selections on the GPAC all-conference squads, the league announced Tuesday. The list is headed by three first team Bulldog selections in junior safety Darnell Woods, senior kicker Kenny Zoeller and junior punt returner Derek Blessing.
The second team contains four Bulldogs, including a trio of seniors in receiver Colten Quinabo, offensive lineman Adam Faulstich and defensive lineman Michael Voelker and junior linebacker Dylan Heithoff.
Blessing took the conference by storm in 2012 with his electrifying returns. The Ogallala, Neb., native led the NAIA with 388 punt return yards and three punt return touchdowns while averaging 18.5 yards per return. He also topped the Bulldogs in tackles (75), pass breakups (6) and forced fumbles (3). In addition to being named a first team punt returner, Blessing received honorable mention recognition as a kick returner.
Zoeller (2010 honorable mention) emerged as one of the top kickers in college football this season as he connected on 15-of-20 field goal attempts and 27-of-28 PATs. The Spring, Texas, native’s 15 field goals were the second most in the NAIA and his 72 points ranked ninth among all kickers nationally.
Woods (2011 honorable mention) starred as one of the GPAC’s top playmakers in the secondary. He led Concordia with five interceptions and proved to be a major threat with the ball in his hands. The native of Phoenix, Ariz., totaled 176 return yards on his five picks, including a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown in the loss at Doane. He also added 58 tackles.
Quinabo and Faulstich were key pieces of an offense that went from 16.7 points per game last season to 24.0 in 2012. Quinabo caught 47 passes for 567 yards and four touchdowns, while Faulstich was the anchor of the interior of the offensive line at his left guard position.
Defensively, Voelker (2011 honorable mention) and Heithoff were rocks for their respective position groups. Voelker gave opposing offenses headaches up front. The Linn, Kan., native recorded a career high 63 tackles – 8.5 for loss – and put up two sacks and four pass breakups. Heithoff had a successful season moving from the defensive line to outside backer in the 3-4 scheme. He had 71 tackles (9.5 for loss) and four sacks.
The Bulldogs’ seven all-conference honorees are the most for the program since having eight in 2007. The three first team choices are the most since getting four in 2007. Heithoff, a second teamer in 2011, is Concordia’s only repeat selection in 2012.
Eight Concordia student-athletes also received honorable mention honors: Von Thomas (QB), Dylan Klassen (OL), Josh Powell (OL), Langston Jones (LB), Kyle Little (LB), Derek Blessing (KR), Tom Malander (LB) and Tait Sibbel (DB).
11 DEC 2012
Seven additional Bulldog student-athletes have been named 2012 Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes with the release coming from the NAIA on Tuesday. Representing Concordia on the list of football Scholar-Athletes are Alex Callan, Mitchell Cherney, Bobby Cody, Dylan Heithoff, Thomas Malander, Bradley Schick and Spencer Zysset. Concordia concludes the fall with a total of 33 Scholar-Athletes.
Cherney, a junior offensive lineman from Burnsville, Minn., also was recently named a Capital One Academic All-District selection among schools in the College Division.
The NAIA announced that 259 football student-athletes have been named 2012 Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes. Cumberland (Tenn.) leads all institutions with 16 individuals on the list.
In order to be nominated by an institution's head coach or sports information director, a student-athlete must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and must have achieved a junior academic status to qualify for this honor.
Concordia football student-athletes named Scholar-Athletes
12 DEC 2012
Senior kicker Kenny Zoeller added another honor to his growing list of awards after a brilliant 2012 season. On Wednesday he was named a 2012 American Football Coaches Association NAIA All-American. The recognition is the most prestigious honor in the football career of the Spring, Texas, native.
"Kenny is a unique individual. He's never satisfied," special teams coordinator Corby Osten said. "He's really competitive. He not only wants to be better than the rest of the kickers in the conference, he is always competing with himself. That attitude has certainly contributed to his success."
With improved mental focus, according to Osten, Zoeller enjoyed a big senior year. He made 15 of 20 field goal attempts and 27 of 28 extra point attempts on his way to compiling 72 total points. His 15 field goals were the third most in the NAIA and his 72 points were 11th most among all kickers nationally.
For his efforts, Zoeller was named the first team all-GPAC kicker and a third team All-American by Beyond Sports Network. He also played in the National Bowl Game, an all-star game for collegiate seniors across the nation, on Dec. 9 and went 3-for-3 on extra points.
In his collegiate career, Zoeller connected on 29 of 47 field goal attempts and 61 of 63 extra point attempts. He compiled 148 points in his Concordia career while serving as the kicker the past three seasons. His 24-yard field goal in the final minutes of the Bulldogs’ Oct. 13 game this season lifted them to a 17-16 upset of No. 11 Northwestern.
Zoeller joins Doane offensive lineman Dillon Carmichael, Northwestern defensive lineman Jordan Carlson, Nebraska Wesleyan linebacker Brett Kaczor, Morningside defensive back Jared Goforth and Dakota Wesleyan punter Derek Carlson as All-Americans from the GPAC.
Teammate Derek Blessing received first team All-America honors as a punt returner from Beyond Sports Network.
26 DEC 2012
Omaha World-Herald All-Nebraska football team
Nine Concordia football student-athletes were named to the Omaha World-Herald All-Nebraska team on Tuesday. Senior kicker Kenny Zoeller represented the Bulldogs on the squad as the honorary captain for special teams.
Joining Zoeller with OWH All-Nebraska honors were seniors (OL) Adam Faulstich and (DL) Michael Voelker and juniors (PR) Derek Blessing and (DB) Darnell Woods. Concordia honorable mention selections included seniors (LB) Kyle Little and (WR) Colten Quinabo, junior (LB) Dylan Heithoff and sophomore (QB) Von Thomas.
Zoeller added yet another honor to his impressive list that includes AFCA NAIA All-America, Beyond Sports Network third team All-America and first team All-GPAC recognition.
Concordia Omaha World-Herald All-Nebraska
Honorable Mention All-Nebraska
03 JAN 2013
Derek Blessing had not returned a punt since his sophomore year as a prep at Ogallala High School in western Nebraska. So when head coach Vance Winter approached the junior before practice this spring about taking over the hazardous role as a returner, Blessing hesitated.
“Kickoff’s great, but punt returns I’m a little nervous about,” Blessing told his coach. “In that first punt return against Benedictine, I can honestly say that I was pretty scared back there.”
Ironically, it would be opposing special teams units that appeared nervous when No. 21 trotted deep to receive punts. By the sixth game of the season, Briar Cliff didn’t seem to want any part of Blessing, repeatedly punting out of bounds for an average of 26.8 yards.
Blessing’s reputation as a return threat started in the opening game of the season. He raced 71 yards for a punt return touchdown late in the fourth quarter to give the Bulldogs a chance against then-No. 13 Benedictine on Aug. 25. The once-reluctant Blessing went on to return punts for touchdowns of 56 yards versus Dordt on Sept. 22 and 50 yards in the upset of then-No. 11 Northwestern on Oct. 13.
So, what’s it like to break away and return a punt to the house?
“It’s a feeling that I had never actually had in football before,” Blessing said. “I’ve scored before, I’ve had interceptions before, I’ve had success in other places before, but returning a punt for a touchdown is a special feeling. When you get out in that open field and look and see no guys, or one or two guys in front of you and know that you have a chance, you get excited.”
Among all collegiate punt returners in the NAIA and at all levels of the NCAA, only NCAA Division III Mount Union’s (Ohio) Chris Denton, who had four punt returns for touchdowns, took more punts to paydirt than Blessing. Blessing led the NAIA with 388 punt return yards on 21 attempts, giving him an eye-popping average of 18.5 yards per return.
Blessing’s success even made it into an opposing head coach’s game plan. “We held Derek Blessing to just 56 yards on punt and kick returns,” Nebraska Wesleyan head coach Brian Keller told the Lincoln Journal Star after the game. “That was a very big thing for us, because we were not going to let him beat us.”
Blessing, a student of the game with aspirations of becoming a football coach and teacher, understands how to be patient, how to set up blocks and also the need to get north-south quickly. Combine these traits with his solid speed and tenacity with the football and you get the type of player that forces opponents to spend extra time prepping to stop him.
“Punt returning is not an easy thing to do,” Concordia head football coach Vance Winter said. “You have to have the right personality. Derek is fearless. He maybe had some hesitancy early on in the year, but I like the way he attacked things. He has a mindset of just going out and making a play. He’s a huge weapon for us.”
Winter’s statement was underscored in the season’s signature victory versus Northwestern on homecoming. Behind Blessing, Concordia piled up 175 return yards compared to just seven for the Red Raiders. Special teams coordinator Corby Osten simply wanted someone who would reliably secure punts.
He has gotten that and a whole lot more from Blessing.
“Vision,” Osten replied when asked what attributes make Blessing a standout returner. “He sees the field. He’s physical and breaks a lot of arm tackles. You really have to square him up to tackle him.
“In the return against Northwestern he cut back across the field. He sees the field so well, he took an angle to help set up the blocks that allowed him to take it to the end zone.”
The transition to punt returner was not the only upheaval for Blessing during his career as a Bulldog. The coaching staff had also approached the former First Team All-State Nebraska high school star about a move from running back to cornerback. Blessing liked playing running back, but in his characteristic unselfish manner he agreed to make the change.
“He’s the epitome of an unselfish teammate,” Winter said. “He’s always putting team goals above individual goals. When we asked him to move he really saw how it was going to benefit the team.
“Derek is a class act all the way. He’s a great student, a great citizen off the field and just a really intense and tough football player.”
The two-time GPAC Special Teams Player of the Week has showcased a flair for making game-turning plays since high school. Blessing piled up 15 touchdowns as a senior and 15 interceptions for his career at Ogallala. With these credentials, Blessing had no shortage of potential college suitors. But one school quickly emerged above the rest.
“I came here, walked through the door and Coach Winter shook my hand. He knew me by name already.
“I felt it was a great place to go. It was definitely something that was in God’s plans for me, because I hadn’t considered it [before the visit]. All of the sudden here it was on the table and I just fell in love with it.”
Outside of football, the secondary education major spends plenty of time studying and hanging out with friends. “Just the normal stuff,” Blessing says.
It’s on the football field that Blessing is far from normal. Opposing GPAC special teams units beware.