Match-Up: On Saturday at 1 P.M. Eastern Time the Wartburg College Knights will play host to the St. John’s University Johnnies in the second round of the NCAA Division-III Football playoffs. Wartburg was ranked No. 5 in the final regular season D3Football poll, while St. John’s was No. 13.
How They Got Here:
The Wartburg College Knights were victorious over a very tough St. Thomas Tommies team, 37-31. They jumped out on top of St. Thomas 13-0, before the Tommies battled back to take the lead 14-13. Brandon Domeyer’s 3-yard touchdown run put the Knights back on top, and they were leading going into half 20-14.
The Knights added a field goal to begin the second half. St. Thomas responded with a 15-yard touchdown by Charlie Dowdle to cut the lead to 23-21. Three minutes later Domeyer scored again to make it 30-21. The Tommies responded with another John Gould to Dowdle touchdown, this time for 46-yards, but Will Ebert grabbed a 10-yard touchdown reception from Logan Schrader to put the Knights back on top by nine. St. Thomas added a late field goal and was able to recover the onside kick, but Gould’s pass with 30 seconds left in the game was picked off by Logan Pitz to seal the victory.
Domeyer was the big key on offense, rushing for 138 yards and 3 touchdowns. Taylor caught 7 passes and had 109 yards of the 168 yards that Schrader threw for on the day. On defense Wartburg has 3 sacks, 2 interceptions and a forced fumble.
While Wartburg was battling a hard fought contest against St. Thomas, St. John’s was taking care of the St. Scholastica Saints behind 8 interceptions from their defense. Sam Sura put the Johnnies on top with two first half touchdowns, and added a third in the second half to lead the team to a 35-7 win.
Sura finished the day with 147 yards on 28 carries and QB Nick Martin had two long second half touchdown throws. Martin was not required to throw often, but when he did he was on target, completing 9 of 13 passes for 128 yards and 2 scores.
If you are going to have a serious discussion about the St. John’s Johnnies offense, you have to begin with running back Sam Sura. He has 1752 yards rushing now, ranked in the top five nationally. Add to it that he has rushed for 19 touchdowns and has a 5.9 yards per carry average, and it is easy to see why he is such a force for the team.
While Sura has proven to be everything a team could want in a back, QB Nick Martin is proving to be a real force of his own. He is very proficient, and over the last month he has been asked to do more with this offense and has delivered. Josh Bungum is his favorite target, catching 26 passes for 355 yards.
The defense of this team is the real heart and soul. They play a scheme that is the very definition of bend but don’t break. They will gladly let teams move between the 30s, but once they near the Johnnies goal line they are a wall. The five primary defensive backs they employ (Randy Perez, Trevor Warner, Garrett Ackerman, Lucas Glomb and Andrew Norri) are as good as it gets. They make plays at the line of scrimmage and cover as well as any group in the country.
The Wartburg Knights are led by QB Logan Schrader and he delivers as advertised. A 182.7 passer efficiency and 63.4 percent completion rate show that he is as difficult to defend as it gets. Schrader has thrown for 2742 yards and 28 touchdowns with just 5 interceptions. The match between him and the Johnnies defensive backs will be a key to the game.
Brandon Domeyer came up big last weekend, and continues to provide a quality running game to augment Schrader. He now had 992 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. Taylor Jacobsme is Schrader’s favorite receiver, making 56 catches for 975 yards and 7 touchdowns. Robbie Anstoett led the team in touchdown receptions with 10, and added 517 yards receiving.
The Knights have an outstanding defense of their own, led by Gunner Tranel, who led the team with 107 tackles. Zach Twedt is relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback (9 sacks) and Spencer Capitan and Logan Pitz are outstanding defensive backs who know how to position themselves to break up pass plays (3 interceptions and 55 pass breakups/defenses between them).
The Wartburg Knights have been resilient all season, and have earned their No. 5 ranking. They have one of the most accurate passers in the nation and have a solid offense that can put up numbers. The St. John’s Johnnies don’t blow teams out; they beat them down. They ride Sura and let their defense shut opponents down. The Johnnies secondary is just too good. Take St. John’s in a hard fought battle, 28-20.
By Robert Pannier