NCAA Division-III Playoffs, R. 2: St. Thomas vs. Coe
Round 2 matchup in the NCAA Division-III football playoffs. The Kohawks were the winners of the Iowa Athletic Conference (IIAC) after going 10-0 and won their opening round matchup against Monmouth, 21-14. The Tommies won the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) for the second year in a row, going 10-0. They defeated Northwestern in their first round matchup, 43-0.
How They Got Here
St. Thomas University continues to be one of the elite teams in all of Division-III football under Head Coach Glenn Caruso. After reaching the finals in football last season, they followed up with a 10-0 season that saw them dominate all but one game. The Tommies opened up their season with two non-conference wins, downing UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout by a combined total of 99-23. Two weeks later they defeated archrival St. John’s on the Johnnies home field, 33-21. Two weeks later they faced their toughest game of the season, narrowly defeating Concordia, 23-20. From there, the Tommies rolled, winning their final four games by a combined score of 211-39.
Last Saturday, Northwestern University, the winner of UMAC, travelled down Snelling Avenue to take on St. Thomas. The Tommies took their opening drive of the game 80-yards in 12-plays and jumped out in front 7-0 on a one-yard touchdown run by Tucker Trettel. Jeremy Molina added two one-yard touchdown runs in the second quarter and St. Thomas led 30-0 heading into the half. A 58-yard interception return for a touchdown extended that lead to 37-0, and Stephen Wagner’s 10-yard touchdown run in the fourth made it 43-0. That would be the final.
QB Alex Fenske threw for 206-yards and a TD on just 19-attempts, and Wagner led St. Thomas with 78-yards and 2-TDs on 14-attempts. Nick Waldvogel had 104-yards receiving. The Tommies defense made three interceptions and had a fumble recovery.
Coe College won all 10-games during the regular season. They opened up with non-conference wins over UW-River Falls and Cornell, combining for 98-points in those two victories. They won their first two games in the conference schedule, then narrowly defeated Wartburg and Central in back-to-back weeks, with both victories coming by three-points. Following an 11-point win over Dubuque, the Kohawks won their final three games of the season, scoring at least 45 in each contest and outscoring their opponents 140-42.
Last Saturday, Coe took on Midwest Conference champion Monmouth in a great battle. The Scots took the lead in the game when Tanner Matlick found Jacolby Maxwell for a 69-yard bomb for a touchdown that made it 7-0. The Kohawks responded with a six-yard pass from Gavin Glenn to Tyler Gunderson with 10-minutes to go in the half. A nine-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Vega 3:30 into the second half gave Coe the lead, and they would extend that to 21-7 when Trevor Heitland raced 46-yards for a score. The Scots would cut that lead to seven with a little less than nine minutes left, but the Coe defense held on for the 21-14 victory.
Heitland had a huge game, rushing for 251-yards and a TD on 50-carries. He also led the team with 4-receptons and 19-yards receiving. Ryan Leonard led the team with 7-tackles and a sack, and Andrew Johnson made two of the Kohawks five interceptions. Tait Simpson recovered two of the four fumbles that the Kohawks recovered.
St. Thomas PPG: 47.8, Rushing YDs/Game: 200.8, Passing YDs/Game: 271.6, Total YDs Game: 472.5
Coe PPG: 40.5, Rushing YDs/Game: 271.6, Passing YDs/Game: 215.1, Total YDs Game: 486.7
St. Thomas PPG: 10.9, Rushing YDs/Game: 62.5, Passing YDs/Game: 146.4, Total YDs Game: 208.8
Coe PPG: 16.6, Rushing YDs/Game: 134.7, Passing YDs/Game: 232.6, Total YDs Game: 367.3
Why St. Thomas Will Win
- Last year’s Player of the Year, Jordan Roberts, has been out much of the year, but the rushing attack has not been off by much. Tucker Trettel is a load to stop, but three or four guys on this team can carry the ball and gain big chunks of yards. All they need to do is keep handing off the rock and they will be fine.
- This Tommies defense has been created to make teams pay for mistakes. The linebacker group is as good as it gets, and they cause teams to make mistakes. As long as this group plays to their potential, the Kohawk offense is in trouble.
- Special teams is what Glenn Caruso is known for. He recruits with the best of them, and his offense and defense are always a top 10 it seems like, but their special teams rip the hearts out of opponents. If they have their normal kind of impact on a game, they put their offense is a great field position and leave opposing offenses feeling the pressure of playing near their own goal line.
Why Coe Will Win
- There is a reason that Heitland is a candidate for the Player of the Year honors. He is just a beast and if he carries the ball 40 times in this game Coe will win.
- Coe is a smart team that does not make mistakes. Just 4-interceptions from Gavin Glenn and six fumbles lost tell you that they don’t hurt themselves. St. Thomas succeeds because of their ability to cause teams to make mistakes. Coe doesn’t make them and this could be a big psychological edge as the game goes along.
- The Kohawk defense has generated 21-interceptions and 15-fumble recoveries. That means that their offense is getting three extra possessions a game. If this defense has that kind of success, Coe will win.
No winner of the IIAC is to be taken lightly, and the Tommies learned that two years ago against Wartburg. Don’t expect Coach Caruso to take anything for granted. His team has the experience and is a bit more talented. Coe just can’t match up to what St. Thomas can put on the field. This will be close at the half, but expect the Tommies to roll by the end of the third quarter, 44-14.
By Robert Pannier