It's time again to tee it up for another season of GPAC Football! After one game last weekend to end August (Benedictine at Concordia), the schedule opens in earnest this weekend across the league. There is one conference game with Briar Cliff traveling to Doane, the rest of the teams are playing non-conference games. Two of this week's games are Thursday night outings and two teams (Hastings and Midland) will not play until their league openers on September 8. Once again B. Lynn Fouts with the Victory Sports Network (VSN) will break down the games each week on our football previews.
A look back to Saturday:
Concordia opened the 2012 season for the GPAC with a solid performance against a ranked foe in a 45-37 loss to Benedictine. Coach Winter's crew threw a scare into a team that is being eyed for a NAIA post season berth. The Bulldogs needed to recover an on-side kick in the last three minutes, but the Ravens grabbed it and ran out the clock. Concordia suits up again on September 8th hosting Dakota Wesleyan.
This week in GPAC Football:
This week, the GPAC has a couple Thursday night games with its top two vote getters in the pre-season polls. #10 Northwestern welcomes Southwestern College of the KCAC to DeValois and hopes for a repeat of their meeting in Kansas last year, a 47-13 rout for the Red Raiders. Quarterback Davis Bloemendaal will seek his 11th consecutive win in as many starts and has a serious run game with Brandon Smith and Theo Bartman in the backfield. The defense may pose huge problems for opponents, especially with 6-4, 290 Jordan Carlson plugging the middle. This game has been moved back to a 7pm start because of the heat.
Eighth ranked Morningside also replays its non-conference foe from 2011 as #17 Valley City State comes down from North Dakota. The Mustangs will have a new starter at QB, but reliable RB Fred Jones will help ease the stress for whoever wins the job. The offensive line again has size while the defense welcomes back most of the linebackers and secondary. The Vikings fell at home to the Mustangs last fall by 35-17 after which they ran off 9 straight wins before losing in the post season. Kickoff is at 7pm at Olsen Stadium in Sioux City.
On Saturday #21 Doane hosts Briar Cliff in an all-GPAC tussle. Doane had their best season in the last ten going 8-2 and just missing the post season. Replacing a four year starter at QB is the key as the Tigers have most of the same team back. The offensive line may be the league's best and the depth on defense is helped by the healthy return of several D-linemen. Briar Cliff has their top two RB's back but also need a new quarterback. Tight end Michael Becker returns from an injury that cost him most of 2011. Some new faces dot the secondary, but I expect an improved BCU this fall. Kickoff in Crete is slated for 1pm at Simon Field.
Another KCAC team comes into the GPAC as St Mary's of Leavenworth, KS visits Nebraska Wesleyan. After dropping a 58-34 contest at home, it's hard to see the Spires leaving Lincoln with a win. NWU has seniors at many key positions on defense starting with defensive tackle Russell Walton and the league's leading tackler in 2011, linebacker Brett Kaczor. But it's the return of senior quarterback Nate Hauptman from a season ending injury in 2011 that has hopes soaring for the Prairie Wolves in 2012. This game will start at 1pm at Abel Stadium in Lincoln.
Dordt opens on the road at Waldorf in a contest that could be named the Irony Bowl. New Defender coach Greg Youngblood opens his career in the GPAC going up against his last school. The Warriors dropped a 21-0 game in Sioux Center last fall and would like nothing better than to show their old coach how far they've come. It won't happen as Dordt returns lots of starters and should be able to handle the hosts behind linebacker Seth Vande Voort, 6-2 240 and a good offensive line. This will be a night game starting at 6pm in Forest City, Iowa.
In the final game to kick-off Saturday night, an old SDIC rivalry renews for the 66th time between Dakota State and Dakota Wesleyan. The Tigers own a 34-30-1 lead in the series and come into this year with a hi-octane offense. Quarterback Jonathan Bane, running back Josh Ebdres and wide receiver Anthony Muilenberg all earned conference honors last autumn and should help expand on the 31 ppg they scored in 2011. They may need to as the defense lost every starter up front. The back 7 are good led by linebackers Mike Barnaud and Jeff Maassen. Game time at Joe Quin