Everyone joins the party this weekend as all ten GPAC football schools will take to the field. It's the conference opener for eight of the teams in the league, while Doane and Briar Cliff opened last week in conference play and will play non-conference games this week. National eyes will be on the GPAC this week with #10 Northwestern playing at #8 Morningside. B. Lynn Fouts breaks down this week's games in the VSN/GPAC Football Preview for Week #2.
A look back to last week...
Most of the league opened last weekend and several had impressive non-conference wins. Dakota Wesleyan, Northwestern and Morningside all ran up scores into the 40's while Nebraska Wesleyan relied on NAIA special teams' player of the week, Jordan Delbaugh, to snare a 25-20 win. Dordt was not so fortunate as they dropped their opener on the road. In the lone conference match-up, Doane ran out to a 28-0 lead before holding on to a 41-28 victory over Briar Cliff at Simon Field in Crete.
This week's games in the GPAC...
This week the all of the teams enter the action. First off, Midland hosts NWU in an anticipated contest as the Warriors have the feel of a new team. Josh Gehring begins his career as a head coach and will match wits with the GPAC's dean of coaches, Brian Keller. The Prairie Wolves are at the advantage with one game under their belts and a sound defense as usual. Midland will counter with a defense led by linebacker Clete Vrbka and defensive back Nick Carlson, a returning All American. The offense lost a lot of production from 2011, but Gehring has been an offensive coordinator before. It should boil down to the team that makes the fewer mistakes at Memorial Field in Fremont.
Briar Cliff hosts Graceland (Iowa) from the Heart of America Conference (HAAC) and are looking to find the win column. The Chargers dug themselves out of a big hole in Crete last week and showed some offensive promise behind quarterback Kevin Van Egdom, running back Jared Williams and wide receiver Bryce Harshman. The defense will find the going better against the Yellow Jackets who are 1-1 on the year. Look for Coach Rethman's squad to build off their rally from last week as they play their home opener at Sioux City's Memorial Field.
Dakota Wesleyan heads to Concordia with their arsenal intact. The Tigers gave up two 80 yard touchdown passes in the first 3 minutes of the game last week to fall behind 14-7. By the time the first quarter was up, DWU had taken control 27-14. The defense allowed less than 200 yards the final 57 minutes of the contest and tacked on a touchdown on an interception return. Concordia has been idle for two weeks after losing to #13 Benedictine in a 45-37 shootout. If the Bulldog offensive line gives quarterback Von Thomas time, this could turn into another high scoring affair.
Hastings shakes off the cobwebs and joins the football season, heading to Sioux Center to take on Dordt. Hastings is one of the few teams in the GPAC to have a returning starter at quarterback. The other three teams all won their openers. Signal caller John Dostal and running back Kevin Ballage could find the end zone a few times this weekend. Dordt was shell shocked after losing to Waldorf, a team it had defeated last year, 16-0. Injuries have piled up on a team not expected to have great depth.
Northwestern-Morningside; most of the league will have one eye on the scoreboard here. The favorites to battle it out both put up big offensive numbers; Northwestern behind NAIA offensive player of the week quarterback Davis Bloemendaal and the Mustangs behind behind back-up running back Jon Halverson. While the Red Raiders and Mustangs were never challenged last week by the opposing defenses, I see both offenses struggling this Saturday night. Look for yet another tight, low-scoring contest; maybe even overtime.
Doane might be a little tired of everyone pointing to the other night game as "the" game for the conference crown. It looks like the Tigers will have a big say in the final outcome as well as they played last Saturday. Jeff Weander started at quarterback for Doane and tossed three touchdown passes in just over a 15 minute stretch of the first half. The defense held BCU to just 80 yards rushing. Doane should be able to keep Dakota State in check and move to 2-0.