TIFFIN, Ohio—Fresh off a 55-3 win over Capital University on Homecoming last Saturday, the Heidelberg University football team will take to the road Saturday to play undefeated Muskingum University in an Ohio Athletic Conference match in New Concord. Kickoff from McConagha Stadium is slated for 1:30 p.m.
The game will be the first gridiron contest of the 2011 season to be broadcast on the ‘Berg Athletics Network (www.heidelberg.edu/athletics). Jeff Garvin will have the call. In addition, live stats for the game will be available at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/musk.portal.
The Berg enters the contest 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the OAC, both firsts under fifth-year head coach Mike Hallett. The Fighting Muskies are 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the conference, also a first for fifth-year head coach Al Logan.
Saturday’s game is expected to be a classic duel between a high-octane offense and a stingy defense. Heidelberg’s offense is nationally ranked in a number of categories, while the Muskingum defense is among the best in the nation.
In their last game, the Student Princes piled on a season-high 584 yards of total offense and scored seven touchdowns, including two scores from sophomore running back/kick returner Cartel Brooks (Kokomo, Ind./Galion), who was named the OAC’s special teams player of the week. Brooks returned the opening kickoff 79 yards for a TD—his second of the season—and scored his first rushing TD as a Student Prince on a 58-yard carry in the fourth quarter. Through four games this season, Brooks is leading the nation by averaging 49.8 yards per kick return.
The Berg offense averages 37.5 points and 468.2 total yards per game—16th in the nation—including 233 on the ground (23rd) and 235.2 through the air. The Student Princes rank in the top three in the OAC in all four categories.
Leading the ground attack is sophomore second-team All-OAC running back Germany Woods (Cleveland/Lakewood St. Edward), who is second in the conference and tied for 21st nationally with 122 rushing yards per game. Woods has netted 488 yards this season in 80 attempts for a 6.1 yards per rush average to go with three TDs. Junior running back Brad Jones (Lorain/Southview) (157 yards, 38 attempts, TD) and Brooks (105 yards, 11 attempts, TD) will also see action out of the backfield.
Freshman quarterback Michael Mees (North Ridgeville) will lead the passing attack. Mees is completing 54.1 percent (60-of-111) of his passes and has thrown for 894 yards and 11 TDs against just three interceptions in his first four games as a collegian, while his 223.5 passing yards per game rank second in the league.
Among Mees’ favorite targets are junior wide receivers Mario Escalante (Highland Heights, Ky./Newport Central Catholic) and Josh Lynch (Dayton/Meadowdale), and senior wide receiver CJ Powell (Detroit, Mich./Bishop Foley), all of whom caught a TD pass from Mees against Capital. Escalante has caught 11 passes for a team-high 261 yards and averages 65.2 yards per game. Lynch has 11 receptions for 200 yards and tallies 50 yards per game. Powell has 10 catches for 163 yards and a team-high four TDs and averages 40.8 yards per game.
Special teams have keyed Heidelberg in its three victories this year, as junior kicker Dan Kilger (Novi, Mich./Novi) has made four-of-six field goal attempts with a long of 30 yards and averages nearly 54 yards per kickoff. Kilger has also connected on 16 consecutive extra points and field goal attempts. Freshman punter and backup quarterback Colin Bultinck (Lafayette, Ind./Jefferson) averages 39.2 yards per punt, forcing four fair catches and landing three kicks inside the 20-yard line.
Defensively, the Student Princes gave up only 219 yards to Capital. They allow 21.5 points and 377.8 yards per game, including 146.2 yards on the ground and 231.5 yards through the air. Junior linebacker Craig Sykes (Centerburg), who recorded his first two career interceptions against Capital, is fifth in the OAC with 38 tackles, including three for loss and one sack. Sophomore linebacker Dawson Gore (Bellevue) has notched 33 hits, including 2.5 for loss and junior safety Tyler Levanduski (Elyria/Amherst Steele), who was named to D3Football.com’s team of the week after recording a team-high 10 tackles against the Crusaders, has 31 stops. The defensive line is anchored by junior Stephen Fejedelem (Ravenna) with 20 tackles and one sack. Senior cornerback Tony Gordon (Euclid) guides the secondary with 20 tackles and an interception and is second in the conference with six passes defended.
The Muskingum offense is scoring 24.8 points per game and totaling 308.5 yards per game, including 141.5 rushing yards and 167 passing yards. Dalton Smith will handle the quarterbacking duties, having completed 54.3 percent (44-of-81) of his passes for 668 yards and five TDs. Smith’s favorite target is James Washington, who has hauled in 13 receptions for 249 yards and two TDs. Out of the backfield, Palmer Smith will see most of the carries. Smith averages 70.8 rushing yards per game and has totaled 283 on 67 carries with one TD.
The Fighting Muskie defense is one of the best in NCAA Division III, ranking in the top-25 in four major categories. The Muskies allow just 7.8 points per game (fifth) and 233.2 total yards per game (14th), including 54.5 rushing yards (fifth) and 178.8 passing yards. Alex Thomas leads the team with 42 tackles, seven tackles for loss and has recorded four sacks and one interception. Ethan Wetzel has tallied 33 hits of his own, including three tackles for loss and one sack. Five different student-athletes have recorded an interception, led by Tyler Richardson with three. Sean West has gotten to the quarterback four times to lead the team.
Following Heidelberg’s trip to New Concord, the Student Princes will host the University of Mount Union in an OAC game on Saturday, Oct. 15.