MOUNT PLEASANT – With its first Mid-States Football Association Midwest League win out of the way, Iowa Wesleyan College now turns its focus on causing some serious disruption among the leaders in the league standings, starting Saturday against St. Ambrose University.
The Tigers travel to Davenport to face the Fighting Bees, one of three teams tied for the MSFA Midwest lead. IWC’s next two games are against MSFA Midwest leaders, so the Tigers still have plenty of time leave their mark on the league before the season is over.
Wesleyan is coming off a 24-14 win over Trinity International last week in which its offensive stars shined again and the defense shut down the Trojans. Bryan Abihider (Sr.-Hemet, Calif.) threw for 286 yards, Lawrence Moore (So.-Country Club Hills, Ill.) caught 11 passes for 148 yards and a 70-yard touchdown, and Jaren Maybin (Jr.-Baltimore, Md.) rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, IWC held TIU to just 185 yards of offense, including 62 yards in the second half, and the defense’s dominance combined with the offense’s ball control led to an 18-minute advantage in time of possession in the second half.
This week the Tigers step up a notch in competition, taking on a St. Ambrose team that was picked to win the league. The Bees are coming off a 16-10 win over Olivet Nazarene last week, a week after being upset at home 21-7 by McKendree. SAU plays offensively from a number of formations and throws the ball as well as anyone in the MSFA Midwest. The Bees typically have passed with more success than running this year (1,884 yards passing vs. 921 yards rushing), while defensively, their 3-4 defense has forced 22 turnovers and is largely responsible for an MSFA-best +12 turnover margin.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT – Perhaps somewhat surprising to those who’ve followed the MSFA Midwest the past few years, the St. Ambrose offense ranks ahead of its defense in most categories, this coming a year after the Bees ranked second in the NAIA in pass defense and 18th nationally in total defense. Offensively, Ambrose is among the offensive statistical leaders in the MSFA Midwest in many categories, including leading in total offense.
Mike Magistrelli is in his second year as St. Ambrose coach and is 13-6 in 1 1/2 years at the helm. SAU returned just eight starters from last year’s undefeated MSFA Midwest champions but was again named the league favorite in the preseason poll of coaches.
LAST MEETING – St. Ambrose scored 24 points in the second quarter and made it stand up for a 31-14 win over the Tigers at Evans Field. IWC took it to the Fighting Bees offensively, gaining 366 yards and controlling the ball for more than 36 minutes against SAU’s nationally top-ranked defense. However, the Tigers had four drives inside Ambrose’s 35-yard line where they came up scoreless, hampering their chances at an upset.
This is the 46th meeting all-time between the Tigers and Bees. St. Ambrose leads the series 29-14-2 and has won the last nine meetings. The Tigers’ last win over the Bees came in 1998, when Wyatt Miller completed 39 of 59 passes for 362 yards and three touchdowns and Terry Taylor scored on a two-yard run with :02 left in the game for the winning touchdown.
STAR SOPHOMORES – Saturday’s matchup will feature not just two of the best sophomore receivers in the MSFA, but two of the best receivers in the conference, period. IWC’s Moore is now up to 50 catches for 758 yards and five touchdown catches this season, and is on pace for one of the most prolific seasons by a receiver in Tiger history. He ranks second in the entire MSFA in both receptions and yards.
The only player ahead of him in either category is Michael Hayward, St. Ambrose’s sophomore star who has 61 receptions for 825 yards and seven touchdowns this season. A first team All-MSFA Midwest pick last year as a freshman, Hayward hasn’t come out of nowhere as Moore seemingly has this year, but he has established himself as one of the top offensive forces in the league. Like Moore, Hayward also has four 100-yard receiving games this season, and he leads the league in touchdown receptions.
RISING IN THE RANKS – The Tigers will attempt to combat Hayward and the Bees’ passing game with what is now the first-ranked pass defense in the Midwest League and third-rated overall in the MSFA. IWC’s secondary has become a strength led by safeties Darious Watson (Jr.-Bellwood, Ill.) and Scott Knipfer (Sr.-Cottage Grove, Wis.) and cornerbacks Mervin Shaw (Sr.-St. Louis, Mo.), Gerald Knighten (Jr.-Bellwood, Ill.) and Jason Amy (Jr.-Lake Elsinore, Calif.). Andrew Davis (Fr.-Macedonia, Ohio) and Shawn Monos (Fr.-Warner Robins, Ga.) have also contributed significantly off the bench and give the team the depth to hold its own against the many passing offenses in the league.
TRIUMPHANT RETURN – Last week’s win over Trinity International, located in Deerfield, Ill., near Chicago, was a winning homecoming for a number of Tigers. Moore and teammate Brock Chestleigh (Fr.-Country Club Hills, Ill.) are both natives of Country Club Hills, while Daryan Coleman (So.-Downers Grove, Ill.) comes from Downers Grove, another suburb of Chicago. Deleon Bolds (Sr.-Chicago, Ill.) and Kris Fleming (Jr.-Chicago, Ill.) are both from Chicago, and Knighten, Watson and Quentin Lang (Sr.-Bellwood, Ill.) are all natives of Bellwood, Ill. Almost all of them contributed against TIU; in addition to Moore’s big game, Bolds had a big catch on IWC’s final scoring drive and Watson was one of the defensive leaders with four tackles. Lang and Fleming both had tackles on defense, while Coleman played a number of snaps on offense at receiver.
BETTER AS GAME WEARS ON – The Tigers take pride in being in better condition than the teams they play. One sign of that: IWC is outscoring its opponents 105-73 in the second half of its games. Against Trinity International, the Tigers outgained the Trojans 173-62 in the second half and held a 24:00-6:00 advantage in time of possession.
TEAM AWARDS – The IWC coaching staff presented awards to three players after last week’s win over Trinity International. Offensive MVP-Greg Fields (So.-St. Louis, Mo.); offensive scout team MVP-Jesus Fuentes (Fr.-Cedar Hill, Texas); and defensive scout team MVP-Adrian Muex (Fr.-Springfield, Ill.).
ON THE AIRWAVES – The IWC/St. Ambrose game will be available on an SAU radio webstream via the Internet at http://web.sau.edu/athletics/webcasts.htm.
For more information regarding the IWC football program or any of the Tiger athletic teams, contact sports information director Adam Glatczak (319-385-6306 phone; 319-385-6384 FAX; firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail) or log on to IWC's athletics web site at www.iwc.edu/athletics.