Every football team wants to begin the season with a victory. When a team can set records on both sides of the ball, it’s even better.The Wartburg Knights began the 2012 campaign with a 73-0 thumping of MacMurray College under the lights at Walston-Hoover Stadium Saturday.
The 73 points were a school record for total points and the margin of victory was also a school record.
“I wasn’t aware of that,” head coach Rick Willis said immediately after his team set the school scoring record.
“Obviously when you can do that you’re having a good night.”
It was the defense that scored the first touchdown of the game though as the Knights forced MacMurray to punt after their first three plays.
Garrett McGrane broke through the punt protection and blocked the punt into the endzone where Joey Naig recovered for the first touchdown of the season.
The Knights forced another three-and-out on the next possession and this time, MacMurray punter John Brockhouse couldn’t even get the kick off before being swarmed by three Knights for a turnover on downs.
Three Reese Thompson carries later and the Knights were in the endzone for the second time in the first four minutes of the game with the offense barely taking the field.
“We’re certainly excited about the way we got off to a great start and really dominated the field position early on which made things come a little easier,” Willis said.
Brandon Domeyer added a five yard touchdown run and with less than a minute to play in the first quarter, freshman quarterback Logan Schrader scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 27-yard pass to Logan Rufflidge for a 28-0 Wartburg lead.
“It felt great. It was awesome to be back out there playing football again after a year off,” said Schrader who transferred from Minnesota-Duluth after not seeing the field at the Division II school last year.
Schrader’s second touchdown pass came early in the second quarter as he lobbed the ball over the defense and found DJ Looft in the corner of the endzone for a 14-yard score.
Spencer Capitani came down with an interception on the very next play from scrimmage and the Knights were back in business.
Matt Kastli finished off a 10-play, 58-yard touchdown drive after pounding it into the endzone from just outside the goal line to put Wartburg up 42-0.
The Knight’s next possession resulted in their only drive of the first half that did not produce a touchdown but a 10-play, 54-yard drive, capped off with a Connor Dahlstrom one-yard touchdown run as time expired in the first half, gave Wartburg a 49-0 lead at the break.
The starters stayed on the sideline for the entire second half, giving the backups and younger players a time to shine.
Kastli and Wesley Bates each scored touchdowns in the third quarter, with Bates’ coming on a 32-yard run after juking out numerous Highlander defenders.
“It was nice to just come sit back and relax and hang out with the older guys on the sidelines and watch the younger guys keep going from where we left off,” offensive lineman Jon Orr said.
Freshman Frank Laconti nailed the first field goal of his collegiate career from 36 yards out to put the Knights up 66-0 in the fourth quarter.
Rodney Smith put one more touchdown up on the board to eclipse the Knight’s previous scoring record of 70.
The defense set a record of their own in the shutout victory giving up just five yards of total offense.
“We got a great group of guys around that work hard all the time,” linebacker Ryan Billings said. “We’ve got good chemistry with each other and everybody knows what each other can do.”
Billings led the team with six tackles including one tackle for loss. Ross Naylor added four tackles including 2.5 for loss while AJ Dobson and Drew Kooi each recorded sacks.
“Obviously one of the things we’re trying to do is tackle well, pursue well and not give up big plays,” Willis said.
“Anytime you can do that you’re probably going to be in pretty good shape defensively so that’s something we’re going to have to keep doing.”
Schrader was 15-for-18 for 156 yards and two touchdowns in a game Willis said was important for him to get his feet underneath him.
Miller led the receiving corps with five catches for 50 yards while Curt Hurska made four catches for 45 yards.
Bates ran the ball seven times for 78 yards and a touchdown, Dahlstrom had eight carries for 65 yards and a touchdown while Kastli added 52 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.
The Knights (1-0) host No. 17 Bethel (0-0) in a rematch of the 2010 playoffs when the Royals escaped Walston-Hoover Stadium with an eight-point victory.
“It will be a big game, a great test for us. We’ll find out a lot about our football team next week and it will be exciting for our guys to get ready for that game,” Willis said.
The game begins at 1 p.m. Saturday and can be seen live on Wartburg Television.