Iowa Central hosts Highland

Iowa Central hosts Highland

By:  Dana Becker, The Messenger Sports Reporter


Jesse Montalto believes the bye week came at a perfect time for his Iowa Central football team.

After back-to-back difficult road games that resulted in losses to fifth-ranked Iowa Western and Coffeyville, the Tritons rebounded two weeks ago with a commanding 50-6 triumph over College of DuPage inside Dodger Stadium.

Now, Iowa Central (2-2 overall) looks to keep the momentum going when they host Highland (3-1) back here at noon Saturday.

Everything was clicking for the Tritons vs. DuPage, as they scored 29 points in the second quarter to go up 36-0 at the break. Iowa Central amassed 457 yards of total offense and 24 first downs, as Blake Dever was 16-for-21 for 226 yards with two passing and two rushing scores.

Ezra Naylor had his best game of the season, catching six passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, with Rashad Witty adding seven receptions for 81 yards and a score.

Jatoviay Hill ran for 88 yards and Draven Peeples added 59.

"The game vs. DuPage helped the kids get some confidence back," Montalto said. "They proved they could go out, execute and win a game. It feels like they have that swagger back a little bit and I expect them to come out Saturday and play tough again."

Dever is completing 60 percent of his passes for 634 yards with four scores this year. Peeples leads the team with 314 yards rushing, while both Emmanuel Logan-Greene and Kevaughn Dingle have a combined 37 receptions for 378 yards.

The Tritons are 2-0 at home on the season, as they opened the year with a 26-16 victory over No. 12 Butler.

"We're excited to be back at home playing in front of our fans," Montalto said. "With the bye, it feels like forever since we played, so I know the kids are anxious to get back out there."

Savion Harris anchors the Iowa Central defense with 31 tackles, as both Daquan Cross and Zion Smith have 28. Cross has 3.5 sacks and Spencer Cuvelier two, with Cuvelier leading the team with 7.5 tackles for loss.

Iowa Central is currently ranked in the Top-35 in the nation in points per game (32/26th), total offense (373.5/23rd), passing yards per game (219/21st) and rushing yards per game (154.5/34th).

"We got back into the routine on Monday and had some good practices this week," Montalto said. "We were also able to get back to full strength, as we would have been missing some guys if we had a game last week."

Highland, which sits just outside the NJCAA Top-20 at 21st this week, is coming off a 47-38 victory in overtime over Coffeyville at home. They have also topped Fort Scott (29-28) and Ellsworth (17-10) this year around a 35-27 loss to Butler.

Kevin Brown ran for 153 yards and a touchdown last week, as Avery McCall completed 27 of 54 for 259 yards and two scores. Brown has a team-high 364 yards on the year, with McCall throwing for 483 yards.

Highland also picked off six passes on defense, including four by Damarion Williams. On Coffeyville's overtime possession following a field goal by the Scotties, Williams picked off a pass and returned it for a score.

Williams leads the nation in both interceptions (six) and pass breakups (10) this year, as Highland has forced 18 turnovers.

The Scotties are coached by Aaron Arnold, who has experience at both Kansas State and Texas Tech. He played for Garden City and Kansas State, helping the Wildcats to a pair of bowl games.

Highland has won the last two meetings by a combined score of 76-2 after Iowa Central was victorious in 2015, 13-12. The Scotties also won in 2014, 35-3.