Putting its four-game victory streak on the line, Iowa Central returns to Midwest Football Conference action this afternoon with a home matchup against traditional rival Ellsworth.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Dodger Stadium.
Last Sunday, the 16th-ranked (NJCAA) Tritons (5-1 overall, 0-1 MFC) coasted to a 49-16 triumph over Morningside JV. Against the Mustangs, Iowa Central accumulated 591 yards of total offense, including a season-high 226 through the air.
"This is a big game for playoff seeding purposes since (the Panthers) beat College of DuPage and we didn't," ICCC head coach Kevin Twait said. "The three JV teams we've faced have all been quality competition and gave us some confidence. It's great to be at home again (for a fourth straight week).
"We always get great support from our crowd and really feed off their energy. Going up against an arch-rival from 55 miles down the road, we have to hold serve at home."
Fort Dodge Senior High graduate Jontel Clayton, who finished second nationally in rushing yards last fall with 1,477, needs just 358 more yards to set the all-time Triton rushing mark. Clayton currently ranks 14th in the country and second in the league in yards on the ground (512), while finding paydirt seven times. As a team, Iowa Central is sixth nationally in rushing at 248.8 yards per game.
"(The Panthers) will really challenge us," said Twait. "We've thrown the ball well, but we need to be more consistent on the ground. Their strength defensively is in the secondary."
Triton freshman signal-caller Chris Bell has also made the most of his limited opportunities, completing 51 of 77 passes for 799 yards with seven touchdowns and four picks. Jaquon Goodman has been his primary target, hauling in 14 grabs for 240 yards and two scores.
Ellsworth (3-2, 1-0) has reeled off three straight wins since a pair of setbacks to start the season, including a 33-0 drubbing of Dakota College in its previous outing. The Panthers, who come in averaging 28.8 points and 369.6 total yards per contest, are powered offensively by University of Iowa transfer De'Andre Johnson (73 totes, 338 yards, 4 TD) and former Memphis commit Trey Gilbert (63-440-2).
Quarterback Jordan Doyle of Ellsworth has gone 64-for-142 through the air for 844 yards with eight endzone strikes and four interceptions. Ex-Louisiana-Lafayette player Amari Williams (23 catches, 275 yards, 3 TD), Ciavy Wiles (18-263-2) and JT Tolbert (13-250-2) form a dynamic receiving trio for the Panthers.
"(Johnson) is a fine football player, and they have tremendous skill at the receiver position," Twait said. "They can cause a lot of problems (offensively). Like always in big games, special teams and turnover margin will be huge."
Linebacker Irving Steele from Ellsworth ranks second in the conference in tackles (63), including 11 for loss.
Dating back to the 2002-03 campaign, the Tritons have dropped six of their past 11 meetings with the Panthers. Seven of those outcomes have been decided by eight points or less. Last season, Iowa Central narrowly edged Ellsworth by a 35-28 count in Iowa Falls.