COUNCIL BLUFFS - Still seeking its first Midwest Football Conference victory of the season, Iowa Central has the unenviable task of trying to contain top-ranked (NJCAA) and unbeaten Iowa Western this afternoon.
Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at Titan Stadium.
Last Saturday, the Tritons (5-2 overall, 0-2 MFC) watched a two touchdown second-half lead slip away in a deflating 24-17 home setback to Ellsworth.
"We had a bitter loss last week against our arch-rival, but we've put that behind us now and have since moved on," ICCC head coach Kevin Twait said. "We're really excited about the challenge in front of us (today). Not many times in your life do you get an opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the nation."
Fort Dodge Senior High graduate Jontel Clayton continues to be the focal point in the punishing Triton ground charge, netting 602 yards and seven touchdowns on 139 carries. Clayton, who finished second nationally in rushing yards last fall with 1,477, needs just 268 more yards to become the program's all-time top rusher. As a team, Iowa Central is 12th in the country in rushing yards per game (232.7).
Triton quarterback Chris Bell has also completed 58 of 95 passes for 799 yards, including seven scores and five interceptions. Brandynn Clark (15 catches, 331 yards, 3 TD) and Jaquon Goodman (15-244-2) have been Bell's favorite targets.
"We're really going to have to do a good job of sustaining drives and being crisp and sharp on offense," said Twait. "Defensively, (the Reivers) are steady and don't make a lot of mistakes or give up cheap touchdowns. We must find a way to score once we get in the redzone."
In its previous outing, Iowa Western (7-0, 2-0) hammered North Dakota State College of Science on the road, 64-6. The league champion Reivers boast the nation's highest-powered offense, averaging a whopping 67 points and 604.4 yards - 329.6 passing and 274.9 rushing - per contest. On the year, Iowa Western has outscored the opposition, 469-118.
"They're an offensive juggernaut that nobody has even been able to slow down," Twait said of the Reivers. "Eight of their 11 offensive starters have been offered by Div. I programs, which makes them scary to guard. It'll be just an unbelievable test for our defense."
Dual-threat Iowa Western signal-caller Jake Waters has gone an efficient 128-for-176 (72.7 percent) through the air for 1,923 yards, with 24 scores and three picks. Waters, a former Council Bluffs St. Albert all-stater, owns BCS scholarship offers from Kansas State, Penn State and North Carolina State.
Maryland commit Deon Long (60, 1,001, 15), Andrew Stone (25, 284, 4) and Geronimo Allison (18, 358, 2) form a dangerous receiving trio for the Reivers, who have registered at least 44 points in every game this season. Long leads the country in catches, yards and receiving touchdowns.
Iowa State commit Aaron Wimberly has accounted for a team-high 746 yards rushing, while reaching paydirt eight times on 87 totes. West Virginia transfer Vernard Roberts has delivered 395 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
"We have to put pressure on (Waters) and corral their ground game," said Twait. "Our defense has to make them as one-dimensional as possible and force them to throw the football."
Linebacker Terrell Porter, a 2011 NJCAA second-team All-American for Grand Rapids, spearheads the stingy Iowa Western defensive unit with 61 tackles. Mason City graduate Landon Schultz is also tied for seventh nationally in sacks (10).
Other players of note on the Reiver roster include FBS commitments Martize Barr (Illinois), Jordan Heiderman (Indiana) and Malkaam Muhammad (Wyoming). Transfers Rodney Coe (Iowa), Vance Roberts (West Virginia), Steven Funderburk (Tulane), Don Jackson (Washington State), Antwan Gilbert (Toledo), DeAndre Herron (Louisville) and Phil Ford (Kansas) are also members of the Iowa Western squad.
The Reivers, who are in only their fourth year as a football program, have prevailed in two of the three previous meetings with the Tritons. Last season, Iowa Western rolled to a 45-7 triumph over Iowa Central.