Preview: Red Devils Back on Familiar Turf For Crown

Photo courtesy of Traci Zeibert.
Photo courtesy of Traci Zeibert.

EUREKA, Ill. -- The Eureka College football team will look for consecutive victories for the first time in 2017 this Saturday when the Red Devils welcome Crown for a noon Upper Midwest Athletic Conference kickoff at Pete FioRito Stadium at McKinzie Field.

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The Red Devils will look to even their overall record Saturday, owning a 1-2 mark and a 1-1 record against UMAC opponents. Eureka, one of six teams tied for third place in the early-season conference standings, rolled to a 48-20 league win at Minnesota Morris last Saturday in west-central Minnesota.
Eureka has averaged 458.0 yards per game through the season's first three weeks, second-most in the UMAC and 49th-most in NCAA Division III. A large portion of the Red Devils' yardage is produced by their ground game. EC picks up 286.3 yards per game to rank second in the league and 18th nationally. The dominant rushing attack has allowed the Red Devils to keep possession for more than 36 minutes per game, sixth-most in Division III. EC led the nation in average time of possession last season.
The defense has been equally impressive for EC. At just 248.0 yards allowed per game, the Red Devils lead the UMAC and rank 27th nationally in yards allowed. Eureka also ranks among the national top 50 with a third-down conversion allowed rate of 21 percent (12th), 32 first downs allowed (35th), 89.0 rushing yards per game allowed (45th) and a 104.09 passing efficiency defense (50th).
Eureka returns 19 starters from last season's 8-2 team that competed for the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference championship on the final day of the regular season. Six All-UMAC honorees return from 2016 -- three on offense and three on defense.
In all, more than 40 letterwinners are back from last season's team. More than 40 newcomers will join the program in 2017 to give the Red Devils' their largest football roster of the Kurt Barth coaching era.
Eureka running back LeAnthony Reasnover ran for 203 yards and three touchdowns, leading an EC ground attack that churned up 365 rushing yards and lifting the Red Devils to a 48-20 UMAC victory last Saturday at Minnesota Morris, Saturday afternoon at Big Cat Stadium in Morris, Minn.
The Cougars stunned the Red Devils on the first play of the afternoon from scrimmage, picking up 38 yards on a reverse pass that pushed the hosts all the way to the Eureka 21. The EC defense recovered to hold UMM to a 34-yard field goal from preseason All-American John Hoff and the Minnesota Morris lead was 3-0 just 2-minutes, 39-seconds into the game.
Reasnover got the Red Devils on the board when his 3-yard plunge capped a 6-play, 39-yard drive and pushed the visitors to a 7-3 lead with 5:20 left before halftime. Another Reasnover 3-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the half gave EC a 14-3 lead.
UMM settled for another field goal from Hoff and the Eureka lead was trimmed to 14-6 at the 12:51 mark of the quarter. Eureka quickly put the game out of reach just moments later. After a holding penalty put Eureka in a 1st-and-20 hole to start its ensuing series, Reasnover broke free for an 83-yard touchdown sprint and a 21-6 cushion, the longest rush of his career and the longest rush by the Red Devils during the Kurt Barth coaching era.
The Red Devils extended their lead to 27-6 when Nick Holman connected with Rhett Rondinelli for a 22-yard strike. The lead Eureka lead ballooned to 41-6 after touchdown rushes by Nasir Phillips. The scores were the first two of Phillips's career. Colton Johnson delivered Eureka's final score of the day when his read-option keeper resulted in a 48-yard touchdown rush, his first career score on the ground.
Eureka's 365 rushing yards last Saturday in Morris were fifth-most in a game on record in program history and the Red Devils' best effort since putting up 429 yards on the ground in a home victory over Dubuque on Oct. 22, 1994.
At 286.3 rushing yards per game, the Red Devils are on pace to  shatter the single-season program record for rushing yards. Eureka has rushed for more than 2,000 yards only twice in the modern era, going for a school-record 2,282 yards during the unbeaten 1991 regular season and 2,029 yards in 2008.
Another lengthy trip to Minnesota brought another huge rushing effort from running back LeAnthony Reasnover.
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior from Momence, Ill. racked up 203 yards in the victory at Minnesota Morris, his second career 200-yard rushing game. His 83-yard touchdown rush in the third quarter was the longest of his career and the longest by a Red Devil since Greg McBroom ran for an 85-yard score against Monmouth at McKinzie Field on Sept. 12, 1998.
Reasnover will enter Saturday's game against Crown with 2,416 career rushing yards, 16th-most among active Division III players. He also has 442 yards in 2017, 11th-most in Division III. His 147.3 rushing yards per game are on pace to challenge the single-season Eureka rushing record of 1,485 set by Derrick Harris in 1992.
Additionally, Reasnover's 27 career rushing touchdowns rank second all-time at Eureka. He needs seven more to match Harris' record of 34 set between 1991 and 1993.
Saturday's win at Minnesota Morris also brought the emergence of junior quarterback Nick Holman. The Metamora native came on in relief of Drew Barth in the second quarter and finished 5-for-7 for 79 yards.
Two of Holman's completions went for 20 yards or more, including a 22-yard touchdown to freshman Rhett Rondinelli in the third quarter.
Holman transferred to EC from NAIA St. Ambrose in Davenport, Iowa. He went 3-for-5 for 16 yards for the Bees in his collegiate debut against Lindenwood-Belleville on Sept. 19, 2015.
Not only has the Eureka offensive line paved the way for a rushing attack that is on pace to break the school's single-season record for rushing yards, the Red Devils have also put up an impressive performance in pass protection. Eureka is one of 11 teams in Division III that has yet to allow a quarterback sack -- perfect in 82 pass attempts.
The group has been anchored by a pair of All-UMAC performers on the left side of the line -- junior Ryan Barth and senior Michael Slingsby. Jake Price, Tyler Willdrick and Jordan Lamb round out the group that has the Red Devils on pace to average more than 400 yards per game for the first time since 2009.
The Eureka defense was impressive Saturday, stifling Minnesota throughout the day to the tune of 176 yards, eight first downs and a 0-for-11 effort on third down.  The Cougars failed to produce a series of more than five plays in the first half and punted on four of their last five series before halftime. EC allowed only one first down in the first three quarters, a 38-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage from a trick play.
Ross Royal, Ray Vogel and Jesse Brunoehler shared the team lead with five tackles apiece. Macae Skaggs returned his first collegiate interception 27 yards to setup a Eureka scoring drive and also assisted on a sack with Zecharias Hall. Six different players had a tackle for loss, led by 1.5 from Colby Brannock.
Crown is one of two remaining winless teams in the UMAC, owning an 0-3 overall record and an 0-2 league record. The Storm, which has yielded 41 points or more in each of the season's first three weekends, dropped a 48-34 league decision to MacMurray last Saturday in St. Bonifacius, Minn.
Offensively, Crown ranks sixth in the UMAC and near the bottom of Division III with 263.0 yards per game. The Storm has used two quarterbacks -- junior Taylor Watkins and senior Ryan Synoground. Watkins has been the more effective option, going 30-for-48 for 260 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. The duo combines for 142.0 yards through the air per game.
Freshman Derek Chilcoate leads the ground game with 145 yards and a pair of scores through the first three games. 
The Crown defense has struggled through the first three contests, yielding 496.0 yards on average. Opponents have found success with the ground game, compiling 264.0 yards per game. UMAC foe MacMurray rushed 54 times for 367 yards and five touchdowns last weekend in St. Bonifacius.
Freshman linebacker Jeremiah Jones has a team-high 31 tackles, 24 of which have been solo. He also has 1.0 tackle for loss. Sophomore defensive back Sebastian Alvarado has added 19 stops and returned an interception 65 yards against Iowa Wesleyan on Sept. 9.
Crown is located in St. Bonifacius, Minn. a community of 2,300 residents 30 minutes west of Minneapolis. Crown, which participates as a full-time member of the UMAC, has an enrollment of approximatley 1,300. Crown College was founded in 1916.
Eureka College Athletics Hall of Famer Kurt Barth is in his ninth season as the head coach at Eureka. The winningest head coach in program football history, Barth has led EC to a pair of eight-win seasons and molded the Red Devils into an annual contender in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference.
In all, Eureka has received 53 All-UMAC selections in eight seasons under Barth's direction. Additionally, Barth's strategies have put a dent in the Eureka football record book, as the Red Devils have broken 16 program records, including eight passing records, since his arrival in 2009.
One of the longest tenured football head coaches in the UMAC, John Auer is currently in his 18th season as head coach of the Storm. He owns a 51-106 overall record and a 3-5 mark against the Red Devils.
Auer played as a defensive end at NCAA Division II Winona State from 1989 until 1992. He graduated from St. Cloud State in 1995 and served as an assistant coach at SCSU from 1993 until accepting his current position at Crown prior to the 2000 season.
Eureka owns a 5-3 all-time record against Crown, including a 3-1 mark against the Storm at McKinzie Field.  The two squads have met every season since Eureka joined the UMAC prior to the 2009 season.
The Red Devils have won each of the last two meetings in the series, including a 17-3 victory over CC last season at Crown's KleinBank Stadium.
The two teams played to the highest scoring game in the history of McKinzie Field in their inaugural meeting on Nov. 7, 2009. Crown scored with 14 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to earn a 69-63 win. Eureka and Crown became the first Division III football teams to combine for more than 1,400 yards of total offense in a game. Eureka gained 744 yards on 84 plays and Crown gained 686 yards on 96 plays for a total of 1,430 yards.  The 69 points scored by Crown and the 132 combined points scored remain McKinzie Field records.
Saturday's early noon start will present a unique late-September challenge for both teams -- the forecasted high temperature will be near 90 degrees. The heat is nearly 15 degrees warmer than average and has the chance to approach Eureka's Sept. 23 record high of 95 degrees. 
The Red Devils have not played a game in 90-degree heat since a 32-21 victory over Knox at McKinzie Field on Sept. 5, 2015.
Eureka will provide a live video broadcast and live statistics of Saturday's game. The links will be available at
Frequent updates via Twitter will be available at @EurekaGameDay.