The Knights (5-0) have made a steady climb since the start of the season, working their way from preseason 23 to a spot among the elite.
And, as usual with the Orange and Black attack, it’s been done with a mix of offense and defense. Wartburg is currently ranked in the Top-100 in 35 statistical categories in Division 3, including ninth in scoring defense and 23rd in total offense.
Logan Schrader has been the catalyst on the offensive side of the ball, passing for just under 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s completing 65-percent of his passes and has thrown just three interceptions in 123 attempts. Taylor Jacobsmeier (29 catches, 557 yards, 5 TDs), Robbie Anstoett (18-328-6) and Donald Miller (10-114) are his main targets, while Brandon Domeyer leads the team in rushing with 407 yards and four scores.
Anchoring the Knight defense is Gunner Tranel and Drew Kooi, as the two have 55 and 38 tackles. Tranel has a total of six tackles for loss, while Zach Twedt has racked up eight sacks on the season. Wartburg has forced six turnovers, including four interceptions.
With wins over Coe, Central, the University of Wisconsin-Stout, BR-8 Bethel and Augsburg on the resume, Wartburg will welcome BR-49 Dubuque this weekend before hosting BR-72 Luther next Saturday. They close out the season at BR-60 Buena Vista and BR-77 Simpson before heading back to Waverly for the regular season finale vs. BR-190 Loras.
The win over Bethel avenged a 2013 loss in the playoffs, as they claimed a 31-14 victory at home.
“Our guys have been pointing at having an opportunity like this since we ended the season up there,” Wartburg head coach Rick Willis told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier after the game. “They did a great job of preparing.”
Schrader was the start of the game, passing for 388 yards and totaling three touchdowns, including two on the ground. The junior won the job late last season, forcing Jacobsmeier to shift to wide receiver. It’s paid off, as the signal caller told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier during the preseason.
“Taylor is an awesome weapon, freak athlete that we can put anywhere on the field that will cause some match up nightmares,” Schrader said. “I’m really looking forward to using him all over the place, and he’s picked it up like he’s been playing receiver his whole life.”
Wartburg is looking to win back-to-back league titles for the first time since the 2003-04 seasons, and are seeking to become the first school to do so since ’06-07. They were tabbed the preseason odds-on favorites, to which Willis knows means nothing now.
“The last time the coaches picked to win the league actually won it,” he said, “it hasn’t happened for several years, I know that. It’s not just something that’s automatic because you have some players who have played before, and you have to make sure guys understand that.”