Preview: Red Devils Host Westminster For Homecoming

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

EUREKA, Ill. -- The Eureka College football team will return to Pete FioRito Stadium at McKinzie Field and begin the second half of the 2017 season Saturday in a 1 p.m. Upper Midwest Athletic Conference matchup with Westminster. The game against WC highlights EC's annual homecoming festivities.

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Eureka will aim for its fourth consecutive conference victory on Saturday. The Red Devils are 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the UMAC after sailing to a 49-18 UMAC win at Iowa Wesleyan last weekend. A victory Saturday against the Blue Jays would give EC four straight wins for the fourth time under ninth-year head coach Kurt Barth.
The Red Devils rely heavily on its rushing attack, putting up an average of 276.4 yards per game through the first half of the regular season. That average ranks second in the UMAC and 13th in NCAA Division III. Eureka is well on pace to break the program's modern-era single-season rushing record of 2,282 yards set by the 1991 NAIA playoff team. The Red Devils have eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark in rushing only three times since joining Division III in 1978.
The dominant groud game has allowed the Red Devils to average more than 37 minutes of possession per game, third-most in Division III. The Red Devils are 31-15 under head coach Kurt Barth when winning the time of possession battle.
Overall, the Eureka offense has put up 441.0 yards per game. That average gives the 2017 Red Devils one of the most productive offenses in program history. Eureka averaged a school-record 456.2 yards per game in 1995. The Red Devils have gained 4,000 yards in a season only twice in school history, including 4,296 yards in Barth's debut season as head coach in 2009.
The Eureka defense continues to punish opponents through the first half of the season. The Red Devils have allowed 271 yards or less in all four UMAC contests and lead the 10-team conference with an average of 237.0 yards allowed per game. The veteran group has been overwhelmingly dominant against the run, holding four straight opponents under 100 yards and yielding a UMAC-low 85.2 yards per contest. The Red Devils rank 15th in the country in total defense 24th nationally in run defense.
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 junior running back LeAnthony Reasnover tied a single-game program record with six rushing touchdowns and broke the Red Devils' career rushing touchdown record in the process, driving the Red Devils to a decisive 49-18 UMAC triumph at Iowa Wesleyan last Saturday night at Bob Evans Field in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
The Red Devils controlled Saturday's game from start to finish, grabbing a 7-0 lead at the 5:03 mark of the first quarter when Reasnover scored from 23 yards out. The Tigers immediately responded when Joseph Mosley returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown.
Later in the quarter, Macae Skaggs collected his second interception on the defensive line in the last three weeks, returning the ball 33 yards to the IWU 3. Reasnover took advantage of the short field, punching in a 3-yard run for a 14-6 lead with 1:14 left in the period.
Reasnover rushed four times for 42 yards on the next scoring drive, including an 8-yard touchdown that bumped the Red Devils' cushion to 21-6. A fourth scoring run by Reasnover came less than three minutes later, this time from seven yards out, to make it 28-6 in favor of the visitors.
The Tigers showed signs of life midway through the second quarter on a 61-yard touchdown throw from Alex Payne to Jacob Santos. Another failed point-after attempt left the score 28-12.
Reasnover's 12-yard score, his 35th career rushing touchdown to break Eureka's all-time record, pushed the Eureka lead to 35-12 at the 5:30 mark. Payne answered with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Rudy Amezcua with 2:16 left.
Reasnover extended the EC advantage to 42-18 with a 22-yard score with 9:57 left in the third quarter. Cooper Elam finished the scoring for EC with his first career touchdown, a 1-yard plunge with just 2:09 left in the game.
The Red Devils rolled up 26 first downs and 418 yards of total offense. Nine different Red Devils combined for 317 yards rushing, while Drew Barth went 6-for-13 and logged 93 of EC's 101 passing yards on the night. Tanner Kuhne was perfect on seven point-after attempts.
LeAnthony Reasnover was named UMAC Offensive Player of the Week after his six-touchdown effort at Iowa Wesleyan that tied a single-game school record and broke EC's career record with 36 rushing scores. The weekly honor from the league is Reasnover's fourth of his career and his first since collecting the award on Oct. 10, 2016. 
With his record-breaking performance now in the rearview mirror, Reasnover will enter Saturday's homecoming game against Westminster with 2,726 career rushing yards, fourth-most in the modern era of Eureka football and 73 yards shy of tying Leiser for third place on the list.
His 12 touchdowns in 2017 equal a career high and are tied for third-most in a season at Eureka in the modern era. Reasnover needs two more touchdowns to tie Derrick Harris' single-season EC record of 14 set as a junior in 1992.
Senior defensive end Trever Zeibert was named UMAC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday. The Monee, Ill. native led the charge in the Red Devils' dominant defensive effort last weekend at Iowa Wesleyan, tallying 10 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in the Red Devils' 49-18 win. Eureka limited Iowa Wesleyan to 170 yards of total offense, lowering its season average to 237.0 yards allowed per game, tops in the UMAC and 15th-best in Division III. 
Zeibert, a 2016 All-Region choice, is now a three-time UMAC Player of the Week. His 24.0 career sacks are the most by a Red Devil since 2000 and his 34.0 career tackles for loss are second-most in the same time frame.
Eureka will aim for its sixth homecoming game victory since 2011 this Saturday at McKinzie Field. The Red Devils are 5-3 in their last eight homecoming games under head coach Kurt Barth. Last season, the Red Devils earned a 29-15 win over Iowa Wesleyan at homecoming. 
All four of Westminster's previous trips to McKinzie Field since 2009 have fallen on the Red Devils' homecoming weekend. Eureka beat the Blue Jays in 2011 and again in 2013, but WC spoiled the event with victories in 2009 and 2015.
Three former Eureka College football players, all of which were part of Kurt Barth's first recruiting class, will be inducted into the EC Athletics Hall of Fame during an 8 a.m. ceremony on Saturday at the Reagan Athletic Complex. Alex Hess, Mike Minehan and Wes Schmidgall will join soccer players Katie Huizinga Ritchie and K.T. Zapushek Johnson as the newest individuals to be enshrined.
Hess finished his 30-game collegiate football career ranked fifth in program history with 100 receptions and ranked 10th at Eureka with 1,254 receiving yards. Hess was twice named to the All-UMAC Team as a tight end, including a First Team nod in 2010, and was a preseason and postseason All-American in 2011.
Minehan, a 2012 graduate of Eureka College, starred in Eureka's football defensive backfield and as a return specialist for three seasons after transferring from NAIA McKendree. He was a three-time All-UMAC selection, including First Team choices in 2010 and 2011. The Washington, Ill. native was named a preseason All-American by in 2011. Minehan has served EC's football staff as defensive backs coach since 2012.
Schmidgall joined the Eureka football program in 2009 after transferring from NAIA Culver-Stockton and promptly became one of the most prolific wide receivers in program history. The Eureka, Ill. native closed his three-year EC career with 182 receptions, 3,411 yards and 42 touchdowns, all totals ranking second behind current head coach Kurt Barth on Eureka's all-time lists. Schmidgall's final collegiate catch, the 73rd of his senior season in 2011, broke Barth's single-season record for receptions. 
Westminster is 2-3 overall and 2-2 in conference play. The Blue Jays rolled up 511 yards of offense last Saturday in a 54-6 drubbing of Martin Luther in Fulton. WC is winless in three road games this season, having been outscored 96-25.
The Blue Jays ranks sixth in the UMAC in total offense and near the bottom of Division III (201st) with 295.6 yards per game. WC was held to 23 points or less in each of the first four weeks of the season before a 54-point outburst last weekend against Martin Luther.
Much of the Blue Jays' offense goes through senior quarterback Trent White. The Punta Gorda, Fla. native was an All-UMAC Second Team selection last season. In 2017, White has thrown for 767 yards and eight touchdowns. He also leads WC in rushing, gaining 242 yards and two scores through the first half of the season. Senior Chase Abbington has added 238 rushing yards and a pair of scores.
Four different Westminster receivers have at least 10 receptions this season, including a team-high 17 for sophomore Lucas Robinson. Junior Matt Quarles leads the Blue Jays with 244 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
While the offense has sputtered at times, the defense has been strong throughout 2017.  The Blue Jays yield 296.4 yards per game, trailing only Eureka for the lowest average among UMAC teams. WC's total defense average ranks 48th nationally.
Sophomore linebacker Jackson Ringhausen and senior safety Zach Roseman share the team lead with 29 tackles apiece. Veteran cornerback Antoine Harris leads the UMAC with four interceptions and ranks 12th nationally with 0.8 interceptions per game.
Westminster previously played football in the UMAC from 2002 through 2007, winning back-to-back league titles in 2003 and 2004.  The Blue Jays left the UMAC when the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference revived football competition in 2008, but returned to the UMAC in 2009 with previous SLIAC foes Eureka, Greenville and MacMurray when the SLIAC dropped football again after the 2008 season.
Westminster, which competes alongside Eureka as a full-time member of the SLIAC, was founded in 1851.  The main campus is located in Fulton, Mo., approximately 100 miles west of St. Louis.  The total enrollment is approximately 900 students.
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.
The longest tenured head coach in the UMAC, John Welty is in his 19th season as head at Westminster..  He guided the 1999 Blue Jays to an 8-2 record and a share of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title, earning SLIAC Coach of the Year honors in the process. In 2003 and 2004, he guided Westminster to consecutive UMAC titles.
Welty is a 1977 graduate of Benedictine (Ill.).  He served as an assistant at North Central (Ill.) and Simpson before returning to his alma mater to serve as head football coach for eight years.
The Blue Jays own a 5-4 all-time record against Eureka. The two squads have met every season since 2008 when the Red Devils left the now-defunct Illini-Badger Football Conference for the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Eureka and Westminster have competed as UMAC rivals after the SLIAC dropped its football sponsorship following the 2008 season.
Eureka will provide a live video broadcast and live statistics of Saturday's game. The links will be available at Updates via Twitter will be available at @EurekaGameDay.