Preview: UMAC Title at Stake Saturday at Martin Luther

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

NEW ULM, Minn. -- Twenty-two years to the date since last clinching a conference championship, the Eureka College football team will have the opportunity to do it again when the Red Devils visit Upper Midwest Athletic Conference rival Martin Luther Saturday for a noon kickoff in New Ulm, Minn. With a victory, EC can secure at least a share of the UMAC title and earn the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs.

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Eureka owns a 7-2 overall record and a 7-1 UMAC mark to share first place in the current league standings. EC toppled five-time UMAC champion St. Scholastica last weekend at McKinzie Field, 40-34. The Red Devils have won 14 games since the beginning of the 2016 season, their winningest two-year stretch since the 1995 (9-1) and 1996 (5-4) seasons.
The Red Devils are in the midst of one their most historic win streaks in program history, winning seven games in a row for just the fourth time since the program was founded in 1891. Additionally, Eureka has scored 30 points or more in seven consecutive games for the first time in the 127-year history of Eureka College football.
Anchored by the nation's sixth-ranked rushing offense, the Red Devils have put up a UMAC-best 36.7 points per game. EC ranks second in the league with 424.4 yards of total offense per game. Most of the action comes from the Red Devils' ground game that leads the league and ranks sixth in Division III with 288.9 yards per game. Eureka is the national leader with a time of possession of average of 36:57 per game.
While Eureka's front five has paved the way for unprecedented rushing yardage totals, the offensive line has also allowed only three sacks on 161 dropbacks in 2017 -- third-fewest in Division III.
The EC defense -- which has been on the field at least 61 plays fewer than every other UMAC team thanks to the Red Devils' decisive time-of-possession average -- lead the league with 248.9 yards per game. Opposing offenses have sputtered to an average of 78.4 rushing yards per game, giving the Red Devils the nation's 15th-best rushing 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.
On an afternoon in which LeAnthony Reasnover broke all-time, single-season and single-game Eureka College rushing records, the Red Devils moved within one victory of a UMAC championship and their first national playoffs bid since 1994 in a 40-34 league win over St. Scholastica at a frigid McKinzie Field last Saturday afternoon.
A partially blocked punt by EC's Ray Vogel gave the Red Devils possession at the CSS 10 late in the first quarter. Reasnover ran three times, including a 3-yard score at the 3:38 mark of the first quarter, for a 6-0 lead. The Saints quickly pushed back for a 7-6 lead when quarterback Zach Edwards found Christian Rund for an 11-yard score. CSS led 7-6 at the end of the first period.
Reasnover broke free for his longest run of the day on the second play of the second quarter, a 61-yard score for a 13-6 cushion. The Saints kept the pressure on the Red Devils on the ensuing series when Edwards connected with Hunter Thompson for a 12-yard touchdown. Joe Matthews made the extra point and CSS moved back in front, 14-13.
The Red Devils responded with an 8-play, 64-yard scoring drive to regain a 20-14 cushion. Reasnover carried six times on the drive and quarterback Nick Holman finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown plunge on 3rd-and-goal. The Red Devils carried the six-point lead into halftime.
The Saints moved back in front in the third quarter, 21-20, when Edwards hooked up with Thompson again for an 11-yard score. CSS led 21-20 after three periods. The Saints' lead would be short-lived. Eureka responded with a14-play, 83-yard scoring drive in which Reasnover carried 10 times, including a 1-yard touchdown rush for a 26-21 lead. The Red Devils promptly forced a CSS punt and pushed their lead to 33-21 on another Reasnover score, a 4-yard run with 4:34 left in the game.
CSS pulled within 33-27 on a trick scoring play in which offensive lineman Elliot Simon received a lateral and threw a 28-yard touchdown to Olson with 4:02 left. EC held serve on the ensuing series, pushing the lead to 40-27 on Reasnover's fifth rushing touchdown of the day from two yards out.
Edwards connected with Thompson on a 2-yard lob for a touchdown with 59 seconds left to cut the deficit to 40-34. Eureka recovered an onside kick moments later and the Red Devils kneeled out the clock to win the game, 40-34.
LeAnthony Reasnover produced the most memorable rushing performance in Eureka football history last Saturday. The Momence, Ill. native carried 53 times for 355 yards in EC's victory over St. Scholastica. The effort broke Eureka's previous single-game rushing record of 292 set by Justin Dempsey at MacMurray on Nov. 3, 2007.  Reasnover closed the afternoon with 3,556 career yards to break the previous school mark of 3,304 held by Derrick Harris (1991-93) and also increased his 2017 rushing total to 1,582 to replace Harris' single-season mark of 1,485 set in 1992. Reasnover's 53 carries were the most by a Division III player in 2017 and one shy of Eureka's single-game record of 54 set by Harris at Concordia (Wis.) on Oct. 31, 1992.
Reasnover was voted UMAC Offensive Player of the Week and named to the Team of the Week for the second consecutive week. He'll enter the Red Devils' regular-season finale this weekend as the nation's leading rusher with 1,582 yards. He also leads Division III with 150 points scored, 24 rushing touchdowns and 25 total touchdowns. His point total of 150 is a new single-season Eureka record.
The Red Devils rushed for 418 yards as a team in last Saturay's victory over St. Scholastica, the second-highest total in program history and the first time EC has produced 400-yard rushing games in back-to-back weeks.
Driven by a dominant offensive line consisting of Ryan Barth, Michael Slingsby, Jake Price, Tyler Willdrick and Jordan Lamb, the yardage explosion has increased Eureka's team rushing total to 2,600 in 2017, a new single-season EC record.
The 1991 Red Devils previously owned the team record, rushing for 2,282 yards on 534 attempts during their perfect 10-0 regular season.
Junior defensive tackle Macae Skaggs joined Reasnover as Red Devils to be honored by the UMAC earlier this week. Skaggs was selected as the league's Defensive Player of the Week.
Skaggs registered nine total tackles in the win over the Saints. He also had 2.5 tackles loss, a pass breakup at the line of scrimmage late and 2.0 sacks on the same series late in the second quarter that preserved EC's six-point halftime lead.
The Farmington, Ill. native ranks second on the Red Devils with 53 total tackles, but leads the EC defense with 6.0 sacks and four interceptions. He is on pace to become the first Red Devil to lead the defense in both categories since Eureka's sack totals were accurately recorded beginning in 2001.
Eureka fans unable to make the trip to New Ulm can participate in EC's watch party in the Hall of Fame Room of the Reagan Athletic Complex. Admission is free and open to the public.
Martin Luther 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.
Less than a year removed from a winless 2016 campaign, Martin Luther has emerged as one of the surprise teams of the UMAC with a 5-4 overall record and a 4-4 record against league opponents. The Knights are in search of their first season with a winning record since 2010.
Sophomore quarterback Ian Paulsen directs an offense that averages 24.1 points and 364.6 yards per contest. Paulsen has split time under center primarily with Zachary Bloomquist to put up 1,262 yards and 12 touchdowns through the air. Nate Stein is the Knight's top rusher with 536 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and Joshua Arndt leads the receiving corps with 25 catches for 540 yards and seven touchdowns.
The MLC defense has had its shining moments -- but also its fair share of struggles. The Knights have allowed 54 points or more three times during the UMAC schedule, but also held Minnesota Morris to seven points in each of the two teams' meetings in 2017. Opposing offenses average 30.7 points and 379.1 yards per game, including 176.0 rushing yards on average.
Tristan Pankow, a sophomore linebacker from Bay City, Mich., has a team-high 71 tackles for MLC. He also leads the unit with 7.5 tackles for loss. Joseph Herrewig has added 48 total tackles and four of the Knight's seven interceptions, while Daniel Gensmer and Keith Brassow share the team lead with 4.0 sacks.
Martin Luther College was established in 1995 when Northwestern (Wis.) and Dr. Martin Luther College merged on the current New Ulm campus.  Eureka owned a 5-7 all-time record against Northwestern and played as recently as Aug. 31, 1991, a game the Red Devils won 35-3 at McKinzie Field.
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 UMAC.
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.
Mark Stein took over the Martin Luther football program in August of 2015 and is now in his third season as MLC head coach in 2017. In his first two seasons, Stein has overseen a rebuilding effort with a record of 2-18. 
Prior to directing the Knights, the 1990 Martin Luther graduate owned extensive experience as a high school football coach, including 12 years at Shoreland Lutheran in Somers, Wis.
Eureka owns a 7-1 record against Martin Luther since the first meeting between the two programs in 2009. The Red Devils have won six in a row over the Knights and have won all three of their previous visits to the MLC Bowl in New Ulm since 2011.
The first-ever meeting between the two schools on Sept. 19, 2009 provided one of the most memorable comebacks in Eureka football history.  Eureka scored 20 points in the final seven minutes of the game to rally and stun MLC in a 41-34 victory.  Wes Schmidgall hauled in two touchdown passes from Nick Lindsey in the final two minutes of the game, allowing the Red Devils to erase a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter.