The Storm will play the Dutch for Homecoming on Oct. 6. Head Football Coach Jay Niemann thinks that both the opponent and the significance of the event make the game more important to the players. He is looking forward to Homecoming, noting that it generally brings in larger crowds and offers the team a chance to show returning players and alumni what they can do. To him, however, it’s just as important as other conference games.
“A conference game to me is a conference game, whether it’s Central, Wartburg, Dubuque, Coe, whoever,” Niemann said. “In the end, you’re going to have a record and that is what it is. This just has a bit more appeal because of the rivalry factor that comes into play.”
Senior wide receiver Tad Stoner agrees, saying rivalry and Homecoming are two things that always seem to draw a crowd.
Senior linebacker Blair Belland notes how strongly the team feels about their competition with the Dutch.
“We always want to beat Central,” Belland said.
The last time Simpson defeated the Dutch was in 2003. The team will have to play an almost-perfect game against Central’s very strong defense if they want to pull out a win, according to Niemann. In the past, Central has been a team that doesn’t make many mistakes as far as turnovers and major execution errors.
“They seem to feast on other people’s turnovers and capitalize on turning them into points,” Niemann said. “You kind of have to play mistake-free football to make sure that you don’t play into their hands.”
After their first four games, Simpson sits with two wins, one of which was against Concordia. The 14-3 home victory was the team’s first game of the year. According to Niemann, the triumph has been the high point of the season so far and was a great opener.
“Hopefully there are more of those wins around the corner,” Niemann said.
However, Niemann believes there is more to football than just winning.
“You have to look beyond the win-loss column sometimes to see whether or not progress is being made,” Niemann said.
Niemann’s goal is for the team to play up to their full potential. He says the team, who is still trying to find itself, is playing well defensively, but often goes in “spurts” on the offensive side. Overall, he looks for progress, which he believes has been made.
“When the game is over with, if we won that’s great; if not, as long as we played our best, prepared our best and worked our hardest,” Niemann said. “Sometimes you will come up short, but if you feel like you gave your best effort in that process, that’s all anyone can ask.”
Although there might not be as many wins in the record as hoped, the team still looks to advance and keeps the level of camaraderie strong. Belland agrees that already some improvement has been made.
“We’re getting better week to week,” Belland said. “I think we’re all improving.”
The team is concentrating on improving its consistency and finishing the game as strongly as they played the first half, according to Stoner.
“Our tempo needs to stay the same in the second half,” Stoner said. “We’re starting the games off really well, we just have trouble finishing them.”
According to Niemann, the team is working on executing their running and passing games with equal efficiency. By combining both, Simpson is trying to avoid being a one-dimensional team. Defensively, the team is working on giving up fewer big plays, forcing the opponent to earn their way down the field in smaller chunks.
Stoner believes the players also need to improve their approach, claiming that the Storm needs to play with a “winning attitude,” especially against Central.