Team relies on crowd to take care of rivalry


by Ashley Pitkin

For most students, faculty and alumni, the Simpson versus Central football game is the biggest athletic event of the year. But for the Simpson football team, Central is just another opponent standing in the way of a conference championship.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a bigger game than any other we play,” senior offensive lineman Craig Rodgers said. “But it’s big in the sense that they’re our rivals.”

Although Rodgers acknowledges the hostility between Simpson and Central he explained there is no time to think about the rivalry during the game – he leaves that up to the fans.

“The fans are great because they’re loud, intense and let us focus on what we need to do because we don’t have time to be overly excited or nervous,” Rodgers said.

Senior quarterback Scott McCarty agrees with Rodgers and says the Simpson community creates an amazing atmosphere for the team, but it’s an atmosphere that, if not careful, one can be easily caught up in.

“I can see how someone could be ‘awestruck’ by the crowd, especially when the stands are packed like they are during the Central game and Homecoming,” McCarty said. “It’s an intense feeling to know family, alumni – the whole campus – is behind us.”

According to McCarty, the Simpson football team treats playing Central just as it would Loras, Coe or any other team. The team takes one game at a time in order not to get ahead of itself, and it’s constantly prepared to make adjustments.

“Mondays before we play, that’s when we start to get geared up for games,” McCarty said. “From there it’s all about adapting to what the other team does, who they are.”

Before Monday, “Central” wasn’t even in the football team’s vocabulary, according to Head Football Coach Jay Niemann. The focus was on Dubuque, a team that Niemann said fought quite a battle last year, and one who demanded all of last week’s attention.

“You can’t be looking at who’s next on the schedule until after Saturday,” Niemann said.

Niemann admits the rivalry between Simpson and Central is not something he personally worries about but he is well aware of what the game means to his players. It’s games such as the one against Central when Niemann says the team feels the support of the Simpson community the most. This is something Niemann said his team is truly grateful for – not to mention it makes his job a little bit easier.

“There are certain games, like against Central, where the excitement level of the team takes care of itself,” Niemann said. “I enjoy not having to worry about that.”