Football falls short of championship but still proud of the season

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by Jessica McDonald

It has been a record-breaking, honor filled season for theSimpson Storm football team.

Simpson appeared in the NCAA Division III playoffs this year forthe first time since 1997.

Although St. Norbert defeated Simpson 26-20 in the first roundof the playoffs, they continued fighting until the very end. Thegame went into a double overtime.

“For the better part of the game, we outplayed the competition,”said head coach Jay Niemann.

“We didn’t capitalize on opportunities and we had two turnovers;all of that gave them [St. Norbert] some momentum.”

Losing in the first round of the playoffs was upsetting. ButNiemann is never disappointed as long as the team plays hard, andthe Storm did just that for the entire season.

“One loss can’t determine the way you feel about the success ofthe season,” said Niemann.

Overall, Niemann is pleased with the effort put forth from thewhole team including the coaching staff.

Simpson was ranked in several categories nationally.

In the 10th NCAA Division III statistical report released Nov.16, the Storm ranked fifth in passing offense and 11th in turnovermargin to name a few.

Simpson passed for 586 yards against Upper Iowa and that is thehighest by any Division III school in a single game thisseason.

On a local level, Niemann was named Iowa Conference Coach of theyear and senior quarterback, Mike Donnenwerth was named IowaConference MVP along with first team all-conference honors. Fourother players received all-conference honors as well: senior DougDodds, junior Kyle Westphal, sophomore Dusty Kain and sophomoreJason Ripke. These offensive players helped Simpson lead the leaguein passing, second in scoring offense and second in scoring totaloffense.

Simpson also had six players receive second team all-conferencehonors: senior Jesse Dubishar, sophomore Curtis Head, senior BenJauer, junior Ross Parker, senior Randal Schultz and senior MikeTiedeman. Tiedeman led the conference in punt returns. He wassecond in receptions per game and receiving yards per game.

As far as the record book goes, it has been re-written this yearby the Simpson football team.

Donnenwerth broke seven records this season.

All were passing records with the exception of one puntingaverage record.

Westphal set a new record for most interceptions in aseason.

The old record was five interceptions; Westphal shattered thatwith 10 interceptions this season.

Kain has reset several receiving records this past season. Hecaught 93 passes this season breaking the old record of 61 set lastyear.

He caught 14 touchdown passes this year which broke the recordof 13.

Other individual honors for the Storm go to Donnenwerth who isone of the 10 finalists for the Gagliardi Trophy as an outstandingNCAA Division III football player. The winner of the trophy isselected by a 30-member committee consisting of college coaches,former athletes, college administrators, business leaders andmembers of the media all around the country.

Donnenwerth has also been chosen to play for the AmericanCoaches Association’s Division III all-star team that willrepresent the U.S. against the Mexican national team in the 2003Aztec Bowl on Dec. 13 in Cancun, Mexico.

The hard work and dedication from both players and coaches hasdefinitely paid off. Niemann credits all the team and individualsuccess to a combination of things.

“We practice hard and prepare for every game,” said Niemann.”The assistants call good plays and we make the plays whenneeded.”

The 2003 football season for the Storm was a tremendousseason.

Going from 6-4 to 9-1 in one year is a major turnaround.

High standards have been set for the Simpson program and it isdoubtful that this was a one-hit wonder for the Simpson team.

“I hope some of the younger players got a taste of what thisfeels like and they’ll work hard again for it next year,” saidNiemann.