A deep playoff run in 2014 has the Wartburg football team wanting even more this year.

Coach Rick Willis has an experienced group that includes 30 seniors back from last year’s 12-1 team that won a second-straight Iowa Conference title and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division III playoffs before dropping a 37-33 heart-breaker to eventual national champion Wisconsin-Whitewater.

The Knights enter the 2015 season ranked sixth nationally in the d3football.com poll and they open the season Saturday (Sept. 5) at home against Augsburg (Minn.). The game is scheduled to kick-off at 7 p.m. at Walston-Hoover Stadium in Waverly. For 2015 Season Schedule, CLICK HERE.

“Our first goal, to be clear, is to win the Iowa Conference championship and anything beyond that we’ll talk about if we get to that point”, said Head Coach Rick Willis, who's entering his 17th season at Wartburg. “We’ve got to get that thing done first and then worry about what’s after that.”

The Knights are a unanimous choice to win the league title for a third-straight year. Along with the largest senior class in program history, Wartburg returns 44 letter-winners from 2014 and seven starters on each side of the ball. (Story Continued Below)


WARTBURG'S PREVIEW:
2014 Record: 12-1 overall, 7-0 IIAC (champion)
Head Coach: Rick Willis (17th year at Wartburg, 140-35 overall [16 years])
Starters returning/lost: 7/4 offense, 7/4 defense, 2/0 special teams
Letterwinners returning/lost: 44/19
Iowa Conference Titles (last): 14 (2014)
NCAA Playoff Appearances (Last/Result): 11 (2014; beat St. Thomas [Minn.] 37-31 in first round, beat Saint John's [Minn.] 21-10 in second round, lost to Wisconsin-Whitewater 37-33 in quarterfinals)


For the third straight year, the Knights' offense will be under the direction of quarterback Logan Schrader (Killdeer, Ill.). Last year's Iowa Conference Offensive Most Valuable Player (MVP) and a second-team D3football.com all-region player threw for 3,187 yards and 30 touchdowns while completing 60.6 percent (198-327) of his passes. He also ran for 465 yards and seven scores. Among IIAC players, Schrader ranked second in total offense (280.9 yards per game), third in passing yards per game (245.2) and fifth in passing efficiency (169.6). He ranked fourth in Division III in passing yards per completion (16.10), fifth in yards per attempt (9.75), 10th in passing efficiency (169.6), 13th in passing yards and 16th in passing touchdowns.

Senior running back Brandon Domeyer (West Delaware, Iowa/West Delaware), a two-time second-team all-IIAC pick and a third-team all-region player last year, will see significant carries as well. In 2014, he ran the ball 223 times for 1,212 yards and 19 touchdowns. Domeyer also had six catches for 80 yards. Domeyer ranked fourth among IIAC players in rushing (93.2 ypg) and scoring (8.8 ppg) and ninth in all-purpose yards (99.4 ypg). His 19 rushing touchdowns ranked sixth in Division III while his yardage total ranked 27th.

While Taylor Jacobsmeyer – Schrader's favorite target a year ago – has graduated, senior Robbie Anstoetter (Farley, Iowa/Beckman) is back after hauling in 38 passes for 607 yards and 10 touchdowns. Anstoetter also earned second-team all-league honors a year ago.

Senior Chase Wilhelms (Shannon, Ill.), an all-IIAC first-teamer last season, leads an offensive line group charged with making sure Schrader has the proper amount of time to run the offense.

As is the case in many places around the IIAC, Wartburg returns a fair amount of experience and leadership in the middle of the defense in the form of senior linebackers Gunner Tranel (Vinton, Iowa/Vinton-Shellburg) and Will Janssen (Mediapolis, Iowa). Tranel, a second-team all-league pick in 2014, was Wartburg's leading tackler a year ago by a wide margin, finishing with 123 stops (74 solo), 11.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, three pass break-ups and a forced fumble. He ranked sixth among IIAC players in tackles per game (9.5), third in tackles for loss and 18th in sacks. Janssen, an all-IIAC first-teamer and a D3football.com all-region third-teamer, ranked third on the team with 87 tackles (43 solo) with 6.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, two interceptions, four pass break-ups and a fumble recovery. He ranked 17th in tackles (6.7 per game) and tackles for loss and 20th in sacks.

In the defensive backfield, all-IIAC first-teamer Logan Pitz returns. Pitz (Farley, Iowa/Western Dubuque), a senior, had 34 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and team-highs with three interceptions and 17 passes broken up. He also forced a fumble. Pitz led all IIAC players in passes defended (20) but ranked second on average (1.54 per game) and tied for sixth among IIAC players in interceptions.

Up front, senior Cole Hinders (Dysart, Iowa/Union) is another returning first-team all-conference selection. Hinders, a senior, made 49 tackles (23 solo), 9.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks and one quarterback hurry. He ranked seventh among IIAC players in both sacks and tackles for loss.

Senior punter Grant Zimmerman (Mendotta, Ill.) has been an example of consistency during his Wartburg career. A three-time all-IIAC performer who was named to the first team last season, averaged an IIAC-best 40.2 yards per punt with four touchbacks and 14 kicks inside the 20. He also boomed six kicks over 50 yards with a long of 57.

The leg of senior placekicker Michael Bohlke (Manchester, Iowa/West Delaware) got plenty of work last season as the Knights made a deep run in the Division III playoffs. He finished the season converting 12 of 16 field goals and was 60-of-68 on PATs, leading all kickers in scoring and ranking fourth among all players.

Coach Rick Willis Speaks At Wartburg's 2015 Media Day

Courtesy: Wartburg Athletics via YouTube