Crusaders Look to Rebound at Ohio Northern

Kole Carter (23) is one of the many young defensive players making a name for himself, and will look to continue the effort this Saturday at Ohio Northern. (photo credit: Joe Maiorana, Impact Action Sports Photography)
Kole Carter (23) is one of the many young defensive players making a name for himself, and will look to continue the effort this Saturday at Ohio Northern. (photo credit: Joe Maiorana, Impact Action Sports Photography)

 Capital University Crusaders


Ohio Northern University Polar Bears

(2-2, 1-2 OAC)   Saturday, October 7  |  6:00 p.m.   (1-3, 1-2 OAC)
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In a pair of alternating wins, Will Freed has led the Polar Bears with over 1,000 yards passing and a 12-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He spreads the ball well having hit four different receivers 15 or more times, though junior WR Chad Rex (20-385-7) has been his favorite scoring target. On the ground, Christiaan Williams is averaging 116.5 yards per game with two rushing touchdowns, but has also lost two fumbles. He also has 19 catches out of the backfield. Freed has been sacked 10 times this season through four games. Sophomore LB Mark Niles leads the defense with 30 tackles, has forced and recovered a fumble, picked off one pass, and has one sack. On the line, Justin Croswell leads the D with three of the team's six sacks. Another young defensive player leads the backs. Sophomore Greg Dennis has two of the team's four interceptions and is third on the team with 22 tackles.
... Capital hung in there through the first quarter and tied the game at 7-7 at the top of the second. ONU then went on to score 27 unanswered points to take a commanding lead. Running back Christiaan Williams went 23-127-4 on the ground, while QB Will Freed went 16-25-3 for 195 yards through the air. Thomas Wibbeler did his best with 232 yards passing on 22-of-35 passes and two scores with WR David Barnett serving as his top receiver (8-102-2). 
The series between the Polar Bears and Crusaders dates back to 1930 when ONU took the first of its 38 all-time wins from Capital. Ohio Northen has won nine straight, dating back to 2008. Capital's last victory came in 2007 when they defeated ONU by a 24-6 score. Four of the last five meetings have been decided by two scores or less.
... it was a slugfest between the two rivals. Ninety-one points were scored between the two teams and only once did more than seven points separate them. After Capital fell behind by 14, they raced back with two unanswered touchdowns to tie the game. Otterbein scored at the top of the fourth quarter, and Capital had one last drive to tie the game once again. Driving deep into Otterbein territory, QB Thomas Wibbeler was looking over the middle, but was picked off by Fred Hardgrove (his second INT of the game), sealing Otterbein victory. 
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Capital's record in October games in recent history has not been pleasant. Over the last six seasons, Capital is 3-24 in the month of October, where the meat of the OAC schedule resides. Their 2016 win versus Otterbein snapped a streak of 19 straight losses in October. Their last October win prior to last week, ironically, came at Otterbein (24-20) on 10/15/11. They defeat Baldwin Wallace in double overtime last year in the final game of October for its second win, marking its best October in nearly a decade. Today begins another start to October omens, with Mount Union waiting next week and John Carroll (home), and Baldwin Wallace (away) lingering after. 
What makes a quarterback happy? More weapons to throw to! Dartavious (Dar) Stanford joined the Crusaders this offseason after playing the last two years at nearby Ohio Dominican University (NCAA Division II) as a wide receiver. At ODU in 2016, he was the Panthers' second-leading receiver after making 60 grabs for 687 yards and four touchdowns. 
In his debut, Dar Stanford made four catches for 70 yards and recorded his first touchdown grab with Cap in the team's loss to Mount St. Joseph on Sept. 2. His speed helps stretch the field, and that was evident in his performance in a win versus Muskingum. He made five catches for 126 yards and one touchdown, two of which were for greater than 40 yards. Last week, he made had his second 100-plus yard game with 140 yards on nine catches (both team highs) and three touchdowns (new career high). He now has a season line of 22-396-6. 
It's not often that one town or one high school can provide a college team such a significant portion of a team's offense (or defense for that matter). Junior WR Dar Stanford is no stranger to starting quarterback Thomas Wibbeler. The two, as well as with offensive lineman Zach Clapper, played together at Zanesville High School on some of the program's more successful teams of late. Stanford and Wibbeler have connected 22 times for 396 yards and six touchdowns (both team highs). Clapper has helped keep Wibbeler clean to be able to sling it. He and the rest of the O-line have surrendered just five sacks in four games.
Senior RB Cory Heeter will miss the rest of the 2017 season due to an arm injury sustained against Wilmington College on 9/23. To open the season on Sept. 2, Heeter racked up 171 total yards, 85 of those on the ground on 16 touches. He then came back versus the Muskies on 9/16 and tallied 99 yards on the ground, which helped him eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in his career. 
Sophomore RB Evin Butler will likely see an increase in action with the injury to RB Cory Heeter. He has two runs of 25 yards or longer this season and has accumulated 88 rushing yards on 26 rushes (3.4 ypc). He is currently the No. 1 back on the two-deep.
Cap fans got its first taste of junior RB Nateshawn Hargrove in late time versus Muskingum. While the Muskies were left with a bitter taste, fans loved seeing Hargrove pound out 59 yards on seven carries (8.4 ypc) and one touchdown. He ran it seven more times for a team-high 37 yards and another touchdown late in the game against Wilmington. Last week versus Otterbein, he was out due to a leg injury. He currently has 103 yards on 15 carries (6.9 ypc).
Hargrove came to Capital after spending two seasons at Notre Dame College (Ohio), where he spent a majority of the time playing special teams. 
If you don't get out of his way, freshman RB Dylan Schoonover may just move you himself. With the injury to Cory Heeter, Schoonover was the workhorse for the Capital run game, rushing 17 times for 29 yards against Otterbein on Sept 30. His playing time is likely to increase as a part of the back by committee at Cap.
All were caught off guard when he lined up to help receive kicks and take a few handoffs out of the backfield versus Muskingum. Shipp ran four times for 11 yards and went 20 yards on his lone kickoff return against Muskingum (9/16). At Wilmington (9/23), he rushed eight times for 35 yards. He has now officially made the transition to running back and a regular returning kicks. 
Last year, LB Kane Murray made some noise with 74 tackles, 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. He has come out averaging 2.9 more tackles per game (10.3) than his sophomore season, and twice this year has posted 11 or more tackles in a single game. In the season opener versus Mount St. Joseph, the recorded a career-high 14 tackles and one pass defense. He got his first sack of the 2017 season driving right up the middle and sacking Otterbein QB Logan Stepp in the first quarter. Kane is among the OAC and nation's leaders, statistically. Check out page 4 for the complete rankings.
Freshman Kole Carter has been bouncing around the defensive backfield and second level, and his versatility has been paying dividends. Last week, Carter had a breakout game with 13 tackles (6 solo), two sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, and then caused and recovered one fumble. It was the second time this season he has caused and recovered a fumble in a single game. Look for his snap count to increase.
It took three games, but freshman kicker Blake Middleton was granted his first chance at a field goal against Wilmington College (9/23). He answered the call with a 25-yard field goal that split the uprights for his first make on his first collegiate attempt.
Freshman DL Matthew Lauofo got increased reps against the Quakers and made it count with his first tackles and the first sack of his collegiate career. 
DB/LB Kole Carter got not one, but the first TWO sacks of his career against Otterbein last week. He also forced and recovered a fumble in the same game for the second time this season.
After spending two years away from the team, senior DL has come back with a vengeance. He is currently fifth on the team in tackles (17) and first among defensive lineman by more than half that number. In his re-debut against Mount St. Joseph, he recorded eight tackles (career high) and 1.5 sacks. Versus Wilmington, he added seven more tackles.
Dating back to 2012, Capital is now 2-2 in overtime games. Two of those games were played against Muskingum (1-1).
After his first collegiate punt landed inside the 10-yard line against Mount St. Joseph, freshman Avery Wirt hit a rough patch that lasted the rest of the game. However, he came back last week against Muskingum and boomed out an average punt close to 40 yards per boot and landed one of his four inside the five-yard line. His longest, to date, is 53 yards.
Junior QB Thomas Wibbeler was named the OAC Offensive Player of the Week for Week 3 of the 2017 season. Against Muskingum, he threw for 318 yards (19-34) and four touchdowns without turning the ball over in the Crusaders' win.
While allowing 38 points does not sound like a productive start to the season, there were bright spots to the Cap defense's performance on opening day against Mount St. Joseph.
- LB Kane Murray set a new career high in tackles (14)
- DL James Zamor recorded 1.5 sacks in his return after a two-year hiatus
- Derek Eibon recorded an interception on Muskingum's first offensive possession of the game
- The defense produced three three-and-outs and one turnover on downs
- Reigning HCAC Freshman of the Year Chaiten Tomlin (QB) was limited to just 157 yards passing, just over 200 total yards, and a completion percentage under 33 percent.
- Each of the first two QBs faced were held to under 50 percent completion percentages and 175 yards.
Junior quarterback Thomas Wibbeler is back and ready to get back onto the field after sustaining a season-ending knee injury against John Carroll (10/22). He has been tabbed Capital's starting quarterback for the second season in a row. Prior to the injury, Wibbeler completed 114-of-214 passes (53.3%) for 1,556 yards and 11 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He became just the third CU quarterback to hit 1,500 yards passing since 2003, and that number could have been north of 2,000 had it not been for the injury. In his return to the lineup in the season opener against Mount St. Joseph (9/2), he went 21-for-42 for 261 yards with three touchdown passes and three interceptions. 
Like water, senior WR/RET Nick Waters has seemed to find the cracks in opposing defenses and special teams units. Last year, Waters finished third in the OAC in yards per kickoff return (22.7) and all-purpose yards per game (139.3). On the receiving end, he finished seventh in yards per catch (13.2) and even turned in the third-longest kickoff return of the season (63 yards).
Through 10 games in 2016, Capital had 19 turnovers and 23 takeaways (+4). In all of their wins last season, Cap won or equaled their opponent in the turnover battle.
In week 1, Capital turned the ball over four times and caused just one in the loss to Mount St. Joseph (9/2). Last week, they caused three turnovers and committed just one. They now have a -3 turnover ratio in 2017.
Senior linebacker Derek Eibon sees the field better than anyone, and that makes sense considering he is looking to pursue a career in optometry. As highlighted at OAC Media Day, Eibon is studying to practice in the field after serving two internships with different family members that are also optometrists. 
On the field, Eibon led the team and finished seventh in the OAC with 81 tackles. He ranked second in the conference in assisted tackles (53) and tackles per game (9.0). For his career, he has 161 tackles and is averaging 6.7 per game since becoming a starter as a sophomore. 
Eibon made 11 tackles against Mount St. Joseph (9/2), marking the seventh time in his career he has made 10 or more tackles in his career. He was also responsible for Capital's lone caused turnover, intercepting one pass against Mount St. Joseph (9/2).
Capital has a strong foursome to lead the team into Saturday gamedays. The following individuals will serve as captains this season, as voted on by the team:
#12 Nick Iske, QB, Sr.
#13 Cory Heeter, RB, Sr.
#6   Shawn Facione Jr., LB, Sr.
#30 Derek Eibon, LB, Sr. 
A couple of this year's Crusaders took a year (or two) off, or came to Cap Football from other sports and now are donning purple and white.
#31 Antwan Shipp, DB
Played in seven games in 2015, made one tackle.
#67 James Zamor, DL
Played in 10 games between 2014-15.
#84 Ben Drake, WR
Played baseball at Cap in 2016, first year of football.
#86 Noah Dall, TE
Played two games at slotback in 2014.
Until the very last game of the 2016 season, Capital had one of the best punt coverage units in the league and was top 50 in the nation. One return changed that. In the season finale on Nov. 12, 2016, Heidelberg's Justin Hutchins returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown. Prior to that, Capital had not allowed an opposing team to return a punt for a touchdown in nearly six years. Jasper Collins of Mount Union was the last to do so when he went 47 yards the other way on Oct. 23, 2010. 
At this year's OAC Football Media Day, the coaches and media member were polled to see their views on how they believe the season will play out. Capital Football was tabbed to finish eighth by the coaches, and seventh by the media.
Polls are just polls, but here they are:
COACHES: 1. Mount Union (80, 8), 2. JCU (74, 2), 3. Heidelberg (6), 4. ONU (54), 5. Otterbein (52), 6. Baldwin Wallace (38), 7. Marietta (32), 8. Capital (31), 9. Muskingum (18), 10. Wilmington (11).
MEDIA: 1. Mount Union (345, 26), 2. JCU (327, 9), 3. ONU (265), 4. Heidelberg (244, 1), 5. Otterbein (212), 6. Baldwin Wallace (180), 7. Capital (143), 8. Muskingum (101), 9. Marietta (101), 10. Wilmington (40).
For complete coverage from media day, including interviews with SR LB Derek Eibon and SR WR Nick Waters plus Head Coach Chad Rogosheske, click here.


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