EUREKA, Ill. — As homecoming weekend approaches, the Eureka College football team continues to set its sights on an Upper Midwest Athletic Conference championship.
A stout defense and a hard-charging ground game have spearheaded the Red Devils to a 5-1 overall start and a 4-1 mark for a second-place showing in the league with four games to play.
The Red Devils host Iowa Wesleyan at 1 p.m. Saturday at McKenzie Field.
The Red Devils' defense is tops in the conference in rushing yards allowed per game (93.7) and has allowed just five ground touchdowns in six games. It is also the top overall defense in the conference, allowing 311.7 total yards per game.
A complete team effort is getting the job done on the defensive side for seventh-year Coach Kurt Barth as no Red Devil is among the top 15 in the conference in tackles. EC has not given up more than 18 points in any of its five victories.
Junior Trever Ziebart (Peotone HS / Monee, Ill.) paces the EC defense with 40 tackles and leads the conference with eight sacks, while lining up at defensive end and linebacker. Junior defensive end Ray Vogel (Limestone HS, Bartonville, Ill.) checks in with seven tackles-for-loss among his 23 overall stops.
"They are among the best defensive ends Eureka has ever had, certainly since I've been here," Barth said.
Despite missing a game, junior linebacker Chris Friend (Washington HS, Washington, Ill.) has 32 tackles. Sophomore defensive back Colton Fauver (Catlin HS, Catlin, Ill.) has three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown.
"Coach Deric Linder has been the mastermind behind the defense," said Barth. "He does a great job of understanding what our guys are good at and getting them to grow and develop into our schemes."
Sophomore power back LeAnthony Reasnover (Momence HS, Momence, Ill.) boasts a 130.3 yards-per-game rushing average to lead the conference. Reasnover's comeuppance has turned EC's traditional pass-heavy offense under Barth into more of a ground game. He needs 99 more yards to crack into EC's top 10 single-season rushing record books.
He is coming off a game that earned him UMAC Offensive Player of the Week following a 233-yard, two-touchdown performance in last week's 27-18 win at Westminster.
"He's turned into a complete running back, including his ability to pass protect," Barth said. "We have to make sure he gets his touches because he's so talented and can break loose at any time."
Two quarterbacks have steered the offense. Transfer Colton Johnson (Lewistown HS, Lewistown, Ill.) has thrown for 613 yards and six TDs while completing 57 percent of his passes (42 for 74). The junior has shared time with freshman Drew Barth (Fieldcrest HS, Minonk, Ill.), who has 215 yards passing and 181 yards rushing in six games.
"The two-quarterback system is working," Coach Barth said. "They both have something a little different to offer. As long as that's the case, we will continue. They've done a good job of utilizing their time well and helping our team."