Tritons headed to bowl game

WAHPETON, N.D. – The Iowa Central football team isn’t done just yet.

The Tritons clinched a berth in the Graphic Edge Bowl with a win here Saturday, beating North Dakota Science 19-15 in their regular season finale.

Thanks to their late surge, head coach Kevin Twait’s program will play in the postseason for the 15th time in the last 17 years. Iowa Central (5-5 overall, 3-5 in the Midwest Football Conference) parlayed recent victories over Ellsworth and the Wildcats (3-7, 2-6) into a bowl bid on Dec. 8 at the UNI-Dome against an opponent yet to be determined.

”This was a knock-down, drag-out fight,” Twait said. ”It was cold and windy. A tough day of sledding. But we pulled through and did a nice job on both sides of the ball when we needed to make plays.

”I’m so excited for our guys. This is a tremendous accomplishment for them and a great way to finish (the regular season) after looking like kind of a long shot for a while (mid-year).”

The Tritons again won big in both the turnover and special teams departments. Iowa Central forced five NDSCS miscues without committing one of their own, and standout kicker Nate Criswell booted four more field goals – giving the redshirt freshman from Grinnell eight in the last two weeks.

Criswell connected from 47, 45, 39 and 35 yards.

”Nate made all but one of his field goal tries, and that was with a 30 mile-an-hour crosswind,” Twait said. ”He’s had a terrific season for us and an incredible last two games, where (his scoring was) basically our offense (Criswell has accounted for 26 of the team’s 40 points between field goals and extra points) in these wins. He was spectacular.”

Quarterback Kendall Jackson scored the lone Triton touchdown in the first quarter to give the visitors a 7-3 lead. Iowa Central later went ahead 13-3 before the Wildcats mounted a comeback.

Science pulled within 16-15 in the fourth period but missed the game-tying extra point after a touchdown. Criswell responded with his final field goal, and a Chris McNutt interception sealed the win with just over three minutes left in regulation.

McNutt also recovered a fumble to help anchor the Iowa Central defense. Cornerback Derrion Phillips, who has missed the last six weeks of action with an injury, returned to the lineup and had two interceptions and a forced fumble.

”It was great to have Derrion back, and this was (McNutt’s) first start ever,” Twait said. ”Our two safeties, Andy Klouda and D’Shawn Dexter, played great.

”Offensively, Jackson managed the game well and didn’t make any mistakes. And it was big having our center, Colton Boas, back after missing six weeks (due to injuries). That made a huge difference also.”