Wheaton College quick to regain focus after playoff rout
Wheaton College football coach Mike Swider was ready with some tough love for his players.
"The thing I love about them the most, and you can put this in the paper, is they want to be motivated," Swider said with players Adam Terrini and Clay Wagner nodding their heads in agreement from their chairs on either side of their coach.
"So I'm telling these guys this and they don't take it personally. They want to be pushed. They want to be motivated. They want to take it to the next level."
That explains why Swider was short with the compliments and long with the criticisms after Saturday afternoon's 51-7 victory against visiting Martin Luther in an NCAA Division III first-round playoff game.
"I didn't think it was our best effort. I think we can play better, and I told our football team that if we want to win next week we need to play better than we did today. I asked them what their goals were, and they said they had high goals. And I said, then you're going to respond positively to my challenge. And my challenge to them was this performance was not good enough to help us continue to win," Swider said.
Naturally, Martin Luther senior linebacker Ian Paulsen was quicker with the compliments.
"They're a great team," Paulsen said. "They made some great plays early on. They just executed very well. We tried to slow them down as much as we could."
The Thunder (11-0), ranked No. 3 in the nation, will host No. 24 Central College of Iowa in the second round next Saturday. Central defeated Wisconsin-Oshkosh 38-37 in overtime Saturday.
The Thunder jumped on the Knights quickly. Terrini, a senior wide receiver from Wheaton North, pulled in a 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Luke Anthony (Wheaton North) just more than three minutes into the game.
Griffin Bowes added a 31-yard field goal, Philip Nichols caught two of this three touchdown passes, and T.J. Williams added a 1-yard touchdown run. That added up to a 31-0 halftime lead.
"No. 11's a great football player," Martin Luther coach Mark Stein said of Nichols, "and he made some great plays in the passing game, which hurt us."
The Thunder rolled up 447 yards of offense, but they were more concerned with the 3 turnovers.
"Offensively, obviously we had turnovers, which we can't have," said Wagner, a Lake Park graduate. "Especially now in the playoffs, if we keep turning the ball over like we have been that will get us beat. So we know we've got to fix that."
"Turnovers kill drives and put defense in a bad position," Terrini added. "And along with that just the whole week not underestimating our opponent and just preparing for them like we prepare for No. 1 seed Mt. Union."