LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Coming off its 13th bowl berth in the past 15 years, the Iowa Central football program hopes to follow a similar script once again this fall.
In their first test of the new season, the 18th-ranked (NJCAA) Tritons (0-0 overall) will battle Arkansas Baptist (0-1) on the road today.
Kickoff is slated for noon at Quigley-Cox Stadium.
"We've had another good preseason and are jacked up and ready to go," said ICCC head coach Kevin Twait, who enters his 17th year at the helm with a 120-48 mark. "Even though we've got a bunch of new guys starting, I think their tails are twisted tight and excited for the opportunity."
Last year, Iowa Central compiled a 6-4 overall record, including a 42-12 Graphic Edge Bowl rout of Central Lakes (Minn.). The Tritons, who were ranked 20th in the final 2011 NJCAA poll, currently own the nation's longest bowl win streak at six consecutive games.
Fort Dodge Senior High graduate Jontel Clayton returns as the focal point in the punishing Iowa Central ground assault, which was third in the nation in rushing last season (2,729 yards). As a freshman, Clayton finished second individually in the nation in rushing with 1,477 yards. The 204-pound first-team all-region pick delivered 16 touchdowns on 225 carries. He also accounted for at least 100 yards in eight out of 10 games, while notching the third-most rushing yards ever by a Triton in a single-season.
Clayton, Fort Dodge's all-time leading rusher, needs just 870 yards to repeat the feat at Iowa Central.
Defensively, Iowa Central allowed 340 yards - 218 passing and 122 rushing - and 22 points per game a year ago, while forcing 11 turnovers - eight picks and three fumble recoveries. Linebacker Marvell DeJesus (73) and safety Joe Feldpausch (60) are the top two tacklers back in the Triton lineup.
Meanwhile, the Buffaloes suffered a 40-0 shutout loss to No. 12 Navarro (Tex.) in their opener. Arkansas Baptist, which is a Region 2 member in just its sixth year of existence, finished 1-9 overall last season and is only 9-38 all-time.
"(The Buffaloes) like to work out of the shotgun and spread the field," Twait said. "Their quarterback (Trevon Smith) is capable of beating you with both his arm and legs. They have two totally different offensive attacks."
Iowa Central posted commanding victories over Arkansas Baptist in the two previous meetings between the schools, prevailing by scores of 38-21 and 47-6.
"Most teams usually make their most improvement between games one and two," said Twait. "(Arkansas Baptist) already has one (game) under their belt and is a much better football team this year. We're expecting a stiff challenge."
Former Auburn standout running back Michael Dyer, who was offensive Most Valuable Player of the 2011 BCS National Championship Game as a freshman, recently enrolled at Arkansas Baptist. Dyer won't play football for the Buffaloes, though, and will instead work toward an associate's degree.