COUNCIL BLUFFS - Right off the bat, the Iowa Central football team faces a daunting task in its 2013 opener tonight.
The Tritons (0-0 overall, 0-0 in the league) will battle defending NJCAA national champion and No. 4 Iowa Western (1-0, 0-0) in Midwest Football Conference action.
Due to the excessive heat, kickoff has been pushed back to 6 p.m. at the Lewis Central High School field.
Last season, Iowa Central suffered a 73-7 setback to the Reivers, marking the third straight loss for the Tritons in the head-to-head series.
"We know we're playing a heck of a football team, but there's nothing wrong with finding out where we stand," said ICCC head coach Kevin Twait said, who enters his 18th year at the helm with a 126-53 record. "I've really liked our work ethic and blue-collar approach in practice. We've been paying attention, and I think we'll play well (today) and keep getting better and better as the season goes on."
Despite going 6-5 overall and punching a 14th bowl ticket under Twait a year ago, Iowa Central has now scrapped its patented I-formation for the pistol. The Tritons must also fill the glaring void left in the backfield after the departure of Jontel Clayton, who is the all-time leading rusher in both Fort Dodge Senior High and ICCC history. Clayton compiled 978 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012.
Newcomer DeShawn Johnson and sophomore Kippie Ward are currently listed 1-2 on the Triton depth chart at tailback. Ward managed 328 yards and a score in eight games a year ago, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
Freshman Desmond Van Arsdale, a former Waterloo East all-stater, will receive the starting nod at quarterback for Iowa Central. Brandynn Clark, a sophomore, will likely be his favorite target after pacing the team in both catches (26) and yards (487) a year ago.
Defensively, the Tritons surrendered 27 points and 289.4 yards per contest - 224.5 passing and 64.9 rushing - last season.
In its debut a week ago, Iowa Western narrowly escaped with a 24-17 road victory over Trinity Valley (Tex.). Reivers' signal-caller Connor Bravard, a West Des Moines Dowling graduate, completed 27 of 44 passes for 285 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Geronimo Allison pulled down 10 receptions for 137 yards, while Akise Teague ran 18 times for 88 yards and a score.
Emmetsburg graduate Nick Schany is also a freshman wide receiver for Iowa Western.
"(The Reivers) beat a good Trinity Valley team last week, so they already have one game under their belt, which will be to their advantage," Twait said. "After having 29 practices, our guys are finally ready to tee it up themselves.
"We know it's going to be brutal out (on the field), but our kids have handled the heat really well."
Coming off an unbeaten 12-0 campaign in which they led the nation in nearly every major offensive statistical category, Iowa Western lost 18 of 22 starters from its national title squad. Ex-Reivers Jake Waters (Kansas State), Devon Nash (Kansas State), Travis Green (Kansas State), Deon Long (Maryland), Aaron Wimberly (Iowa State), Rodney Coe (Iowa State), Tyler Harmeyer (Iowa State), Andrew Stone (Iowa), Martize Barr (Illinois), Dallas Hinkhouse (Illinois), Steven Funderburk (Indiana), Jordan Heiderman (Indiana), Don Jackson (Nevada), Isaiah Johnson (Kansas), Mike Smithburg (Kansas) and Malkaam Muhammad (Wyoming) are all now playing for BCS-level programs.
A total of 10 Iowa Western standouts earned All-American honors in 2012.
Following this evening's matchup, the Tritons will host the Reivers on Oct. 12 inside Dodger Stadium.