Area notebook: Local players on center stage
When the St. John's football team travels to play a Family Day game at Concordia-Moorhead on Saturday, half of the Cobbers' Jake Christiansen Stadium could be packed with West Central Minnesota families and friends.
When the St. John’s football team travels to play a Family Day game at Concordia-Moorhead on Saturday, half of the Cobbers’ Jake Christiansen Stadium could be packed with West Central Minnesota families and friends.
There are 22 former Tribune-area players on the Johnnies’ and Cobbers’ rosters, 18 of whom wear Concordia’s maroon and gold.
Most of the former area players are just getting their college careers going or are in backup roles. But five or six locals could be significant factors in the game as the Cobbers try to extend a three-game winning streak against SJU, and 1985 Willmar graduate Terry Horan, in his 15th year as Cobbers head coach, goes for his 100th career victory.
Former Paynesville star Josh Bungum has been one of SJU’s top offensive threats the last three seasons and was named the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s Athlete of the Week for his performance Saturday in the Johnnies’ 56-7 win over Buena Vista.
The Johnnies are 2-0 and ranked No. 8 in NCAA Division III in this week’s D3football.com national poll. Bungum, a senior, has made 11 catches this season for 139 yards - a 12.6-yard average - and a touchdown. He entered the season with 155 career receptions for 1,785 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he’d run the ball 84 times for 404 yards and two TDs. As the Johnnies’ primary punt returner this season, he’s returned four for a 25.2-yard average.
His Cobbers counterpart, senior Brandon Zylstra of New London-Spicer, has similar numbers. Zylstra also has made 11 catches for 177 yards - a 16.1-yard average - and two TDs. Zylstra has returned four kickoffs for a 34.8-yard average.
In his career, Zylstra has 88 receptions for 1,417 yards and 14 TDs, and he’s averaging 113.8 all-purpose yards per game.
Zylstra has a familiar face throwing to him this season. Junior Alex Grove, a 2013 Willmar graduate, has ascended to the Cobbers’ starting quarterback job and has been impressive in his two starts, leading Concordia to a 41-17 victory over Jamestown in week one, and a 41-7 win Saturday over Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Grove threw for more than 4,600 career yards in high school and owns virtually all the Cardinals’ career passing records. In the Cobbers’ two wins, Grove has completed 21 of 34 throws - a 62 percent completion rate - for 463 yards and five touchdowns, and he’s run for two scores.
Matt Ahrndt, a Cobbers junior from Benson, is starting at defensive back and leads the team with 12 total tackles, two for lost yards, and he has a pass breakup.
Senior Dave Brown, a Cobber offensive lineman from Litchfield, started the final game of the 2012 season then moved into the lineup fulltime, making eight starts in 2013 and nine starts in 2014. He’s made one start this season.
Another former NLS Wildcat, sophomore Adam Essler, is now with the Cobbers after opening his college career at Minnesota-Duluth. So far this season, Essler has eight carries for 36 yards in a reserve role.
Here are the rest of the Tribune-area players playing for the Cobbers and Johnnies:
SJU - Ben Beuning, freshman running back, NLS; Dan Holtkamp, senior offensive lineman, Minnewaska; Andy Schneider, sophomore defensive lineman, Litchfield.
Concordia - Sawyer Bohn, sophomore wide receiver, Lac qui Parle Valley; Dylan Hoerchler, junior wide receiver, ACGC; Corbin Schwartz, junior defensive back, NLS; Aaron Ahrndt, freshman defensive back, Benson; Tanner Tobkin, senior running back, NLS; Treyton Austvold, freshman defensive back, NLS; Quinn Anderson, junior defensive back, Litchfield; Derek Ludwig, sophomore defensive end, Paynesville; Brandon Knisley, freshman offensive lineman, NLS; Andrew McDowell, junior offensive lineman, NLS; Sam Langmo, freshman offensive lineman, Litchfield; Austin Grove, freshman wide receiver, Willmar; Noah Welsh, freshman defensive lineman, NLS.