Blade Durvala

Lineman Blade Durbala is the American Rivers defensive player of the year

PELLA — Central College quarterback Blaine Hawkins (5th-year, Ankeny) and defensive lineman Blade Durbala (5th-year, Blairstown, Benton HS) head the American Rivers All-Conference football squad.

Hawkins was named the league’s offensive MVP for the second time after winning the award in 2019 while Durbala was cited as the defensive MVP. Central’s Jeff McMartin and his staff received the league’s coach of the year award after piloting the Dutch to their 32nd conference title.

Central, 10-0 overall, posted an 8-0 conference mark and had 18 players cited, including nine first-team all-conference honorees. Joining Hawkins and Durbala on the first team are cornerback Brayden Egli (Saint Charles, Interstate 35 HS), defensive end Hunter Maddy (Mystic, Centerville HS), linebacker Josh Van Gysel (sophomore, Anthem, Ariz., Boulder Creek HS), wide receiver Tanner Schminke (5th-year, Boone), offensive guard Joshua Mayhew (5th-year, Aurora, Ill, West Aurora HS), offensive tackle Travis Wagner (5th-year, Mesa, Ariz., Mountain View HS) and kicker Logan Sunvold (sophomore, Monroe, Southeast Polk HS).

Central also had eight second-team picks with strong safety Cameron Bannister (junior, State Center, West Marshall HS), linebacker Reid Taylor (senior, Polo, Ill.), running back Jason Hopp (senior, Earlham), tight end Billy Friis (senior, West Branch), wide receiver Erik Knaack (5th-year, Reinbeck, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS), offensive tackle Que Baker-McCaulay (junior, Mesa, Ariz., Tempe HS), center Ian Den Herder (junior, Mesa, Ariz., Desert Ridge HS) and punter Austin Burns (sophomore, Williamsburg).

Free safety Brody Klein (sophomore, Rainier, Wash.) received honorable mention.

Egli, Hopp, Knaack and Mayhew were second-team choices in 2019.

Hawkins, who received honorable mention in 2017, was a second-team pick in 2018 before receiving first-team honors in 2019. He set conference records for passing yards (2,827), total offense (379.1) and touchdown passes (44) in eight league games. For the season overall, he’s completed 236 of 318 passes, with two interceptions, for 3,424 yards and 50 touchdowns, which leads all divisions of the NCAA.

Durbala, a All-America pick last spring, had 36 tackles including 10.0 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He is now a two-time first-team all-conference pick.

The league MVP award was first presented in 1969 and in 2010 was split into offensive and defensive honors. With this year’s sweep, the Dutch have received the award 16 times. Hawkins joins Tim Connell (2007) as the only Central quarterbacks honored. Durbala is the sixth Dutch defensive lineman tabbed, joining Vern Den Herder (1970), Rich Thomas (1985), Mike Stumberg (1988), Shane Wong (2010) and Danny Samson (2013).

McMartin and his staff received coach of the year honors for the fifth time. He is in his 18th season at Central, posting a 183-42 record.

Central was dominant in league play, outscoring opponents 59.4-14.1, setting conference records for points, total offense (619.3 yards) and passing yards (414.6 yards). The Dutch also set a conference record for total offense with 789 yards at Simpson Sept. 25.

Central gained its 22nd NCAA Division III playoff berth and will play host to Bethel University (Minn.) in a first-round game Saturday at noon at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium.

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