Warhawks have movers to shake up defenses
The Warhawks placed the entire left side of their offensive line—center Mark Gawronski, left guard Matt Weber and left tackle Robbie Ustruck, all of them seniors—on the All-WIAC first-team all-conference squad.
Now, those three individuals will attempt to pave the way for Whitewater, which will face Mount Union for the sixth consecutive year in Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.
“I’ll be a battle like all of them have been,” said Whitewater coach Lance Leipold. “Many times the game will be determined by who controls the line of scrimmage on each side of the ball, and we’ll need those three guys to play well on Saturday if we’re going to have a chance to win.”
Nearly everything has gone right for Weber since transferring to Whitewater from Minnesota State-Mankato. He was a starter on last year’s national championship team, and it’s the second consecutive season he’s been named all-conference and All West region by D3football.com.
Weber’s honors topped out Thursday when he was named to the prestigious Associated Press Little All-America second team. That team includes NCAA Division II and III and NAIA players.
Weber was joined on the second team by Whitewater running back Levell Coppage.
“Him coming in as a transfer, everybody was a little nervous,” Gawronski said about Weber. “And obviously he worked his butt off to get a starting spot right away.”
No one on the Warhawks sidelines is nervous about Weber anymore. Besides the Little All-America honor, he was named to the Division
III All-American team this week by the American Football Coaches Association.
Lining up next to Weber is Ustruck, known as “Truck” to his teammates, who also was named an all-conference and all-region selection for a second straight year.
“When you play next to somebody for as long as me and ‘Truck’ have, it’s easy because we always know what each other’s doing or thinking for the most part,” said Weber about his teammate. “It makes life on the football field easy.”
Making the calls for the entire offensive line at the center position is Gawronski, whose solid play dates back to last season, according to Ustruck.
“Mark did a great job at center last year,” said Ustruck. “He played probably more guard than he did center, but at times when he went to center last year, it was huge for us.
“Even the year before that, when our starting center, Garth Coats, went down as a junior in the second round of the playoffs, Mark stepped up big for us.”
Together, the three have helped the entire offensive line become the driving force for an effective Whitewater offense that averages 5.8 yards per rushing attempt and ranks among the top five teams in Division III in total offense and scoring offense.
While praising his three outstanding individuals, Leipold also credits his coaching staff for putting together an offensive line that’s one of the best in the country.
“I think it says a lot about the job Steve Dinkel’s done as the offensive line coach,” said Leipold. “In his time here, different years have been different scenarios of finding the guys that fit our scheme and developing them into those type of linemen.”
For the three senior linemen, only one game remains in their college careers. They will be looking for their second consecutive national championship and the third and four years. The Warhawks beat Mount Union in 2007 and 2009.
However, Mount Union has gotten the better of Whitewater in three out of their five previous match-ups. Gawronski expects nothing less than hard-fought battle this time.
“I’m just expecting a four-quarter game,” he said. “Obviously we’re both really good teams that are both well coached. It’s never just going to be a blowout.
“Everybody’s going to go as hard as they can for four quarters. It’s going to come down to who wants it more, who has more heart.
“And I think with this group of seniors, we’ve worked our butts off for four years, and we really want this. We want to go out with a win, set something in Whitewater’s history that’s never been done before and to look back in a couple years and really have that ‘wow’ factor when you look at what you’ve done at this university.”