Small College Sports

Bennett Goettsch develops into leader for Wartburg backfield

Former Iowa Valley prep tied atop American Rivers Conference with 7 rushing touchdowns

Wartburg’s Bennett Goettsch. (Julie Drewes/Wartburg College)
Wartburg’s Bennett Goettsch. (Julie Drewes/Wartburg College)

WAVERLY — Dependable, durable and driven. Bennett Goettsch has developed into a well-rounded running back, willing to do all the small, thankless tasks to help Wartburg football's offense.

The 5-foot-10, 215-pound junior is powered by a work ethic instilled by his parents, Barry and Eva.

“My parents work hard and I feel like that’s what I want to do,” said Goettsch, from Marengo and an all-state football player for Iowa Valley. “I don’t ever want to lose because I didn’t work hard enough or didn’t give it my all.

“The people in my hometown are blue-collar people. It’s a small town and they like working hard. They like winning games, too.”

Goettsch leads 12th-ranked Wartburg (7-0, 5-0) with 448 yards and is tied atop the American Rivers Conference entering Saturday’s game against Coe (6-2, 5-1) at Walston-Hoover Stadium. The top two teams in the league standings kick off at 1 p.m.

“I think the season has been good,” Goettsch said. “It kind of started out a little slow. I think our running back group and offensive line are starting to click a little more every game. I feel like we’re just progressing and keep getting better every week.”

Wartburg returns from a bye week, but Goettsch produced his top game of the season before the break. He recorded his second 100-yard game this season and third overall, rushing for a career-high 129 yards and a touchdown in a 29-15 victory over Simpson.

Goettsch has already surpassed his yardage and is close to his TD total from a year ago.

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“I really believe, right now, he’s hitting his stride and feeling confident and comfortable in his role,” Wartburg Coach Rick Willis said. “I think Bennett has developed and has become the most complete guy that can do a little bit of everything.”

Willis also mentioned that Goettsch has remained healthy. He hasn’t been as lucky in the past, stunting his growth slightly and keeping him from emerging as the top guy until now.

Pound the ball between the tackles? You bet. Pick up the yards in short-yardage situations? No problem. Pickup blitzes and pass protect? He’s your guy.

He embraces the role among a three-back rotation with Mason Carter and Connor Bailey.

“My role is kind of sort of an every-down back, kind of short yardage, come in to pass block and be physical,” Goettsch said. “I’ve tried to set a tone and that is what I’ve been trying to do since I got to Wartburg.

“Like being physical and more of a physical back, letting Mason and Connor be the quicker guys. Get them long runs and I’ll get the tough yardage.”

Actions make an impact on teammates. Goettsch admits he isn’t vocal, but little words are needed. The Knights recognize his effort, which has been consistent from his first day on campus.

“Bennett is a very hardworking player,” Willis said. “He is someone our players really respect because of that and he just shows up ready to do his job every day. You really don’t ever really have to get on him about his effort or energy.”

The Knights rely on Goettsch, who has a nose for the goal line with seven TDs this season and 17 in the last two years. He had four in a win over Buena Vista last season.

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“Coaches try to put us in the best situation possible when we get down in the red zone and the goal line,” Goettsch said. “I just have to get the ball and find a little crease and just ram it there. That’s what I try to do every time. Just hold on to the ball.”

Wartburg will attempt to move closer to a third straight conference title. Coe has won three straight games and can claim its first title since 2016, if it wins out. The Knights close with the second-place Kohawks, a road game at Central (6-1, 4-1) and the regular-season finale against Loras (3-4, 2-3).

“These next three weeks will be when everything is determined,” Willis said. “We’re in a good position. We have things within our control. We also have some great challenges ahead of us, starting with Coe this weekend. Our guys are excited about the opportunity and the challenge ahead of us.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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