Transfers Izaiah Celestine and Drake Davidson supplying spark for Doane's offense

Doane receiver Izaiah Celestine has a team-best 16 receptions, averaging 25.4 yards per catch. 

Izaiah Celestine and Drake Davidson transferred to Doane in January. Now, they are providing a big-play spark for the offense.

The Tigers started the season 1-3 and averaged 183 total yards a game. But in a pair of wins over the past two weeks, they have scored on four plays that covered at least 60 yards.

“Our offense is coming along,” said coach Chris Bessler, who had to replace most of his skill-position starters. “First of all, we’re getting healthier on the offensive line.”

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Opponents are getting a healthy dose of Celestine, a receiver who transferred from Division III Monmouth College. He’s scored three of the long touchdowns.

“My speed is my strength,” the 5-foot-10, 173-pound junior said. “When I’m in the open field, I want to make sure I don’t get caught.”

Two weeks ago against Hastings, Doane trailed 10-0 midway through the second quarter when Celestine caught a 67-yard touchdown pass from Davidson. The next quarter, Celestine returned a punt 82 yards for another score and the Tigers were on their way to a 37-12 win.

It was more of the same last week at Dakota Wesleyan. After running back Jamaine Derogene scored on a 66-yard run just before halftime to give Doane a 17-7 lead, Celestine turned a Davidson pass into a 73-yard TD less than two minutes into the third quarter and Doane pulled away for a 38-20 win.

Celestine has a team-best 16 receptions, averaging 25.4 yards per catch. He also averages 15.5 yards per punt return and is seventh in the NAIA in all-purpose yards.

“Izaiah is an impact player. He’s got real good speed,” Bessler said. “Izaiah was always there, it just took awhile to get him the ball. Drake is getting time now.”

Davidson threw for 256 yards against Hastings and 268 last week. He saw starting time in 2017 as a freshman for Division II Lincoln University in Missouri, but he decided to transfer after last season.

While the offense rounds into form, Doane’s defense has allowed 20 or fewer points in four of its six games. Senior lineman Anthony Malone has 2 1⁄2 sacks and 8 1⁄2 tackles for loss.

“He’s playing like a senior,” said Bessler, who was Doane’s defensive coordinator before becoming coach last year. “We’ve been very solid against the run. We’re newer in the secondary, but we like how they’re coming along.”

Doane hosts Jamestown at 1 p.m. Saturday. Jamestown outlasted Concordia in four overtimes last week for its first win this season.

“We’ve got some good momentum, put up a lot of points,” Celestine said. “We’re hoping to do that again for our homecoming game, put less stress on our defense.”

Other midland games

Pittsburg State (5-0) vs. Northwest Missouri State (5-0), noon: One of the day’s best games makes its return to Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. No. 7 Northwest is fifth in Division II in scoring (48.4 points a game), while No. 13 Pittsburg is sixth (47.0).

Adams State (3-2) at Chadron State (1-4), noon: Chadron tries to snap a four-game skid. Both offenses average more than 400 yards a game. Last year, Adams outlasted Chadron 65-62 as the teams combined for 1,124 yards.

Wayne State (2-3) at Minnesota Duluth (4-1), 1 p.m.: Wayne will be without QB Andy McCance (broken left hand) again this week, but the Wildcats rushed for 376 yards in last week’s win over Minnesota Crookston. 

Midland (1-4) at Hastings (2-3), 1 p.m.: Midland has lost four straight, including three by less than a touchdown. Hastings has dropped three in a row, including last week’s 69-13 loss to Morningside.

Dakota Wesleyan (1-5) at Concordia (2-3), 1 p.m.: Senior Ryan Durdon had his first 100-yard game of the season for Concordia last week — he has 2,393 yards rushing for his career.

Morningside (4-0) at Briar Cliff (4-2), 1 p.m.: Morningside leads the NAIA in scoring (64.0) and total offense (623.5) while Briar Cliff allows 9.5 points per game. Omaha Burke grad Arnijae Ponder needs 139 yards to become the third Morningside back to top 3,000 career rushing yards.

Northwestern (4-0) at Dordt (3-2), 1 p.m.: No. 7 Northwestern’s Tyson Kooima threw for a career-high 377 yards in a 40-28 win over Dordt last year. 

Nebraska Wesleyan (3-1) at Wartburg (5-0), 1:30 p.m.: Wesleyan’s Kevin Tims and Derrick Curtis have combined for 48 receptions and caught 13 of Jonathan Curti’s 17 TD passes.

UNK (3-2) at Lincoln (0-5), 2 p.m.: UNK is second in Division II in rushing, averaging 326.2 yards a game.