Pepe, Knaack receive Central College football honors


Joseph Pepe of Gladbrook and Erik Knaack of Reinbeck were recently honored for their contributions to the Central College football team this past fall at the squad’s recent awards banquet.

The Dutch finished 12-1 overall, 10-0 in the regular season and 8-0 in the American Rivers, winning their 32nd conference championship. Central made its 22nd NCAA Division III playoff appearance, advancing to the national quarterfinals. The squad finished ranked No. 6 in the AFCA Division III Coaches’ Poll this season.

Record-setting quarterback Blaine Hawkins (5th-year, Ankeny) was officially recognized at the banquet as the Gagliardi Trophy recipient, presented to the nation’s outstanding Division III player. He was among five Central players receiving all-America honors.

Hawkins also became the second player in Central history to receive the team Heerema-Schilder MVP Blanket for the third time, previously winning in 2018 and 2019 (the award was not given in 2020). Receiver Sam Markham was cited in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Several other team awards were passed out as Central’s American Rivers championship team was honored.


Linebacker Drew Smith (5th-year, Joliet, Ill., West HS) received the team’s Mentink Award for leadership and inspiration on and off the field. Receiver Jeff Herbers (junior, Urbandale, Des Moines Christian HS) was the Claussen Award winner as the team’s most improved player. Offensive lineman Josh Kuiper (senior, Grundy Center) won the Borgman Award as the senior player with the top cumulative grade point average, carrying a 3.91.

Offensive lineman Griffin Sargent (5th-year, Ankeny, Centennial HS) received the Kuyper Award for outstanding contributions by a non-starting senior player. Linebacker Josh Van Gysel (sophomore, Anthem, Ariz., Boulder Creek HS) was presented the Lankelma Award as the team’s outstanding underclass player. Defensive lineman Truman Krob (freshman, Lisbon) received the Ted Dagh Award as the defensive scout team most valuable player while wide receiver Hunter Wilkinson (sophomore, Jensen Beach, Fla.) was the Kirk Wagner Award recipient as the offensive scout team MVP.

Defensive lineman Cody Wonderlich (5th-year, Pleasant Hill, Southeast Polk HS) received the Mel VerMeer Loyalty Award. Tight end Grant Nelson (freshman, Pella) won the Brian O’Donnell Award as the team’s top freshman. Joshua Mayhew (5th-year, Aurora, West Aurora HS) won the Bruce Wendt Award for the third time as the team’s outstanding offensive lineman. He won the award outright in 2018 and shared it in 2019. Kicker Logan Sunvold (sophomore, Monroe, Southeast Polk HS) won the Special Teams Award.

Coach Jeff McMartin awarded 72 varsity letters.

Joseph Pepe, defensive lineman, 5-7, 240, 5th-year., Gladbrook Reinbeck HS

Awards/honors: Second varsity letter

Erik Knaack, wide-receiver, 6-0, 185, 5th-year., Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS

Awards/honors: Fifth varsity letter; D3football.com team of the week, wide receiver (2018, 2019); Lankelma-Menning Award (Outstanding Underclassman, 2018); All-conference, first team (2021); second team (2019)

2021 stats: 726 receiving yards, 57 receptions, 66.0 receiving yards per game, 11 touchdowns