When Stephen Covalt returned home for the summer from Drake University, he didn’t think it would be his final trip home from the Des Moines, Iowa, school.
“I wasn’t thinking of transferring,” said Covalt, a high school quarterback at Prairie Ridge who was moved to receiver last season.
When his high school coaches began talking about how the triple-option offense at NCAA Division III Ripon College was similar to what Covalt ran at Prairie Ridge, his interest was piqued.
“I missed playing quarterback,” he said.
After visiting the Wisconsin school, about 70 miles southwest of Green Bay, Covalt was certain that a change would be beneficial.
“I’m excited for a new opportunity,” he said.
Covalt is joining a team that features one of D-III’s most potent offenses. The Red Hawks have ranked among the top six rushing offenses nationally over the past four seasons.
Last season, Ripon (5-5) led the Midwest Conference with 336.7 rushing yards a game, 40 rushing touchdowns and a team average of 5.3 yards a carry.
The team’s “slot bone” offense was installed in 2004 by offensive coordinator Rick Coles, who will be inducted into the 2014 class of the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
The team’s veteran coaching staff includes Coles, who has been the offensive coordinator for nine seasons, and longtime head coach Ron Ernst, who is entering his 24th season.
“They took a profound interest in me,” Covalt said. “They seem like they’re really genuine. They made me feel like they really wanted me.”
Ripon is hoping to build off a strong finish to last season. The team started 0-4 a year ago before winning five of its last six games.
“Hopefully, we can take that momentum with us into the season,” Covalt said.
Covalt will compete for time at quarterback with last season’s starter, Tom Sawyer, who ran for 1,045 yards and 16 touchdowns while completing 51 percent of his passes and throwing for three touchdowns.
“[The coaches] told me that the best player will play,” Covalt said. “They’re not just going to give the job to the starter last year. I see that as a positive.”
Leaving Drake, a Football Championship Subdivision school, meant saying goodbye to plenty of friends, Covalt said. But he took some important lessons with him from his two seasons there.
“I learned to work hard and what being committed to something was all about,” he said.
Covalt said there was one additional benefit to going to school at Ripon.
“I’m a Packers fan, so it will be nice to be in Wisconsin,” he said.
Bright Rocket: Richmond-Burton grad Kyle Wismer is one of 16 starters returning this season for perennial D-III football power Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Wismer was one of five Warhawk players to earn preseason honors as an honorable mention choice on USA College Football’s Preseason All-American teams.
Wismer recorded 42 tackles, six sacks and an interception last season as a junior and earned first-team All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference recognition.
The Warhawks open the season Sept. 7 at home against Washington University-St. Louis. Whitewater is ranked No. 9 in D3Football.com’s preseason poll.
Bounceback season: After missing his sophomore season because of knee surgery, D-III Macalester College baseball infielder Colin Carpenter was named this spring to the All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team.
Carpenter, a junior captain for the St. Paul, Minn., school, finished the season with a flourish. The Harvard graduate batted .429 over Macalester’s final 16 games. His four home runs this season, which ranked fourth in conference play, all came in the Scots’ last 13 games.
Carpenter also ranked sixth in conference games in slugging percentage (.667) and seventh in RBIs (17).
For the season, he batted .318 with 23 RBIs.
Carpenter, who played first base and third base this season, was named the team’s Most Improved Player and was one of four Macalester baseball players to achieve MIAC Winter/Spring All-Academic honors.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.