September 7, 2010

Catching up with Jones

More news about: Carthage
Carthage quarterback Evan Jones
Evan Jones threw for 255.4 yards per game and 32 touchdowns for Carthage in 2009.
Carthage photo by Mike Gryniewicz

I would like to offer my most sincere apologies to Carthage senior quarterback Evan Jones. Jones has put up impressive numbers for the Redmen in the past. Every time I thought about featuring him in one of my columns, something always seemed to happen – a big game, someone with slightly bigger numbers or a Carthage loss.

I will make up for that missing Evan Jones column this year. He opened up his senior year with a bang, completing 26 of 45 passes for 341 yards and two touchdowns as Carthage erased a 13-3 halftime deficit to beat Franklin 30-27 in the season opener at Kenosha, Wis. Carthage racked up 421 yards in total offense under Jones' command as Carthage improves to 15-1 over the past six years in non-conference tilts.

Carthage's biggest problem is playing in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin where North Central, Wheaton and Illinois Wesleyan have ruled the court since Carthage's last title in 2004. Could this be the year that Carthage finally wins the big conference game? Redmen coach Tim Rucks said he was real pleased with the first game for sure.

"This was a great win for us," Rucks said. "Franklin College is going to win a lot of games this year. They're a good, solid football team. Getting Tyler Funk's field goal at the end of the first half was huge, because we knew we were getting the ball back to start the second half.

"We won this game, oddly enough, because of our running game. We scored on a 92-yard drive in the last period without throwing a single pass. Who would think that, watching us for the last couple of years? We did a great job of eating clock in the final minutes. Lakeland will be another good game next week. That's turned into a good rivalry, and we sometimes struggle up there."

Carthage will try to continue its great pre-conference record against Lakeland, one of the favorites in the Northern Athletic Conference. But the Redmen have been here before. The real test will come with the CCIW opener Oct. 2 against nationally ranked North Central.

Monmouth surprise

The biggest surprise in the Midwest was the way Wartburg handled then-nationally ranked Monmouth last Saturday 27-7. The Fighting Scots' All-American quarterback Alex Tanney passed for 224 yards, going 25-for-40, but he was picked off twice and sacked four times. One of those interceptions was returned for a 51-yard touchdown with 4:42 left in the game when Monmouth was trying to rally back.

Tanney still managed to set the new Midwest Conference career passing record, giving him 10,382 yards in his career, breaking the record of 10,200 set by Grinnell's Troy Daugherty.

The loss dropped Monmouth out of the Top 25 and it may be difficult for the Scots to find its way back in the rankings. The Midwest Conference isn't exactly the strongest in Division III, so its next nine conference games won't help the cause. What made matters worse, Monmouth's strongest competition, St. Norbert, was hammered by No. 5 St. Thomas 40-7 in its opener.

If Monmouth runs the table, the Scots’ fate will be joined with Wartburg, with the constant question, "Why put Monmouth back in the Top 25 if we don't put Wartburg ahead of them?" Now granted, that analogy has not always held firm in the national polls in recent years, but it still makes for a persuasive argument and one that Monmouth will find it difficult to overcome.

The Scots will have a shot to right the ship none the less Saturday in the MWC opener against Grinnell. Monmouth coach Steve Bell will be trying to become the winningest coach in Fighting Scots' history. Bell remains tied with Bill Reichow with 78 career wins at Monmouth. The game will also be the 1,000th game in Monmouth football history.

North Central falls, Illinois Wesleyan rises

I'm generally not a person who complaints about how pollsters vote in the Top 25 poll, but wait a minute here. North Central wins convincingly 41-7 against Cornell, Iowa and falls from No. 14 to No. 16. CCIW conference mate Illinois Wesleyan needs to rally to beat Hope, of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, 20-16, and breaks into the Top 25.

Now, I like Illinois Wesleyan and just last week I complained that they don't get the attention they deserve, but it would seem to stand logic that if Titans effort was good enough to get into the Top 25, then North Central certainly played well enough to at least stay at No. 14, right? Especially when the Titans gave up 401 yards in total offense to Hope, it really makes you scratchy your head.

I'm sure someone I just ticked off will explain this poll juggling to me that makes sense. I hope you will, anyway.

Answering questions

North Central did need to get questions answered about its offense with the loss of talented quarterback Aaron Fanthrope and wideout Hank Johnson. Sophomore quarterback Spencer Stanek seemed to answer those questions quite well. Stanek completed 20 of 35 passes with one interception for 361 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in North Central's victory.

Wide receiver Joe Antonacci caught six passes for 102 yards. The former defensive back started getting time at wide receiver last season and is shaping up to be Stanek's favorite target. North Central is off this week before taking on Olivet on Sept. 18. Illinois Wesleyan will face Alma this week.

Game of note

Hanover, of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, surprised Centre 28-27 in overtime last week. This week, the Panthers will have a chance to really put itself on the map against No. 15 Thomas More in Hanover's home opener. Junior wide receiver Daniel Passafiume has been setting NCAA reception records relatively anonymously because of Hanover's losing record could get some big time attention with a solid game. He caught 12 passes for 98 yards in Saturday's contest. Panthers quarterback C.J. Croft earned the conference's offensive player of the week award for going 30-for-48 for 246 yards in the Centre victory.


Clyde Hughes

Clyde Hughes has been writing sports at various times over the past 24 years, covering everything from high school, college and sporting events. A native of football-crazed Texas, Hughes works in Indiana and has written for numerous newspapers and magazines.
2003-04 columnist: John Regenfuss

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