Time of Poss.
ROCKFORD, Ill. - The Benedictine University football team secured a share of the Northern Athletics Conference title with a 33-28 victory at Rockford College on Saturday, earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Playoffs for the second consecutive year.
The victory did not come easy for the Eagles, who needed 14 unanswered points in the second half to finally take the lead for good. Benedictine opened the scoring on the game's first drive, needing just three plays, all first downs, to jump ahead 6-0. John Alessi ran for 31 yards on the second play and John Borsellino found the endzone for the first of four occasions he reeled in a 21-yard pass from Matt Brown.
A fumble late in the quarter set up Rockford with a short field as the host Regents took advantage on senior day to take the lead. Quarterback Tyler Baran hooked up with tight end Dane Kirk on a three-yard score with 4:10 left in the first. Borsellino responded immediately with a 32-yard run to put Benedictine up 12-7 on the opening play of the second quarter.
Rockford followed with 14 unanswered points to jump in front 21-12 on a pair of long drives. Jake Gorush found Milton Phillips for a 25-yard score to cap a 10-play 80-yard drive with 10:49 to go in the half. An interception helped Rockford start a 12-play drive finished with a Gorush three-yard run with 4:29 remaining.
Benedictine scored late to pull within 21-19, using a penalty to setup a short field. Borsellino's third rushing touchdown came on a five-yard dive with 1:18 to play. The first Benedictien drive of the second half put the Eagles in front for good, marching 44 yards on seven plays to move ahead 26-21 when Alessi plunged in from a yard out.
The longest drive of the year helped the Eagles pad the lead, taking 6:47 to move 77 yards on 12 plays. Borsellino's final score of the afternoon came on an 11-yard run at the onset of the fourth to stretch the margin to 33-21.
Two turnovers allowed Rockford time to try and take the lead. The Regents moved within 33-28 after a fumble with 9:21 remaining when Phillips scored from a yard away. A fumble on the ensuing possession enabled Rockford to march to the Benedictine 15 before a Rich Rategan sack forced a fumble recovered by Chris Buonavolanto. The Eagles ran out the clock and into the postseason as the first school from the Northern Athletics Conference to make it in consecutive years.
Rockford (0-9, 0-6) matched Benedictine yard-per-yard, amassing 336 total including 202 through the air and 134 on the ground. Benedictine did most of the damage on the ground, rattling off 243 yards rushing of their 342 total.
John Borsellino carried 31 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns while also hauling in two passes for a total of 19 yards and a touchdown. Alessi totaled 48 yards on the ground with a score while Brown finished the afternoon 9-of-13 for 99 yards with a TD and an INT. Trent Altieri paced the defense with 11 tackles.
Benedictine (7-2, 6-0) won the automatic bid by virtue of a head-to-head victory over Concordia Chicago in the conference opener and can claim their second consecutive outright title with a win over Wisconsin Lutheran at the Sports Complex next Saturday at 1:00 p.m. in the regular season finale. Playoff pairings will be released after the final weekend of play.