On a cool, crisp fall afternoon in Naperville, Ill., a day otherwise perfect for football, Carthage College (1-6, 0-4 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin) lost to defending-CCIW-champion and No. 4 North Central College (7-0, 4-0 CCIW), 72-20, at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.
North Central took a 28-0 lead in the first period. A Pete Djurickovic punt was blocked on the Red Men's opening drive, and the Cardinals' Steve Liaromatis returned it seven yards for a touchdown. On the initial North Central drive, the Cardinals scored on a three-yard run by Ryan Kent at 8:45 that ended a four-play, 32-yard drive. Spencer Stanek completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Peter Sorenson at 3:41 to make it 21-0, and a 21-pass scoring strike from Stanek to Sorenson at 1:01 bumped the lead to 28-0.
The onslaught continued in the second quarter. A 50-yard pass from Stanek to Demarco Tillman set up a six-yard scoring carry by Kent at 14:32, and the lead went to 34-0. A one-yard TD carry by Oshayne Brown at 6:29 ended a 10-play, 53 yards drive, making it 41-0. When it seemed the Cardinals couldn't get more efficient, they scored next on a two-play, 54-yard, 27-second drive that ended with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Stanek to Ryne Rezac at 4:59, as the lead went to 48-0. North Central took a 55-0 lead late in the period on a 68-yard TD scamper by Kent at 1:57, and that was the halftime score..
Following a scoreless third period, Carthage got on the scoreboard at 13:04 fourth period on a 14-yard TD pass from Nick Anzelmo to Marcus Hines Jr. A 34-yard Marcus Harnett interception return for a touchdown at 12:08 cut the lead to 55-14. The Cardinals came right back with a 51-yard touchdown run by Denzel Thompson 10:50 to bump the lead to 62-14. With 6:52 to go, North Central's Nick Dace drilled a low, line-drive for a school-record 56-yard field goal, and the score went to 65-14. The kick also broke a Carthage opponent record of 50 yards set by Millikin's Loren Thorstenson in 1969.
Carthage's Darin Ward scored on a blocked punt, a 17-yard return, with 2:46 to play to shave the lead to 65-20. The Cardinals came right back with an 80-yard TD run from scrimmage by Thompson, and the lead was 72-20 at 2:04, and that was the final margin.
North Central rolled up 528 total offensive yards, 312 yards rushing and 216 yards passing, while Carthage had just 151 total yards, 61 on the ground and 190 passing. The Cardinals enjoyed an 18-9 advantage in first downs. Cardinal quarterback Spencer Stanek completed 12-of-17 passes for 218 yards and three touchdowns. Peter Sorenson caught five passes for 57 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Denzel Thompson ran for 128 yards on four carries and Ryan Kent 97 yards on five carries. For the Red Men, quarterback A.J. Simoncelli (So., Downers Grove, Ill./South) left the game with an injury in the second period and was replaced by Nick Anzelmo (Fr., Schaumburg, Ill.), who completed nine-of-16 passes for 86 yards. Free safety Damon Hayden (Fr., Palm Coast, Fla./Matanzas) led the Carthage defensive effort with nine tackles.
"North Central is a really good football team, and we're not there yet," said Carthage coach Mike Yeager. "We didn't come out to play in the first 30 minutes. If you don't play well against the No. 4 team in the country, you're going to get embarrassed. That's what happened today. We were flat in all areas of the game, early, and all of the sudden, it's 21-0. That's what good teams do to you. We have to fix that and come to play next week. We put together some drives and made some stops in the second half, but you can't wait 30 minutes to do that. North Central is big, they're fast, and they're strong. They should make a nice run in the playoffs. We need to focus on Augustana, because that's a game we can win. We need a great week of practice and come out and expect to win."
Carthage play host to Augustana College (Ill.) on Saturday, Nov. 2 in a 1 p.m. contest at Art Keller Field in Kenosha, Wis.