The Carthage College football team (1-9, 0-7 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin) closed out its season on Saturday, Nov. 16 with a 28-21 loss CCIW-opponent Millikin University (2-8, 1-6 CCIW) at Art Keller Field in Kenosha, Wis.
Millikin scored twice in the first period to take a 14-0 lead. Sean Dunning scored on a 30-yard run at 9:21 to cap an eight-play, 96-yard drive. Dunning scored again from the one at 4:34 to end a seven-play, 74-yard drive. Carthage made it 14-7 at 14:52 second period with an eight-play. 59-yard drive that ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback A.J. Simoncelli to wide receiver Pete Djurickovic. The Big Blue took a 21-7 halftime lead at 6:16 second period with a 10-play, 95-yard drive that was capped by a four-yard carry by Dunning.
Millikin put together an eight-minute drive to start the second half, but the Big Blue turned the ball over on downs on the Red Men's three-yard line. Three plays later, A.J. Simoncelli (So., Downers Grove, Ill./South) hooked up with wide receiver Alex Nawrot (Fr., Palatine, Ill.) on a 93-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 21-14.
Carthage tied the game, 21-21, at 11:35 fourth quarter with a six-play, 56-yard drive that ended with Derek Bellamy carry for the touchdown. Following a Millikin punt, the Red Men moved the ball from their own 20-yard line all the way to the Big Blue's three before Simoncelli was intercepted in the end zone by Mykal Neal. Millikin was forced to punt on its next possession, but Jonnie Evans Jr. fumbled the return, and Millikin took over on the Carthage 23-yard line. On the fourth play of the ensuing drive, Sean Dunning carried the ball in from the nine-yard line for a touchdown and a 28-21 lead with 1:07 to go.
Taking over with 57 seconds remaining, Carthage's Simoncelli was intercepted again at the Millikin five-yard line by Jowonis Edwards, who returned the ball all the way to Red Men's 35-yard line. The Big Blue ran out the clock from there for the final, 28-21 margin.
Millikin had 462 total offensive yards, 272 rushing and 190 passing, while Carthage collected 529 total yards, 193 on the ground and 336 in the air. The time-of-possession was about even, the Red Men holding a 31:00-29:00 margin.
Big Blue tailback Sean Dunning ran for 244 yards on 36 carries and caught three passes for 32 yards. Carthage running back Jonnie Evans Jr. (Fr., Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) ran for 127 yards on 13 carries. A.J. Simoncelli completed 17-of-25 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns, with Alex Nawrot catching three of those for 117 yards. Defensively for the Red Men, strong safety Dan Riddle (Fr., Palatine, Ill.) had 13 tackles (11 solo, 2 assisted).
"We had an opportunity to win," said Carthage coach Mike Yeager, "but we turned the ball over in the red zone and fumbled on a punt return. You can't win games that way. We needed to force more turnovers on defense. Jonnie Evans Jr. played great today. He just took his eye off the ball on that punt return. He has a chance to be a special player. We played well in the second half, but it's a 60-minute game, and we let them score too much in the first half. That put us in a hole. If our freshmen and sophomores stick together, I believe we'll have a chance to compete for a CCIW title very soon. We have some talent. We're not ready, physically, and a lot of guys were forced into tough situations. But, they never backed down, and they kept playing. If you have good players, you have good teams, and I think we can be that in a couple of years. Except for one game this year, we had a chance to win all the rest of them."