/seasons/2013/contrib/20131123a552j4

North Central Cruises to First-Round Win

More news about: North Central (Ill.)

Pulling back the curtain on its playoff run with a powerful performance, the North Central College football team opened the NCAA Division III Championship on Saturday with a 63-7 conquest of the Albion College (Mich.) Britons at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.

The fourth-ranked Cardinals (11-0) move on to next week's second round, which features a home game against the seventh-ranked University of Wisconsin-Platteville (10-1). The Pioneers defeated Concordia University Wisconsin, 54-20, in their first-round contest.

"That's maybe as good as we've played," said North Central head coach John Thorne, "but we know we're going to be tested a whole lot more next week. We've got a whole lot of work to do to get ready for next week's game, but I'm very proud of these guys."

North Central's 557 yards of total offense gave it 5,585 for the season, establishing a new single-season school record. The Cardinals' 506 points this season are just 18 short of the all-time program best.

"We've got a great group of guys up front on the line, and our position players are just outstanding," said senior quarterback Spencer Stanek. "It really helps when you have those kinds of guys to play with, so I'm just really proud of everyone right now."

The hosts' first scoring opportunity was turned away, as the Britons (8-3) stopped a fourth-down conversion attempt on their own three-yard line. The Cardinals, however, got a short field to work with soon thereafter when Alex Tripp intercepted a pass to give North Central the ball back at the 50. Five plays later, Stanek delivered a six-yard touchdown pass to Peter Sorenson, nudging the home team in front, 7-0, with 7:13 on the first-quarter clock. The Cardinals' next drive was highlighted by a 39-yard run from Zack Pattat and a 25-yard run by Stanek beforeRyan Kent scored on a one-yard run to double the lead to 14-0. 

North Central's defensive and special-teams units made their presence felt in the second period. John Focosi sacked Albion quarterback Dominic Bona on third down early in the quarter and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Tripp. Stanek passed to Chad O'Kane for a 22-yard touchdown five plays later. Tripp andBrian Wilson came through with a sack on third down to force a punt on the next drive, and the kick was blocked by Kevin SchroederJason Callahan collected the ball and raced 39 yards for the score, extending the lead to 28-0.

"Our defensive tackles were key in not giving (Bona) chances to escape underneath, and our coverage gave us time to work into our moves and give as much pressure as we did today," said Tripp. "It all came together pretty well."

Schroeder got a hand on a punt on the Britons' next drive as well, and Stanek hitRyne Rezac for a 49-yard TD pass on the next play. The final score of the opening half came with 1:31 to play. After four straight running plays, Stanek found Sorenson for 22-yard score and a 42-0 halftime advantage.

North Central's defense came up big again early in the third period, as Kevin Nalefski intercepted a pass and scored on a 39-yard return. Following an Albion punt, a six-play, 47-yard drive was capped off by Matt Randolph's two-yard TD run. Randolph ran the ball on five of the six plays in the possession, gaining 40 yards.

The Cardinals' Michael Weidner recovered a mishandled Albion punt return at the Britons' 32-yard line to spark the hosts' final scoring drive of the day. North Central ran seven running plays, five of which went to Denzel Thompson, and scored on his eight-yard run with 6:10 to play. Albion's final possession resulted in its lone score, as Bona ran for a two-yard TD with 2:34 to play.

North Central gained a season-high 372 rushing yards, led by Zack Pattat's 103 yards on just four carries, while Kent gained 81 yards on 14 attempts. Stanek completed 11 of 17 passes for 185 yards while also running five times for 60 yards, and Rezac (70 yards) and O'Kane (68) each caught four passes.

The Cardinals' defense, which forced four turnovers and limited Albion to 258 yards, got eight tackles each from Wilson and Tripp. Weidner also blocked a punt in the game. North Central kicker Nick Dace connected on nine extra-point attempts, giving him 62 on the season to break his own single-season school record.

North Central kicks off against UW-Platteville at noon on Saturday.

Nov. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Husson 23, at Springfield 21
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Berry 34, Huntingdon 20
Video Box Score Recap Video Photos
Final
at Delaware Valley 35, Western New England 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Brockport 66, Plymouth State 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Frostburg State 35, at Wittenberg 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 21, Washington and Lee 0
Video Box Score
Final
at Wesley 45, RPI 27
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 31, Johns Hopkins 28
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Trine 63, Monmouth 24
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Chapman 6
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Case Western Reserve 28, at Illinois Wesleyan 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Oshkosh 63, Lakeland 0
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at St. Thomas 47, Eureka 8
Video Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final - OT
at Wartburg 35, Franklin 34
Video Preview Box Score Live stats Photos
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 17, St. John's 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Linfield 27, Hardin-Simmons 13
Box Score Photos
Nov. 25: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
St. Thomas at Berry
@ Location TBD
12:00 PM
Wesley at Brockport
1:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at UW-Oshkosh
1:00 PM
Linfield at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Nov. 17: All times Eastern
Final
Merchant Marine 35, at Buffalo State 20
@ Newark, Del.
Video Box Score Photos
Nov. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Muhlenberg 32, at Carnegie Mellon 6
@ Newark, Del.
Video Box Score
Final
at Franklin and Marshall 21, Widener 7
Video Box Score
Final
Susquehanna 28, at Albright 9
Video Box Score
Final
at Berry 34, Huntingdon 20
Video Box Score Recap Video Photos
Final
at Brockport 66, Plymouth State 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 21, Washington and Lee 0
Video Box Score
Final
at Trine 63, Monmouth 24
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Wesley 45, RPI 27
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 31, Johns Hopkins 28
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Frostburg State 35, at Wittenberg 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Delaware Valley 35, Western New England 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Husson 23, at Springfield 21
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Framingham State 48, Curry 14
Video Box Score
Final
Cortland 35, at Union 28
Box Score Recap
Final
Case Western Reserve 28, at Illinois Wesleyan 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final - OT
at Wartburg 35, Franklin 34
Video Preview Box Score Live stats Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Chapman 6
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Oshkosh 63, Lakeland 0
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 17, St. John's 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Thomas 47, Eureka 8
Video Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final
at Linfield 27, Hardin-Simmons 13
Box Score Photos
Final
at Ithaca 27, Salisbury 17
@ Newark, Del.
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at WPI 17, SUNY-Maritime 3
Box Score Recap
Nov. 19: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Stevenson at Alfred
@ University of Delaware
Video Preview Live stats Audio