December 7, 2013

Semifinals on Horizon for North Central

More news about: North Central (Ill.)

The North Central College football team walked off the field at Bethel University feeling a numbness comprised of equal parts frostbite and euphoria Saturday, fighting its way past sub-zero temperatures and a sturdy opponent to post a 41-17 victory over the Royals in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Football Championship at Royal Stadium.

The win advances the Cardinals (13-0) to the national semifinals for the first time, where they will face the top-ranked University of Mount Union Purple Raiders for the opportunity to advance to the national championship game.

"I was very proud of the way our guys played today," said North Central head coachJohn Thorne. "Bethel is a wonderful teaem and they're very well-coached so we knew it would be a hard-fought game.

"The weather and the field and all that kind of stuff made it difficult, but it's also going to turn into a day that both teams are going to remember forever. It was a very interesting day, a lot of fun, and we're very excited to have the chance to move on."

On a day when the temperature stayed in the negative digits and a natural-grass field worn down by a long season was particularly unforgiving, North Central entered the game prepared to tackle the elements as well as its opponent.

"The coaches prepared us to stay warm," said senior defensive back Shane Dierking, who became the Cardinals' all-time leader in interceptions (16) while also recovering a fumble and recording a team-high 10 tackles to enter North Central's career top 10. "Once the game started, it wasn't that big of a factor. Cutting and breaking was a little difficult, but there are going to be games like that in the playoffs so it was good to see us overcome those things."

The Cardinals were also boosted for the second straight game by the rushing performance of junior Ryan Kent. Carrying the ball a career-high 28 times, Kent gained 109 yards and tied a North Central single-game record with four rushing touchdowns for the second straight week.

"It's all the offensive line and the playcalling," Kent said. "There are huge holes to run through, and when you're running behind a line like that, I can't take too much credit for it.

"I've played in cold games before, but the field was pretty hard. It was like playing on cement. I don't think we were too limited in our ability to make cuts, it was just when you hit the ground there were elbows and knees getting cut open."

The Cardinals were forced to punt away their first possession, and Bethel (12-1) wound up posting the game's first score on Andrew O'Reilly's 31-yard field goal with 7:32 left in the first quarter. North Central, however, responded right away with a three-play, 75-yard drive that saw quarterback Spencer Stanek fire a 38-yard pass to Ryne Rezac before a 34-yard screen pass to Chad O'Kane that scored the day's first touchdown.

Bethel's next drive resulted in the first of what would become five turnovers for the hosts, as quarterback Tom Keefe's fumble was recovered by the Cardinals' Nick Samuelson at the Royals' 39-yard line. North Central called five straight running plays, scoring on Kent's one-yard run to go up, 14-3, with 3:57 still to play in the opening frame.

"Whoever wins the turnover battle in the playoffs is going to win the game," Dierking said. "We just had to keep punching at the ball because when it's this cold the ball can come out."

Taking over after a Bethel punt, the Cardinals got down the field in a hurry after a 43-yard pass from Stanek to Peter Sorenson left the visitors just two yards from the end zone. On the first play of the second period, Kent again dove in from a yard out and boosted North Central's lead to 21-3.

The Cardinals had a 31-yard field goal attempt blocked in the second period. Trey Hartema intercepted a pass on the following drive, but North Central came up empty on an attempted fourth-down conversion. Dierking ended a Bethel drive deep in the Cardinals' territory with his record-breaking pick, which tied him for the North Central single-season record (8), but the Cardinals' offense was unable to make any headway before halftime.

The Royals saw the first possession of the second half ended on a fumble at the North Central 10-yard line, but they forced a North Central punt before getting into the end zone for the first time on Jesse Phenow's 12-yard touchdown run. The Cardinals' Jordan Dean, however, put a stop to any gain in momentum by returning the ensuing kickoff 76 yards to the Bethel eight-yard line. Kent scored his third TD, again from one yard away, three plays later to extend the guests' lead to 28-10 with 9:50 left in the third period.

After the Cardinals' defense forced another three-and-out, Stanek completed a pair of passes to Sorenson before firing a 43-yard TD strike to O'Kane. With 6:25 still to play in the third period, North Central owned a commanding 35-10 lead.

"All three phases of the game need to be able to make a play when the play is there," Thorne said. "Our offensive line kept our quarterback clean the whole game, and they've done that the whole year, and our defensive guys just do a great job of getting us the ball in places where we can do something with it."

Dierking recovered a fumble on Bethel's final drive of the third quarter and returned it 28 yards to the Royals' 25. Two plays into the fourth period, Kent's two-yard TD run put the Cardinals' ahead, 41-10. 

Bethel put together a 10-play, 61-yard drive and scored on Marshall Klitzke's four-yard run with 10:38 to go, but the Royals' final drive ended on a failed fourth-down conversion in Cardinal territory.

Stanek completed 15 of 27 passes for 249 yards,  becoming North Central's all-time single-season leader in completions (245) and passing yards (3,297) while becoming the first Cardinal quarterback to throw at least 40 touchdown passes in a season (41). Sorenson caught seven passes for a game-high 109 yards.

Hartema added nine tackles for the North Central defense, which limited Bethel to its lowest scoring output of the season. Nick Slezak finished with seven tackles, including two tackles for loss, and Dean also recovered a fumble. 

Next up for the Cardinals is a Saturday encounter with the defending national champions from Mount Union, who won their semifinal game in a shootout over Wesley College (Del.), 62-59.

"As a senior class, we have a lot of great leaders so we wanted to pave the way for these younger guys to get into new territory," Dierking said. "We want to play the best in the country, so we're ready to keep going."

The site and start time of Saturday's game will be announced Sunday by the NCAA Division III Football Committee.

comments powered by Disqus
Oct. 31: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Millsaps at Berry
Live Stats Video Audio
Nov. 1: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Kean at TCNJ
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Western Connecticut
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Gallaudet at Norwich
Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
Framingham State at Massachusetts Maritime
Preview Live Stats Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
Maine Maritime at Salve Regina
Preview Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
College of Faith at Wesley
Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Union at Hobart
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
Allegheny at Kenyon
Audio
12:00 PM
Alfred at Salisbury
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
William Paterson at Morrisville State
Live Stats Audio Audio
12:00 PM
Buffalo State at St. John Fisher
Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
St. Lawrence at WPI
Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
Alfred State at Apprentice School
12:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Castleton State
Live Stats Video Tickets
12:30 PM
Bates at Bowdoin
Preview Preview Live Stats Video
12:30 PM
Colby at Tufts
Live Stats Video
12:30 PM
Middlebury at Hamilton
Live Stats Video
12:30 PM
Amherst at Trinity (Conn.)
Live Stats
12:30 PM
Anna Maria at Husson
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at FDU-Florham
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Becker at Mount Ida
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Ohio Northern at Marietta
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Montclair State at Cortland State
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Moravian at Gettysburg
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Catholic at Guilford
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Wittenberg at Ohio Wesleyan
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Olivet at Albion
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Stevenson at Widener
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
DePauw at Wooster
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Shenandoah
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Washington and Lee
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Bridgewater (Va.)
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Trine at Kalamazoo
Live Stats Video Audio Audio Tickets
1:00 PM
Lakeland at Alma
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Thiel at Carnegie Mellon
Preview Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Hope at Adrian
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Western New England at Curry
Live Stats Live Stats
1:00 PM
Muhlenberg at Dickinson
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Franklin and Marshall at Susquehanna
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Averett at Methodist
Video
1:00 PM
Ithaca at Brockport State
Live Stats Video Tickets
1:00 PM
Southern Virginia at Rowan
Live Stats Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Lycoming at Misericordia
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Johns Hopkins at Ursinus
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Wabash at Hiram
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Westminster (Pa.) at St. Vincent
1:00 PM
Delaware Valley at King's
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Albright at Wilkes
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Juniata
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Case Western Reserve at Washington U.
Preview Preview Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Wisconsin Lutheran at Rockford
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
MacMurray at Northwestern (Minn.)
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Bluffton
Live Stats
1:30 PM
Wesleyan at Williams
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Plymouth State at Worcester State
Live Stats
1:30 PM
N.C. Wesleyan at Maryville (Tenn.)
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Geneva at Washington and Jefferson
Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
Thomas More at Waynesburg
Preview Video Audio
1:30 PM
Heidelberg at Wilmington
Preview Live Stats
1:30 PM
John Carroll at Muskingum
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Otterbein
Preview Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Bethany at Grove City
Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Anderson at Defiance
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Earlham at Hanover
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Westfield State at Fitchburg State
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Frostburg State at Hartwick
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Baldwin Wallace at Capital
Preview Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Manchester at Rose-Hulman
Preview Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Benedictine at Concordia (Wis.)
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at UW-Platteville
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Southwestern at Austin
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Concordia-Chicago at Aurora
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Centre at Hendrix
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
St. John's at Augsburg
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Stout at UW-Eau Claire
Live Stats Video Audio Audio Tickets
2:00 PM
Bethel at Gustavus Adolphus
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Hamline
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Lake Forest at Cornell
Video
2:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at North Central (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Birmingham-Southern at Rhodes
2:00 PM
Trinity (Texas) at Texas Lutheran
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Simpson at Central
2:00 PM
Wartburg at Buena Vista
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Ripon at Beloit
2:00 PM
Carroll at Macalester
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Howard Payne at Louisiana College
Audio
2:00 PM
Carthage at Millikin
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Elmhurst
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
North Park at Augustana
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Coe at Luther
Video Audio
2:00 PM
Crown at Martin Luther
2:00 PM
Greenville at Westminster (Mo.)
Video
2:00 PM
Iowa Wesleyan at Eureka
2:00 PM
Illinois College at Knox
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Monmouth at Grinnell
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at UW-River Falls
Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at UW-Stevens Point
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Dubuque at Loras
2:00 PM
Sul Ross State at East Texas Baptist
Live Stats Audio
2:10 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at St. Thomas
Live Stats Video Video Audio Audio
3:00 PM
St. Scholastica at Minnesota-Morris
3:30 PM
George Fox at Whitworth
Live Stats Video Audio
4:00 PM
Ferrum at Greensboro
Live Stats
4:00 PM
Pacific Lutheran at Puget Sound
Audio
4:00 PM
Cal Lutheran at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Live Stats Video
4:00 PM
Willamette at Linfield
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
4:05 PM
Redlands at Whittier
Live Stats Video Audio
5:00 PM
MIT at Endicott
Preview Live Stats
5:00 PM
Pacific at Lewis and Clark
Live Stats Video Audio
6:00 PM
Denison at Oberlin
Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
St. Norbert at Lawrence
Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Christopher Newport
Live Stats Video
10:00 PM
La Verne at Chapman
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
10:00 PM
Pomona-Pitzer at Occidental
Live Stats Video Audio
Nov. 1: All times Eastern
10:00 PM
La Verne at Chapman
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Otterbein
Preview Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Thomas More at Waynesburg
Preview Video Audio
1:30 PM
John Carroll at Muskingum
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Geneva at Washington and Jefferson
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Bridgewater (Va.)
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Wabash at Hiram
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Johns Hopkins at Ursinus
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Wittenberg at Ohio Wesleyan
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Delaware Valley at King's
Live Stats Audio
2:10 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at St. Thomas
Live Stats Video Video Audio Audio
12:00 PM
College of Faith at Wesley
Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Buffalo State at St. John Fisher
Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Union at Hobart
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Wartburg at Buena Vista
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Bethel at Gustavus Adolphus
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at UW-Stevens Point
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at UW-Platteville
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at North Central (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Elmhurst
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
St. John's at Augsburg
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
4:00 PM
Willamette at Linfield
Live Stats Video Audio Audio

What We're Reading