/playoffs/2019/north-central-rolls-to-national-title

Better off red

More news about: North Central (Ill.)

By Adam Turer
D3sports.com

Making the program’s first championship game appearance, the Cardinals appeared more than ready for their big moment. 

A record-setting performance led to the most convincing Stagg Bowl victory in several years, as North Central cruised to a 41-14 victory in Stagg Bowl XLVII.

It took North Central just seven plays and 45 yards to find the end zone. The nation’s hottest offense never looked back in a dominating win.

Broc Rutter had all kinds of time to throw, and receivers Andrew Kamienski and Blake Williams used that time to get open early and often. Ethan Greenfield kept UW-Whitewater’s defense off balance all day, and the Cardinals offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. 

Rutter, announced earlier Friday evening as the 2019 Gagliardi Trophy winner, looked the part, completing 18 of 27 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns. The senior’s final career pass, a 28-yard touchdown to Kamienski, broke Alex Tanney’s Division III record for career passing yards. Rutter finished with 14,261 yards, besting Tanney’s record by a dozen yards. Kamienski also broke the record for most touchdown receptions in a single season with 31, catching nine passes for 134 yards and a score. 

Jeff Thorne and the North Central football team end the season with their head, hands and trophy held high.
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
 

Terrence Hill returned the game’s opening kickoff 49 yards, setting up the North Central offense with a short field. The offense that came in averaging 534.5 yards per game in the postseason did not need a short field, and made quick work of the Warhawks defense.

Rutter passed for one touchdown and ran for another and Greenfield rushed for a pair in the first half as the Cardinals jumped out to a 27-0 lead. That was the largest first half deficit any team had faced in a Stagg Bowl since Trinity (TX) trailed Mount Union 28-0 at the break in 2002. 

Just a sophomore, Greenfield finished with 138 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. Blake Williams hauled in three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown, and also contributed stellar downfield blocking on Greenfield’s longest touchdown run of the game. 

Alex Peete and Sam Delany tried their best to give the Warhawks a spark. Peete burst through the line for a 47-yard gain on UW-Whitewater’s first possession of the second half. But that drive ended in a missed field goal. After the Cardinals extended their lead to 34-0, Delany ripped off a 65-yard kickoff return to the North Central 21 yard line. That possession ended in a touchdown pass from Max Meylor to Jared Zausch and the Warhawks’ first Stagg Bowl points since their 2014 championship. It was Zausch’s first career touchdown reception. 

North Central also controlled the line of scrimmage on the other side of the ball. While the offense had its way with UW-Whitewater’s defense, the Cardinals defense continued to play at a high level. After giving up 52 points at Mount Union in the second round, the Cardinals clamped down, giving up just 42 points -- 14 each -- over its final three games. 

Julian Bell had two interceptions, one early and one late, to get the ball back in Rutter’s hands. 

UW-Whitewater’s offense showed new signs of life with Meylor behind center in the postseason, but every time the Warhawks saw glimpses of daylight on Friday night, Cardinals defenders Ben Wong, Dakota Cremeens, Bryan Beauchamp, Tommy Hyland, Dan Gilroy, Jake Beesley, and Zach Butler quickly closed the gap. 

Dating back to the beginning of the 2018 season, the Cardinals recognized that they had special talents at quarterback, on the offensive line, and at receiver. Once Greenfield stepped up as a record-breaking running back, the offense became an unstoppable juggernaut. 

This was a matchup that favored whichever team could score first. The Warhawks are not built to play from behind, at least not this year. UW-Whitewater’s offense will return several key contributors next year, led by Meylor, Derek Kumerow, Alex Peete, and Ryan Wisniewski. 

But this North Central offense knows how to play with a lead, and kept its foot on the gas. The Cardinals’ offensive line of Will Ebert, Sharmore Clarke, Jarod Thornton, Ricky Strba, and Colton Bauknecht kept the Warhawks defenders on their heels all night. 

The Cardinals will return most of their offensive line and skill position players. If anything, North Central’s breakthrough -- the fourth different Stagg Bowl winner in the past six seasons -- gives the rest of Division III confidence that it can build a contender, and turn that contender into a champion.

On this Friday in late December, the Cardinals left no doubt. A total team effort propelled North Central to the pinnacle. It was a culmination of the efforts that head coach Jeff Thorne and his predecessor and father John Thorne devoted to this small college in Naperville. 

One family’s dream was realized on this night. North Central Cardinals, Division III football national champions. 

Sep. 25: All times Eastern
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at Mass-Dartmouth 52, Worcester State 7
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at Framingham State 41, Westfield State 6
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Alfred State 35, at Defiance 28
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Lycoming 29, at Stevenson 28
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Adrian 56, at Finlandia 6
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MIT 27, at Dean 0
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at Salve Regina 50, Rowan 35
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Gallaudet 49, at Greensboro 42
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at FDU-Florham 31, Misericordia 20
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Widener 21, at Albright 7
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Alfred 10, at Kalamazoo 7
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at RPI 41, St. John Fisher 7
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at Hope 52, Northwestern (Minn.) 10
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at Ursinus 28, Franklin and Marshall 0
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Trinity (Conn.) 38, at Bowdoin 14
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at Middlebury 24, Bates 0
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Union 30, at Utica 9
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N.C. Wesleyan 26, at LaGrange 21
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at Husson 26, Springfield 21
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Huntingdon 21, at Brevard 14
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at Susquehanna 31, Dickinson 14
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at Lebanon Valley 24, King's 6
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Washington and Lee 25, at Randolph-Macon 24
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at Kenyon 24, Oberlin 21
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at Ferrum 30, Apprentice 28
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Hampden-Sydney 28, at Guilford 27
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at Emory and Henry 38, Bridgewater 17
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at Gettysburg 48, Juniata 42
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at Albion 23, UW-Eau Claire 20
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at Wilkes 23, Alvernia 0
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at Methodist 37, Southern Virginia 14
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Colby 10, at Amherst 7
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at Westminster (Pa.) 33, Grove City 32
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at William Paterson 28, SUNY-Maritime 7
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at Wesleyan 30, Hamilton 14
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Olivet 44, at Millsaps 27
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Marietta 37, at Capital 7
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at Baldwin Wallace 20, Heidelberg 10
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at Ohio Northern 56, Otterbein 7
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Anna Maria 29, at Coast Guard 24
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at Muskingum 62, Wilmington 14
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Christopher Newport 31, at Catholic 14
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Mount Union 28, at John Carroll 14
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Williams 32, at Tufts 29
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TCNJ 31, at Nichols 0
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DePauw 34, at Wooster 30
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Endicott 30, at Norwich 21
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Ohio Wesleyan 28, at Allegheny 19
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Johns Hopkins 54, at Moravian 6
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at Montclair State 31, WPI 10
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Muhlenberg 23, at McDaniel 0
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at Morrisville State 41, Buffalo State 10
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at Aurora 70, Rockford 20
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Concordia (Wis.) 28, at Concordia-Chicago 19
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Rhodes 47, at Westminster (Mo.) 7
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at Wartburg 28, Coe 7
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at Buena Vista 32, Luther 7
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at St. Olaf 40, Macalester 27
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Augsburg 54, at St. Scholastica 14
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at Gustavus Adolphus 36, Concordia-Moorhead 21
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Central 84, at Simpson 16
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at Carleton 35, Hamline 7
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at St. John's 31, Bethel 25
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Wheaton (Ill.) 58, at North Park 27
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Minnesota-Morris 24, at Crown 18
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Howard Payne 49, at East Texas Baptist 38
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Alma 35, at Martin Luther 27
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at Benedictine 49, Eureka 29
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Loras 31, at Nebraska Wesleyan 30
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at Trinity International 26, Greenville 21
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at Carthage 62, Illinois Wesleyan 35
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at Hendrix 49, Sewanee 27
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at North Central (Ill.) 58, Augustana 6
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at Washington U. 27, Elmhurst 7
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at St. Lawrence 55, Castleton 3
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at Pomona-Pitzer 44, Willamette 8
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at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 29, Chapman 21
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at McMurry 41, Southwestern 31
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at Sul Ross State 12, Texas Lutheran 10
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at Hobart 58, Keystone 14
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at Averett 47, Maryville (Tenn.) 10
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Geneva 42, at Bethany 7
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at Carnegie Mellon 39, Waynesburg 3
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Washington and Jefferson 37, at Case Western Reserve 14
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at Denison 21, Wittenberg 16
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at Centre 14, Trine 7
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St. Vincent 41, at Thiel 7
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at Lakeland 40, St. Norbert 8
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 34, Hardin-Simmons 28
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at Millikin 32, Carroll 25
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at Belhaven 41, Austin 14
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Oct. 2: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Washington U.
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3:00 PM
Washington and Jefferson at Geneva
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Muskingum at John Carroll
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Otterbein at Mount Union
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Salisbury at Montclair State
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Randolph-Macon at Ferrum
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Delaware Valley at Lycoming
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Muhlenberg at Gettysburg
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Franklin and Marshall at Johns Hopkins
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Hobart at Ithaca
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Cortland at Morrisville State
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UW-Stout at UW-Whitewater
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UW-Oshkosh at UW-Platteville
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Union at Buffalo State
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Mary Hardin-Baylor at Austin
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McMurry at Hardin-Simmons
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Wartburg at Central
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North Central (Ill.) at Carroll
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St. John's at Concordia-Moorhead
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Gustavus Adolphus at Bethel
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UW-La Crosse at UW-River Falls
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Linfield at Puget Sound
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Lewis and Clark at Whitworth
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Sep. 25: All times Eastern
Final
Washington and Jefferson 37, at Case Western Reserve 14
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 34, Hardin-Simmons 28
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Muhlenberg 23, at McDaniel 0
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Johns Hopkins 54, at Moravian 6
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Mount Union 28, at John Carroll 14
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at Baldwin Wallace 20, Heidelberg 10
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Washington and Lee 25, at Randolph-Macon 24
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Union 30, at Utica 9
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at North Central (Ill.) 58, Augustana 6
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at Salisbury 40, Western New England 14
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Wheaton (Ill.) 58, at North Park 27
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at St. John's 31, Bethel 25
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Central 84, at Simpson 16
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at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 29, Chapman 21
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