October 26, 2011

North Central's football family

More news about: North Central (Ill.)
Photo by Steve Woltmann

Kathie Thorne has never suited up for No. 6-ranked North Central or stood on the sideline and called plays, but the wife of coach John Thorne is giving the Cardinals plenty of motivation this season.

When North Central (6-1, 4-0 CCIW) walked off the field in Bloomington, Ill., on Saturday with a huge 24-0 victory over No. 24-ranked Illinois Wesleyan to take control of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin race, their thoughts were with Kathie.

In April, the Thornes received news that no family wants to hear. Kathie Thorne was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable form of blood cancer. Between long nights in Chicago for treatment and anxious moments waiting on analysis from doctors, John Thorne still had a nationally ranked football team to coach.

“Before the game, coach told us that we’re like a family to him and it meant everything to him,” said team captain and tight end Alex Haan. “From snap one, we gave it our all and after the game he had biggest smile on his face.

“Coach talks about character and faith. He’s used to tell us that one day we’re going to be in the real world and the adversity is going to be something much worse than third-and-10.  This is just a prime example of how things can turn on you and the way they’re handling it in such a positive way has been incredible. We know it’s not easy, but the way they’ve handled it, it lets us know if they can do it, we can do it.”

When the Cardinals opened the season with a loss on the west coast to No. 16-ranked Redlands in the final seconds 35-29, Thorne (unfairly) blamed himself for not getting his team up for the contest.

“Things have been much harder this season for me,” Thorne said. “I haven’t been here all the time keeping my focus. It was totally my fault for not having the guys ready for that first game. Now they are just overcoming the fact that I’m not doing a good job and they are actually doing a great job.”

No one disagreed with Thorne’s assessment of the Redlands loss more than Haan.

“He didn’t let us down,” Haan said. “If anything, we let him down. He set us up to win the game and we just didn’t execute. That’s coach being way too hard on himself and looking at himself before any of us.”

Kathie Thorne, though, is plugged in to the North Central football team. She always has been. John Thorne said she has been the one who has kept him motivated and focused when all he wanted to do was think about her, her next treatment and her next appointment.

“She loves football,” Thorne said. “I’m so lucky to have a wife who loves the job that I love and we share it together. She scolds me quite a bit telling me to get to work. ‘I’m not going to come watch if they don’t play good so you get over there.’ It’s been really a lot of fun going through this whole thing together, but it wears on you.”

Haan told the story about an August scrimmage where most of the players shaved their heads in solidarity with Kathie’s cancer treatment where she started to lose her hair.

“I know that was a real emotional time for them,” Haan said. “We know it has been taking a toll on them. We know just by us playing well and winning it brings her spirits up and she loves football so much. We want to give everything we have every day for them.”

Kathie Thorne has endured a bone marrow transplant and John Thorne said he expects to hear word from the doctors in three to four weeks about her prognosis.

“She’s doing very well,” Thorne said. “We hope to get some great answers from the doctor. The Lord has a great plan for us. Right now he needs us to reach out and touch people’s lives. This has really helped bring our whole team together. The coaches, players and everyone have been great.”

On Saturday during its home game against Elmhurst, the North Central athletic department is encouraging fans to wear burgundy, the color designated for multiple myeloma awareness, and burgundy T-shirts with the Cardinals' '22 Sports, 1 Team' slogan. The shirt will be sold outside the stadium beginning at 5 p.m. The proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society's multiple myeloma research.

North Central will likely still have to beat rival and No. 13-ranked Wheaton on Nov. 5 to make the playoffs. But John and Kathie Thorne knows that the Cardinals are already helping them win their biggest challenge.

Concordia (Ill.) still in play

After two second place finishes in the Northern Athletic Conference, the Cougars (4-2, 3-1 in NATHC) remained alive for the NAC title, beating Lakeland (3-4, 3-1) 21-7. Two Jamal Thomas touchdown passes from Jake Koehler helped Concordia seal the victory. Lakeland was tied for the conference lead with Benedictine going into play last week, but Benedictine is now looking down the rest of the NATHC foes at 4-0 in league play and 5-2 overall.

While this week’s Lakeland at Benedictine’s game won’t be a clear cut contest for the conference lead, the Muskies and still gum up the works. A Lakeland victory, along with league victories by the two Concordias would throw the NATHC into a four-way tie with two games to go. If Benedictine wins, it would put the Eagles at least a game up on everyone and needing just one more contest to clinch a co-championship at worse.

Monmouth, opponents back over century mark

There must be something in the water when the Monmouth Fighting Scots (7-1, 7-0 in Midwest Conference) take the field – and it’s making the defense ill. On Oct. 15, the Fighting Scots rallied from behind to beat Lake Forest 53-47. Lake Forest, though, had put up big scores before. Last Saturday’s 63-41 victory over one-win Beloit had to come as somewhat of a surprise.

Going into the game, Beloit had scored over 30 points once this season. This game, Beloit rolled up 476 yards in total offense against the Fighting Scots defense. Both teams combined for 58 first downs and 1,036 yards in total offense. Since Monmouth’s 10-3 victory over rival St. Norbert, the Fighting Scots are giving up an average of 35 points per game in MWC play. The good news for Monmouth is that the can clinch a tie for the conference title with a win at Carroll next week.

More good news is that quarterback Alex Tanney, with five more touchdown passes last week, is one TD pass away from setting the Division III record in that category. Running back Trey Yocum continues to crank out the real estate, rushing for 180 yards on 27 carries.

Illinois College (7-1, 6-1) still has an outside shot at the title, but now it would need two consecutive Monmouth losses and win its last two games to claim the MWC’s playoff spot. The Blueboys play Carroll on Saturday.

Still chasing Franklin

The Panthers (4-3, 4-1 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference) won their third straight games with a big 58-7 win over Manchester and it remains alive for the HCAC title. Hanover continues to trail its southeast Indiana rival and No. 22-ranked Franklin (6-1, 5-0) by one game.

Quarterback Dexter Britt completed 21 of 36 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns, while wide receiver Dwayne Eubanks had seven catches for a career-best 165 yards. Matt Robinette had eight catches for 135 yards.

But it was Hanover’s defense that was the most impressive, limiting the Spartans to 103 yards in total offense, 44 yards on the ground and 59 in the air, while the Panthers offense chalked up 594 yards in total offense. Hanover will try to keep pace this week at home against Bluffton. Franklin, in the meantime, will be at home against Anderson.

Game of the Week: Chicago (5-2) at Case Western Reserve (6-1)

The Maroons have won three straight games with a head of momentum going into Cleveland for its University Athletic Association opener with Case Western in defense of its league title. Chicago junior wide receiver Dee Brizzolara set modern era school records for career touchdowns (37) and points (224) after scoring two touchdowns last week against Kenyon 41-17. He scored on a 16-yard run and 7-yard pass from quarterback Vincent Gortina, both in the second quarter, to lead to Maroons to victory. All four teams in the UAA enter conference play with winning records – Washington U. and Carnegie Mellon are both 4-3.

Clyde Hughes

Clyde Hughes has been writing sports at various times over the past 24 years, covering everything from high school, college and sporting events. A native of football-crazed Texas, Hughes works in Indiana and has written for numerous newspapers and magazines.
2003-04 columnist: John Regenfuss

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