November 27, 2013

Stanek and Kelly making the most of it

Spencer Stanek
North Central's Spencer Stanek missed an entire season, but he seems to be making up for it this year in the Cardinals' high-tempo attack.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com

By Clyde Hughes
D3sports.com

As the Division III gets ready for its version of the "Sweet Sixteen," one of the more interesting matches features teams from two of the division's premier conferences -- No. 7 UW-Platteville (10-1), of the WIAC, at No. 4 North Central (11-0), of the CCIW.

Just as interesting will be the quarterback duel between Platteville's John Kelly and North Central's Spencer Stanek.

Platteville went 3-7 during Kelly's freshman year in 2009, when he started two games. Now Kelly has led the Pioneers to their first NCAA playoff, with their only regular-season loss to No. 5 UW-Whitewater. For Stanek, he saw his team humbled by Linfield, 30-14, last year in the second round and wants nothing more than advance to the quarterfinals and beyond.

For the losing quarterback, it will be the unfortunate end of a fabulous season.

Kelly, in his first full season at quarterback for Platteville, is completing 68 percent of his passes (282 of 415) for a whopping 3,377 yards and 34 touchdowns. His passing yardage is third best in the country. He has had a school-record season in total offense and passing yards and needs 10 completions to set that mark as well. 

"It's been a real honor to make the playoffs," Kelly said. "I've never played this far into the season. It's a great feeling. We're just taking it one day at a time and enjoying it as much as we can. Ever since my freshman year, I wanted to be 'the guy.' I wanted to train a little more get my body ready. Being healthy for the first time has been awesome. Just being able to be around the guys has been great and I want to enjoy this as long as I can."

Stanek enters the game completing 74 percent of his passes (211 for 284) for 2,774 yards with 36 touchdowns and one interception. Those stats make Stanek the national leader in passing efficiency with a 197.5 rating. In fact, Stanek's 64.7 completion percentage last Saturday against Albion in the first round of the playoff s was only the second time all season he was below 70 percent. 

Stanek passed along the credit to his offensive line and North Central's juiced-up, quick tempo offense guided by offensive coordinator Jeff Thorne, the son of head coach John Thorne.

"Our offensive line has been great all season," Stanek said. "I always say that anytime someone asks because it's true. They've been phenomenal. I haven't had much pressure all year. It also comes down to our offensive coordinator. He has a great game plan for us every week and he always puts us the right positions to be successful. We have great play calling and moving at a faster pace." 

John Kelly's first starts at quarterback for UW-Platteville were in 2009, but this is the first year he's made it through 10 games as a starter unscathed.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com 

The quarterbacks each had to overcome a certain amount of adversity. Before this season, Kelly had never started more than seven games in a campaign. Last year, he played in four games, starting two and threw for 11 touchdowns before breaking a collarbone against UW-Whitewater. He received a medical redshirt.

"It was a big decision for me the come back because I didn't know if I wanted to come back," Kelly said. "I figured I've got the rest of my life. Then I didn't want to look back in 15 years and saying I wish I would have played one more year, so I took it and came back and it's been a fun run."

Another reason that led Kelly back was that his younger brother Tom, is a freshman quarterback for the Pioneers. Tom, who broke several of John's records at Chicago's Guerin Prep, are four years apart, making it the first time they played on the same football team.

"When we were little, we would play baseball together he was always the youngest guy but he held his own ground," Kelly said of his younger brother, who is an inch taller but 10 pounds lighter, according to the Platteville roster. "Now that we're on the same team, it's really pretty cool. We took a trip to Portland for Week 3 (to play Lewis & Clark) and just having him there was great to see how we practiced and stuff and we always had fun together. That has made this a very special year."

Stanek sat out 2011 for what he called "personal reasons," but gave a few small nuggets why when gently pushed. He said he spent that time getting stronger and improving his technique at quarterback, something that has helped him be as sharp as he is this year.

But the North Central signal-caller said he returned to the Cardinals more mature and ready to take on the leadership role that quarterback – especially at a perennial nationally-ranked school like North Central – requires. 

"I think was a more determined when I returned," Stanek said. "It helped me mature up a little bit and stay calmer during the game and practice. (The time away) also helped me develop a sense of leadership. I was now one of the older guys and I had to take that leadership role. Coaches pushed me to be more vocal in practice and at games. I think I was a little more mature and not so young."

Stanek said he would not mind earning a little bit of bragging rights for North Central and the CCIW against the WIAC. The Cardinals are 3-0 against the WIAC this year after opening the season against UW-LaCrosse (41-24), UW-Stout (41-14) and UW-Stevens Point (27-7). 

"The WIAC is a great conference and we have a lot of respect for it," Stanek said. "We lost to Wisconsin-Whitewater in the playoffs in 2010 (20-10) so we still haven't been able to beat them yet. It would be good to get some bragging rights for the CCIW. Playing teams in top-tier conferences like the WIAC are always the most fun."

Kelly said even though he and North Central were never on each other's radar screen coming out of high school in Chicago, he would love to win in front of family and friends who will attend the game and never got to watch him play in Platteville. 

"We have a lot of guys on the team who live in that area," Kelly said. "I have a lot of family and friends and we hope to have a big crowd (at North Central) too. We're just trying to play another game. A lot of our guys know someone from North Central because they against them in high school."

Stanek said win or lose, he hopes people remember him as someone who did everything he could to help the Cardinals win. 

"I guess I want them to know that I gave it my all every game and always worked hard," Stanek said. "I hope people realize that will never give up during a game and will lay it all out on the line and I'll be a determined athlete trying his best to succeed."

Kelly said he wants people to remember him pretty much the same way. 

"I want people to know that I never gave up," he said. "There were a couple of games where we were down and we came back. There's always that hope to come back and finish."

Kelly and Stanek will try to lead their nationally-ranked teams to that big finish in Naperville, Ill. on Saturday.

Sep. 30: All times Eastern
Final
Randolph-Macon 24, at Shenandoah 19
Box Score
Final
at Washington and Lee 49, Emory and Henry 23
Box Score
Oct. 1: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Massachusetts Maritime at Fitchburg State
Preview Preview Live Stats
12:00 PM
Becker at Gallaudet
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Merchant Marine at Hobart
Video Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
RPI at Rochester
Video Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Endicott at MIT
Video Video Preview Live Stats
12:00 PM
Juniata at Johns Hopkins
Video Preview Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Montclair State at William Paterson
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Hamilton at Wesleyan
Video Preview Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Bates at Tufts
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Wabash at Hiram
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Middlebury at Colby
Video
1:00 PM
Amherst at Bowdoin
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Frostburg State at Kean
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Kenyon at DePauw
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Ferrum at Greensboro
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Methodist
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
FDU-Florham at Wilkes
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Anna Maria at Castleton
Video Preview Live Stats Tickets
1:00 PM
Moravian at Ursinus
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Stevenson at Misericordia
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Springfield at St. Lawrence
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Westminster (Pa.)
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Alma at Kalamazoo
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Franklin and Marshall at Dickinson
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Wesley at Southern Virginia
Video Preview Preview Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Adrian at Albion
Preview
1:00 PM
Husson at SUNY-Maritime
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Apprentice at Alfred State
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
TCNJ at Salisbury
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Buffalo State at St. John Fisher
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Salve Regina at Curry
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Gettysburg
Video Preview Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Lebanon Valley
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Denison
Video Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
Utica at Ithaca
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Alfred at Morrisville State
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Western New England at Nichols
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
King's at Albright
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Catholic at Guilford
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Muhlenberg at Susquehanna
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Concordia-Chicago at Trine
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Huntingdon at N.C. Wesleyan
Video Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Minnesota-Morris at MacMurray
1:00 PM
Birmingham-Southern at Chicago
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Westminster (Mo.) at Crown
Video Live Stats
1:30 PM
Oberlin at Allegheny
Video Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Mount Ida at Norwich
Video Live Stats
1:30 PM
Trinity (Conn.) at Williams
Video Preview Live Stats
1:30 PM
Baldwin Wallace at Marietta
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Heidelberg
Preview Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Union at WPI
Video Live Stats
1:30 PM
Maine Maritime at Coast Guard
Video Preview Live Stats
1:30 PM
John Carroll at Wilmington
Video Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Ohio Northern
Video Preview Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Franklin at Manchester
Preview Live Stats
1:30 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Hanover
Video Live Stats
1:30 PM
Widener at Lycoming
Video Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Defiance at Earlham
Video Preview Live Stats
2:00 PM
Capital at Otterbein
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Plymouth State at Westfield State
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Wittenberg at Wooster
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Anderson at Rose-Hulman
Video Preview Preview Live Stats
2:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Bridgewater
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Waynesburg at Grove City
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Cortland at Hartwick
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Centre at Hendrix
Video Preview Live Stats
2:00 PM
Eureka at Greenville
Video
2:00 PM
Northwestern (Minn.) at Iowa Wesleyan
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Lakeland
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Rockford at Benedictine
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Aurora at Wisconsin Lutheran
Video Preview Live Stats
2:00 PM
Nebraska Wesleyan at Luther
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Rhodes at Sewanee
Video Preview Live Stats
2:00 PM
Lake Forest at St. Norbert
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Gustavus Adolphus
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Hamline at Carleton
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
St. John's at Bethel
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at UW-Platteville
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Buena Vista at Loras
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Sul Ross State at Hardin-Simmons
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at UW-Eau Claire
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Beloit at Lawrence
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Cornell at Monmouth
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Wartburg at Coe
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Dubuque at Central
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Illinois Wesleyan
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
McMurry at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Augustana
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Macalester at Ripon
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Grinnell at Illinois College
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Howard Payne at Louisiana College
Audio
2:00 PM
UW-River Falls at UW-La Crosse
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Belhaven
Video Live Stats
2:10 PM
Augsburg at St. Thomas
Video Live Stats
3:00 PM
Washington and Jefferson at Thiel
Video Live Stats
3:00 PM
Maranatha Baptist at Morthland
Video
3:00 PM
St. Scholastica at Martin Luther
Video Live Stats
3:00 PM
Carthage at Carroll
Video Live Stats
3:00 PM
UW-Stout at UW-Oshkosh
Video Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
4:00 PM
Willamette at Puget Sound
Video Video Preview Live Stats Audio
4:00 PM
Whittier at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Video Live Stats
4:00 PM
Pacific at Pacific Lutheran
Video Preview Preview Live Stats Live Stats
4:30 PM
Lewis and Clark at Linfield
Video Live Stats Audio
5:00 PM
Framingham State at Mass-Dartmouth
Video Live Stats
5:00 PM
Averett at LaGrange
Live Stats
5:00 PM
Whitworth at George Fox
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
6:00 PM
Olivet at Hope
Video Preview Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
6:00 PM
Bethany at Carnegie Mellon
Video Preview Preview Preview Live Stats Audio
6:00 PM
St. Vincent at Case Western Reserve
Video Live Stats Audio
6:00 PM
Christopher Newport at Rowan
Video Live Stats Audio Audio
6:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Western Connecticut
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Berry at Washington U.
Video Video Preview Preview Live Stats Live Stats Audio Audio
7:00 PM
North Park at Millikin
Video Live Stats
10:00 PM
Pomona-Pitzer at Chapman
Video Preview Live Stats Live Stats Tickets
10:00 PM
La Verne at Cal Lutheran
Video Preview Live Stats
10:00 PM
Occidental at Redlands
Video Live Stats Audio
Oct. 1: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Merchant Marine at Hobart
Video Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Juniata at Johns Hopkins
Video Preview Preview Live Stats
1:00 PM
TCNJ at Salisbury
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Thomas More at Westminster (Pa.)
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Wabash at Hiram
Video Live Stats
1:00 PM
Buffalo State at St. John Fisher
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Stevenson at Misericordia
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Springfield at St. Lawrence
Video Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Huntingdon at N.C. Wesleyan
Video Video Live Stats
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Ohio Northern
Video Preview Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Franklin at Manchester
Preview Live Stats
2:00 PM
Wittenberg at Wooster
Video Preview Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Illinois Wesleyan
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at UW-Platteville
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
St. John's at Bethel
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
McMurry at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Video Live Stats Audio
2:00 PM
Sul Ross State at Hardin-Simmons
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Belhaven
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
Dubuque at Central
Video Live Stats Audio
2:10 PM
Augsburg at St. Thomas
Video Live Stats
3:00 PM
UW-Stout at UW-Oshkosh
Video Preview Live Stats Audio Audio
4:30 PM
Lewis and Clark at Linfield
Video Live Stats Audio
6:00 PM
Christopher Newport at Rowan
Video Live Stats Audio Audio