The Carthage College football team (3-1, 1-0 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin) opened its CCIW-schedule on Saturday, Sept. 29 with a 31-6 win over North Park University (1-3, 0-1 CCIW) in Carthage's Homecoming game at Art Keller Field in Kenosha, Wis.
Carthage took a 7-0 lead at 5:05 first quarter on a 33-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Simoncelli to Pete Djurickovic. The Red Men's scoring drive went 54 plays on four plays. The two teams played a scoreless second period, with the Vikings having a commanding lead in time-of-possession in the first half, 21:22 to 8:38.
The second half was all Carthage, as the Red Men scored 21 points in the third period and three more in fourth quarter for the final, 31-6 margin. Simoncelli hooked up with Nick Gremley on a 16-yard touchdown pass at 12:57 third period to cap a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive, and the Red Men led, 14-0. Wide receiver Pete Djurickovic caught the first of two long touchdown receptions from Simoncelli at 7:46 third period. The first one covered 99 yards and broke both Carthage and Art Keller Field game records of 92 yards set by quarterback Mark Phelps and receiver Rick Versen versus Wheaton College (Ill.) on Oct. 15, 1977. The 99-yard return also tied a CCIW record set by North Park's Gary Duesenberg and Harvey King versus Illinois Wesleyan University in 1970.
The second Djurickovic TD catch in the second half went 71 yards and put the Red Men up by a 28-0 margin. Kicker Brett Bukari(Jr., Bloomfield Hills, Mich./Beverly Hills-Detroit Country Day) booted a 20-yard field goal at 12:28 fourth quarter to up Carthage's lead to 31-0. The Vikings got on the scoreboard with 4:54 to play in the game on a three-yard carry by quarterback Tyler Krebs that ended a five-play, 72-yard drive.
North Park had a 36:39 to 23:31 lead in time-of-possession. Carthage rolled up 440 total offensive yards, 140 rushing and 300 passing, while North Park collected 342 total yards, 274 on the ground and 68 in the air. A.J. Simoncelli (Fr., Downers Grove, Ill./South) completed 14-of-23 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns. Pete Djurickovic (Sr., Pleasant Prairie, Wis./Kenosha-Bradford) caught five passes for 208 yards and three TDs. He is only the third Red Men receiver to collect 200 yards or more receiving yards in a game. Nick Merchut was the last to do so with 210 yards in the 2009 North Central College game. The school record is 243 yards by Rob Garnes against North Park in 2000. Defensively, lineman Sean Cleveland (Fr., Wheaton, Ill./North) led the way with 11 tackles (10 solo, 1 assisted), including two tackles-for-loss.
"The kids did a good job," said Carthage coach Tim Rucks. "We got done what we needed to get done. It wasn't pretty, especially in the first half, but we put them away early in the second half. We had a whole first half of near-misses. We executed better in the second half. There were holes in the North Park defense, and just had to find them. Pete Djurickovic is good receiver and probably the fastest guy on the team—he played a great game. I thought the first score of the second half was huge to make it a two-score game. Once we did that, I just thought we were the better team. Our freshmen did a great job today, especially Sean Cleveland on the defensive line. Our offensive line did a good job, although not so much in the first half. Wheaton is going to be very good next week, although we've played them tough over the past few years. This group may not do all the smart things or the right things, but they play hard, and they compete."
Carthage travels to Wheaton, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 6 to take on CCIW-opponent and No. 20 Wheaton College (Ill., 3-1, 1-0 CCIW) ) in a 1 p.m. game at McCully Stadium.