The Lake Forest College football team defeated visiting Ripon College 17-7 on Saturday to clinch at least a share of the 2012 Midwest Conference championship. Junior linebacker Bryce Jones and senior safety Aidan Price led a Forester defense that kept the Red Hawks off the scoreboard after the visitors' first possession of the game.
Jones led all players in the game with nine tackles, including six solos, and Price added eight stops. Senior defensive lineman Jake Rotkvich also made eight tackles, including the Foresters' only sack of the contest.
The Lake Forest offense was led by 100-yard performances by senior running back Al Mitchell and wide receiver Austin Sobey. Mitchell carried the ball 16 times for 11 yards and a touchdown while Sobey caught seven passes for 105 yards and moved into fourth place in program history with 1,819 receiving yards in his career. Fellow senior Pete Scaffidi completed 15 of 25 passes for 181 yards and ran the ball a dozen times for 48 yards. He climbed over Jim DeLisa (1990-93) into third place in team history with 5,280 career passing yards.
Ripon actually took the early lead in the contest. The Red Hawks forced a turnover and had a 95-yard touchdown run on its first play from scrimmage.
The Foresters responded with an 8-play, 61-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by junior Alec Howe.
Ripon drove to the Lake Forest 22 on its next possession before turning the ball over. Forest senior safety Dominick Campagna made a great play to cut off a pass inside the 5-yardline but was unable to hold on. Fortunately for the home team, the ball ended up in the hands of junior cornerback Ed Dobernig for his team-high third interception of the season.
The Foresters then engineered a 14-play, 97-yard drive that was capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run by Mitchell with 8:30 to play in the first half. Scaffidi completed passes to four different receivers for 58 yards on the drive. He also ran four times for 15 yards during the possession.
The only score of the second half was a 33-yard field goal by Lake Forest freshman Jon Gurchak that caromed off the left upright and through with 8:09 to play in the game.
Including the interception by Dobernig, the Lake Forest defense stopped the Red Hawks in Forester territory five times in the game. Ripon punted from the 37 in the second quarter and was stopped for no gain of fourth-and-one from the 11 on the first possession of the second half. Junior cornerback Nicholaus Waters deflected a 24-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter and the visitors' 38-yard field goal attempt with 3:50 to play in the contest was wide right.
Scaffidi completed an 11-yard pass to Sobey on third-and-three and ran for two yards on third-and-one on the game's final possession before taking a knee to finish running out the clock and securing the win.
The victory is the eighth in a row for the Foresters, who matched the second-longest winning streak in team history that spanned the 1940 and 1941 seasons. The school record of nine began in 1937 and ended in 1939.
The conference title is the fifth in school history and the third since Lake Forest joined the Midwest Conference in 1974. The Foresters shared the championship with St. Norbert College in 2002 and defeated Cornell College in the 1983 conference title game. They also earned College Conference of Illinois co-championships in 1957 and 1952.
Lake Forest is now 8-1 overall and 8-0 in league play this season. Ripon fell to 3-5 overall and 3-4 in the league.
After a weekend off, the Foresters can claim the league championship outright and secure a berth to the NCAA Playoffs with a victory at St. Norbert on Saturday, November 10. Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m.