- The Langhorst Field victory bell hasn't sounded this sweet in over 30 years.
For the first time since the 1980 season, the Elmhurst football team claimed a share of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) Championship by defeating Illinois Wesleyan University 35-31 in front of a packed house. Leading for the entire contest, Elmhurst had to hold off a late fourth quarter surge from the Titans to score the win.
Elmhurst finished the regular season with a 9-1 record, setting a school record for most wins in a season. The Bluejays also posted a 6-1 record in CCIW play to finish in a three-way tie for the conference championship with North Central College and Wheaton College.
While North Central claimed the league's automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs based on a tiebreaker, the Bluejays appear to be in excellent shape to receive an at-large bid. Elmhurst was ranked third in the north in last week's regional rankings released by the NCAA.
The Bluejays led 14-3 at the half, and quickly extended their cushion to 21-3 after capitalizing on a turnover. Scottie Williams
capped a scoring drive with a two-yard touchdown run to give Elmhurst an 18-point cushion.
Illinois Wesleyan turned to Tyrell Bolden at quarterback in the second half, and the signal caller quickly sparked the Titans' offense, scoring on a one-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter
The Bluejays answered right back, driving 59 yards and going on top 28-10 on a four-yard touchdown pass from Joe Furco
to Will Caspers
Illinois Wesleyan mounted a furious rally in the fourth quarter. The Titans cut Elmhurst's lead down to 11 on an 11-yard touchdown run on a reverse from Brett Robinson.
Elmhurst was driving deep into Titans' territory on its next possession, but Vince Gabrys
was stripped of the ball and the Titans recovered. Bolden quickly led a 72-yard scoring drive in just 46 seconds, hitting Parker Carroll on a 29-yard touchdown pass. Bolden ran in the two-point conversion to cut Elmhurst's lead down to just three points at 28-25.
The Bluejays responded by driving into Illinois Wesleyan territory. Facing a fourth-and-inches from the IWU 42-yard line, Williams burst up the middle for the first down and stayed on his feet all the way to the end zone for a 42-yard touchdown run. The score put Elmhurst on top 35-25 with just 4:02 left on the clock.
The TItans continued to counter punch offensively as Bolden hit Joe Musso down the middle and the IWU receiver shook tacklers for a 50-yard touchdown catch. Eric Vincent blocked the Titans' extra point attempt to make the score 35-31.
The game was still in doubt even after the Bluejays' recovered Illinois Wesleyan's onside kick attempt. Facing a third-and-seven with just under two minutes to play, Furco rolled out and hit Ryan Maguire for a 17-yard completion. Elmhurst moved the ball down to the Titans' 28-yard line where they faced a fourth-and-10 with 52 seconds to play. Furco scrambled to the sideline, dropped his shoulder and then leaped over a Titan defender to pick up the game-clinching first down.
Elmhurst led just 14-3 at the break, after the Bluejays uncharacteristiclly turned the ball over twice in the first half.
Elmhurst took the opening kickoff and marched inside the red zone, but Furco was intercepted by the Titans' Eric Stanek.
The Bluejays capitalized on an Illinois Wesleyan turnover to get on the scoreboard early in the second quarter. Alec Giles
picked off Alec Starr's pass at the Elmhurst 43-yard line. Seven plays later, Furco hit Gabrys on a 27-yard scoring strike.
Elmhurst added to its lead after Dan Vicari
stripped Starr on a fourth-and-one carry and recovered the loose ball. Eight plays later, Furco hit Maguire from six-yards out to put Elmhurst on top 14-0.
The Bluejays looked like they were going to add to their lead late in the second quarter, but Furco was sacked and had the ball jarred loose. The Titans recovered the fumble and drove to the Elmhurst 12-yard line before settling for a 29-yard Michael Kelly field goal just before the half.
Elmhurst finished the contest with 465 yards of offense, including 324 yards on the ground. Williams led the Bluejay's ground assault with 190 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries. Williams finished 17 yards shy of the CCIW's all-time rushing record and capped his conference career with 3,507 rushing yards in CCIW contests. Furco finished 13-of-17 for 141 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 52 yards.
Illinois Wesleyan finished the contest with 414 yards of offense. Devonte Jones led the Titans on the ground, carrying 12 times for 91 yards. Bolden finished 8-of-13 for 183 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 59 yards and a score all in the second half.
totaled eight tackles to lead the Elmhurst defense while Vicari had six stops. Vicari also forced two fumbles and had a fumble recovery in the win.
Elmhurst won't have to wait long for word on an at-large bid. The NCAA will announce the 32-team field tomorrow (November 11) at 5:00 p.m. The announcement can be watched live at www.ncaa.com