/seasons/2017/contrib/201711189z6egs

North Central Ousts Saint John's in First-Round Battle

More news about: North Central (Ill.)

Adversity came from all sides as the North Central College football team opened its 10th postseason appearance on Saturday, but the Cardinals summoned their courage, made the necessary adjustments and found a way to prevail, defeating sixth-ranked Saint John's University, 17-7, in the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.



The ninth-ranked Cardinals (10-1) not only faced stiff winds and steady rain which turned to snow during the afternoon, but also took the field without College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) Offensive Player of the Year Austin Breunig, who was sidelined with an injury earlier in the week. In Breunig's absence, North Central turned to sophomore running back Dominick Muoghalu, who rushed for 180 yards and a touchdown on a school record-tying 40 carries, while the Cardinals' defense limited the Johnnies to 263 total yards, just over half their season average. North Central has won its first round-game the last nine times it has appeared in the Division III postseason.

"This was a fantastic football game," said North Central head coach Jeff Thorne. "We had some really adverse conditions, but it's November in Illinois. Our defense was absolutely phenomenal, and so was theirs. I thought our offensive line was tremendous, and (Muoghalu) was a beast. We were not at all surprised with what happened today with Dom. He runs hard, he runs with passion, and he cares about his teammates. I'm really proud of our effort today."

Saint John's (9-2) had the game's first scoring opportunity, bringing kicker Zach Barwick on for a 44-yard field goal attempt, but the kick sailed wide. The Cardinals then handed the ball to Muoghalu seven times in a 12-play, 73-yard drive, including a 16-yard run up the middle for the game's first touchdown, his 12th of the season.

"I told my teammates the whole week, 'I'm going to do everything I can to get us this win," Muoghalu said. "Them having faith in me made me have more faith in myself and it brought out the true confidence in me. When people rely on me and I can rely on them and we have that kind of team camaraderie, it's really hard not to put in 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time. With them having my back, the sky's the limit. We can do anything."

The Johnnies gave themselves a short-field opportunity in the second period when Leonard Gutierrez intercepted a pass that had been tipped at the line of scrimmage, giving the visitors the ball at the North Central 25-yard line midway through the second quarter. Cardinal defensive end Billy Douds, however, came up big on the next play, sacking Saint John's quarterback Trevor Erdmann and forcing a fumble which was recovered by Matt Taylor. North Central finished the day with four quarterback sacks, as Douds and Tommy Sora each recorded two.

"We thought the weather played into our hands as a defensive line," Douds said. "It was just a great team effort, we all came together and played great."

The first Saint John's drive of the second half looked to have some promise, as tailback Dusty Krueger put the Johnnies in North Central territory with a 51-yard run on the first play. The drive cme to an end on fourth-down, however, as Sora tackled Krueger for a five-yard loss on a pass play. Muoghalu ran the ball eight straight times for 52 yards on the ensuing drive and the Cardinals got a 27-yard field goal from Liam Crotty to boost the lead to 10-0 with 6:31 left in the third quarter. Crotty now has 13 made field goals this season, tying the North Central all-time record.

Taking over following a Saint John's punt at their own 27, the Cardinals took 6:43 off the clock early in the fourth quarter with a 10-play, 73-yard trek, including a 31-yard third-down pass from Broc Rutter to Alex Rose which stood as North Central's longest play of the day. Rutter fired an eight-yard TD pass to Andrew Kamienski, giving the hosts a 17-0 advantage with 6:54 left.

Erdmann got the Johnnies into the end zone for their lone score just two plays later, hitting Evan Clark for a 38-yard gain before finding Dan Harrington in the back of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown. Saint John's next possession, however, resulted in another missed field goal, which wound up sealing the win for the Cardinals.

Sora led the North Central defense with eight tackles (six solo), while Matt Sutherland made seven stops and Douds added six.

"All week, we knew we had to stop their running game," Sora said. "Once we knew that the weather was not going to be an ideal scenario for passing the ball, we knew they were going to try and run the ball on us. We knew we had to shut it down early, take it away from them, and make them as much of a one-dimensional team as we could."

The Cardinals advance to the second round of the championship next Saturday, facing the third-ranked University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, a 63-0 first-round winner over Lakeland University. Kickoff at Titan Stadium is scheduled for 12:00 noon.

Aug. 30: All times Eastern
6:00 PM
Alma at Baldwin Wallace
Live stats
7:00 PM
Frostburg State at Stevenson
Live stats
7:00 PM
University of New England at Coast Guard
Live stats
7:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Johns Hopkins
7:00 PM
Hamline at Buena Vista
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
7:00 PM
Trinity (Texas) at McMurry
7:30 PM
Manchester at Trine
7:37 PM
Rowan at Widener
8:00 PM
Millsaps at Belhaven
8:00 PM
UW-Platteville at East Texas Baptist
Live stats
Aug. 31: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Utica at St. Lawrence
7:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Wesley
Live stats
7:00 PM
WPI at Anna Maria
Live stats
7:00 PM
Western New England at Springfield
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Nichols at Westfield State
7:00 PM
Millikin at Hope
Video Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
TCNJ at FDU-Florham
7:00 PM
Becker at MIT
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Albright at Salisbury
Live stats
7:00 PM
Dean at Curry
Video Live stats
8:00 PM
St. Olaf at Crown
Sep. 1: All times Eastern
TBA
Southern Virginia at Christopher Newport
12:00 PM
Endicott at Framingham State
Live stats
12:00 PM
Morrisville State at Norwich
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Buffalo State at Bridgewater State
Live stats
12:00 PM
Ursinus at Bethany
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Salve Regina at Worcester State
Live stats
12:00 PM
Sewanee at Kenyon
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Thomas More at N.C. Wesleyan
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Merchant Marine at Misericordia
1:00 PM
Husson at Union
Live stats
1:00 PM
Apprentice at Greensboro
1:00 PM
RPI at Allegheny
1:00 PM
Wabash at Hiram
1:00 PM
Cortland at Fitchburg State
Live stats
1:00 PM
King's at Moravian
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Westminster (Pa.) at Wittenberg
Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Dickinson
1:00 PM
Hobart at Brockport
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Catholic
Live stats
1:00 PM
Huntingdon at Guilford
Live stats
1:00 PM
Gallaudet at Alvernia
1:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Alfred State
Live stats
1:00 PM
Shenandoah at Methodist
Live stats
1:00 PM
Thiel at Alfred
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Ferrum
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Lycoming
1:00 PM
Washington and Jefferson at St. John Fisher
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Kalamazoo
Live stats
1:00 PM
Hartwick at Wilkes
1:00 PM
St. Vincent at Ithaca
Live stats
1:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Plymouth State at Castleton
Live stats
1:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at Carthage
1:00 PM
Grinnell at Lawrence
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
Juniata at Grove City
1:30 PM
Wooster at Bluffton
1:30 PM
Bridgewater at Gettysburg
1:30 PM
Albion at Defiance
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Wilmington at Earlham
Live stats
2:00 PM
Augustana at Coe
2:00 PM
John Carroll at UW-Stevens Point
2:00 PM
Eureka at Knox
2:00 PM
Wisconsin Lutheran at Lake Forest
Live stats
2:00 PM
Ripon at Augsburg
2:00 PM
Aurora at St. Norbert
2:00 PM
Nebraska Wesleyan at Concordia-Moorhead
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at Martin Luther
2:00 PM
MacMurray at Rockford
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Luther
2:00 PM
Monmouth at Wheaton (Ill.)
2:00 PM
Minnesota-Morris at UW-River Falls
2:00 PM
Lakeland at Carroll
Live stats
2:00 PM
UW-Stout at St. John's
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Eau Claire at Loras
Audio
2:00 PM
Bethel at Simpson
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Beloit at Concordia-Chicago
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Southwestern Assemblies at Austin
Video
2:10 PM
Trinity Int'l at St. Thomas
3:00 PM
Puget Sound at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Live stats
4:00 PM
La Verne at Whitworth
6:00 PM
Adrian at Ohio Northern
Live stats Audio
6:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Berry
Video Live stats Audio
6:00 PM
Capital at Mount St. Joseph
Live stats
6:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Averett
Video Live stats
6:00 PM
Benedictine at Franklin
Video Live stats
6:00 PM
Central at Northwestern (Minn.)
6:00 PM
Willamette at Simon Fraser
7:00 PM
Brevard at Davidson
7:00 PM
Geneva at Marietta
7:00 PM
Rochester at Case Western Reserve
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Hanover at Centre
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Rose-Hulman at Mount Union
Live stats
7:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Otterbein
7:00 PM
Olivet at Heidelberg
Audio
7:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at Dubuque
7:00 PM
Chicago at Washington U.
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Anderson at North Park
8:00 PM
Illinois College at Rhodes
8:00 PM
Lyon at Hendrix
8:00 PM
Greenville at Wartburg
8:00 PM
Cornell at Iowa Wesleyan
8:00 PM
Denison at Southwestern
Video Live stats
8:00 PM
Carleton at Macalester
10:00 PM
Pacific at Chapman
Live stats
10:00 PM
George Fox at Redlands
Video Live stats Audio
10:00 PM
Sul Ross State at Arizona Christian
10:00 PM
Lewis-Clark Valley at Pomona-Pitzer
Video Live stats
Dec. 9: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 43, at UW-Oshkosh 40
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, Brockport 0
Box Score Recap Photos
Dec. 15: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 12, at Mary Hardin-Baylor 0
@ Salem, Va.
Video Box Score Recap Photos