|On Saturday, when St. Norbert
tried to shut down Lamont Williams, quarterback Kyle Burlingame
used his legs as well.
Photo by Steve Frommell, d3photography.com
The Carroll Pioneers have been good over the past five years. They have compiled a 28-12 record over that time, for a .700 winning percentage.
That's pretty good, but never good enough to beat out St. Norbert, Monmouth and Illinois College on enough of a consistent basis to bring home a Midwest Conference title over that stretch.
This year may be different.
The Pioneers are playing probably their best football of any of those years, with the combination of a solid running attack with Lamont Williams and the arm of Kyle Burlingame with a stingy defense. Carroll is off to a 5-0 start, but more importantly they snapped a 17-game losing streak to St. Norbert Saturday, beating the defending champion Green Knights 30-6 last Saturday.
With St. Norbert determined to stop Williams, Burlingame completed 20 of 29 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Earlier this season, Carroll snapped an 11-game losing streak to Monmouth, beating the Fighting Scots 32-27.
"We've had close games against those teams before," said Carroll coach Mark Krzykowski. "We've gone into overtime with those teams and three-point games with them, but we just needed to get over the hump as you will. It's been a culmination of hard work from last couple of classes and guys who are part of the program now, part of a strong upper class. It's finally our time to get over those barriers."
Krzykowski is quick to point out that the success of Williams, who is averaging 94 yards per game with two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season, and Burlingame's 150.5 passing efficiency rating would not be possible without outstanding play so far from the offensive line. He said the Pioneers have been blessed with a total team effort.
"We have some good senior leadership on the line with Zach Tamblyn and Josh Bottoms returns from last year," Krzykowski said. "Kevin Buchholz has done a good job for us at center. Not all five guys have been around all the time but they've grown into a pretty tight group. Kyle has a fantastic game. He's a talented athlete, controlled the game and had a very good presence at quarterback."
Defensively, Krzykowski said his defensive line play, led by Grant Nass, Josh Dummer and Dean Parr, along with linebacker Michael Sahli helped Carroll limit St. Norbert to under 200 yards in total offense on Saturday. Defensive back Ryan Klapper forced a fumble, grabbed an interception and made seven tackles from his weakside safety position.
Now that the secret is out about Carroll, how can the Pioneers keep it going with the potential of running the table, with a possible big game with Macalester on the horizon.
"I know it's a coaching cliché, but it really is one game at a time," Krzykowski said, acknowledging with the new divisional play, winning a championship is literally not accomplished until the last game of the season during MWC's championship week. "We can do really well those first nine games but then the one that matters is that last game if you want to win the conference championship and make the playoffs. We're excited about it."
Carroll has a reason to be excited about their season, but Krzykowski knows it's already time to get back to work.
Game of the Week
Chicago (5-0) at No. 11 Bethel (4-1), 2 p.m. – For the Maroons, not only an undefeated season may be on the line against the Royals, from the tough MIAC, but Pool B consideration for the Division III playoffs. Chicago, which has leaned on its defense all season, used it impressively in Texas to hold off Trinity 14-7 last week but will likely need a stronger offensive effort to pull off the upset in Minnesota.
Five New Games to Watch
At the beginning of the season, I gave you the 10 games to watch in the Midwest this season, based on our predictions, what we knew of the teams this years and past performances. Of course, as the season goes along, there are surprises, disappointments, new game-breaking players emerge while some expected stars don't live up to expectations.
Since the Chicago-Bethel game is already highlighted in the Game of the Week, here are five other contests in the Midwest you should keep your eye on the rest of the season.
Oct. 18: Franklin (4-2, 4-0) at Mount St. Joseph (5-1, 4-0), 1:30 p.m. – With Rose-Hulman taking a major stumble last week against Bluffton, this game becomes the main focus again in the Heartland Athletic Collegiate Conference. Franklin, which began the year ranked in the Top 25, appeared to have corrected course in conference play while the Lions have done everything they have expected to do. The Grizzlies, though, continue to be a hard team to figure out. Will the Franklin that actually played No. 1 Wisconsin-Whitewater competitively show up for this contest or will the team that struggled against middle-of-the-run conference foe Manchester appear?
Oct. 25: No. 12 North Central (4-1, 2-0) at No. 19 Wheaton (5-0, 2-0), 8 p.m. – This game made the list earlier in the season and nothing has changed. The national rankings and records speak for itself in this annual battle for the Victory Bell and the unofficial title game for the CCIW. North Central has owned this contest for the past several years, but the Cardinals will tell you that means little in their contest with their suburban Chicago rivals. Expect North Central standout wide receiver Peter Sorensen to play a major factor in this contest.
Oct. 25: Elmhurst (3-2, 2-0) at Illinois Wesleyan (3-2, 1-1), 2 p.m. – Could the Elmhurst Bluejays become the third team to challenge North Central and Wheaton in the CCIW? That question could be partly answered this game against another former Top 25 team in Illinois Wesleyan. Elmhurst has been riding the hot hand of Josh Williams in backfield, who is averaging 164 yards per contest and expect the Titans to get a heavy dose of him this contest. If the Bluejays win, then the following week's contest at home against Wheaton could be for consideration for an at-large playoff spot.
Nov. 1: Macalester (4-1, 1-0) at Carroll (5-0, 1-0), 2 p.m. – After Carroll's big win against St. Norbert this past week, only the new kids on the block in the Midwest Conference stand in the way of the Pioneers running the table and reaching the conference's title game. While Lamont Williams has carried the running load for Carroll, Macalester's Zandy Stowell is averaging 104.2 yards per contest while quarterback Samson Bialostok is adding another 80.6 per game. Macalester's defense, led by Ryan Fleming, is limiting teams to about two touchdowns per game.
Nov. 8: Concordia (Wis.) (3-2, 2-0) at Lakeland (2-3, 2-0), 1 p.m. – Concordia, and its lethal passing combination of Austin Damaschke and Garrett Wenzelburger, has picked up the pace in NACC play. Damaschke had 417 yards passing and another 189 yards rushing last week against Aurora while Wenzelburger had 160 receiving yards in its 62-24 victory over Aurora. Lakeland has emerged as Concordia's biggest threat. The Muskies were 7-3 last year, only losing to Concordia last year in league play.
Here is one extra game for good measure.
Oct. 25: Rose-Hulman (4-1, 2-1) at Franklin (4-2, 4-0), 1:30 p.m. – The Fighting Engineers took a major step back last week in its 31-17 loss at home to Bluffton, but if they want to defend their HCAC co-championship from 2013, they will have to beat their nemesis on their home field. The Engineers still has one of the best passing games in Division III with first-year signal-caller Austin Swenson, but can they slow down the Grizzlies' offense, something they've struggled with in the past. If they can win, it could essentially set up a potential title game Nov. 8 at Mount St. Joseph.