|St. Norbert was the more effective team on both offense and defense.
d3photography.com file photo by Steve Frommell
St. Norbert pulled off the first-round road win, while UW-Whitewater, Bethel and North Central cruised in the bottom left-hand corner of the bracket in the first round of the 2018 Division III football playoffs.
The past decade of playoffs
Here's how Division III conferences have performed in the playoffs over the past 10 postseasons, from 2009 through the first round of 2018:
- Updated playoff bracket
- Wrapup: Mount Union bracket
- Wrapup: UMHB bracket
- Wrapup: UW-Whitewater bracket
- Wrapup: Brockport bracket
- First-round playoff scoreboard
- Even more game stories
Matt Gurgone outscored Trine all by himself, as the senior linebacker picked off a pass, then recovered a fumble, and returned them for touchdowns on consecutive possessions to help St. Norbert roll past No. 12 Trine by a 31-7 score. Lamar Carswell turned the ball over on two third-quarter possessions and Gurgone returned one 35 yards for a touchdown, just one play after he had intercepted Brandon Winters and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown. Those two scores put the exclamation point on a defensive performance which saw the Green Knights keep Lamar Carswell out of the end zone and limit him to 3.4 yards per carry, 32 carries for 110 yards. Winters completed just three of 12 passes and threw three interceptions.
The Green Knights held their opponent without an offensive touchdown for the third consecutive game. Drew Rhodes had 23 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns and completed three of five passes in the St. Norbert triple-option offense. It's the first playoff win for St. Norbert since 2003.
Ronny Ponnick ran for 202 yards and three touchdowns, while Alex Peete ran for 116 yards and three more scores for UW-Whitewater, while the Warhawks' defense bottled up LeAnthony Reasnover in cruising to a 67-14 win vs. Eureka. It was the Warhawks' 16th consecutive victory. Reasnover went for 50 yards on 21 carries for the Red Devils. All five of the Warhawks' scoring drives in the second quarter were less than two minutes. Sophomore running back Ronny Ponick completed a six-play, 81-yard drive – all on his running plays – with a 1-yard plunge for a touchdown. The Warhawks scored all nine of their touchdowns on the ground.
Ethan Greenfield and Dominick Muoghalu each ran for two touchdowns and North Central held Hanover to 12-for-31 passing with three interceptions as the Cardinals advanced with ease, defeating the Panthers 52-0. The Cardinals held Hanover without a third-down conversion the entire afternoon, as the Panthers were 0-for-13, then 0-for-4 on fourth down. Broc Rutter went 14-for-23 for the Cardinals for 200 yards and a touchdown.
Bethel made it look easy against Wartburg, scoring 28 second-quarter points en route to a 41-14 win vs. Wartburg. The Knights had no solution for the running tandem of quarterback Jaran Roste and running back Sam Gibas, as those two combined for 28 carries and 257, with Roste scoring three touchdowns on the run. Mike Delich added seven carries for 51 yards and two scores as well. Matt Sacia completed 23 of 41 passes for 230 yards and two scores, but the Knights finished with minus-42 yards on the ground.
Bethel will play at North Central in the second round, with UW-Whitewater hosting St. Norbert when the NCAA makes the second-round bracket official on Sunday.