The Carthage College football team (3-1, 0-1 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin) opened its CCIW schedule on Saturday, Oct. 1 with a 24-0 loss to defending-conference-champion and No. 9 North Central College (3-1, 0-1 CCIW) at Carthage's homecoming game at Art Keller Field in Kenosha, Wis.
North Central took a 7-0 lead at 4:09 first period on a 14-yard carry by Nick Kukuc. The three-play, 33-yard scoring drive was set up a one-yard Carthage punt by Chris Schulz, which gave the Cardinals the ball at the Red Men's 33-yard line. North Central made it a 14-0 game at 5:04 second period on an 80-yard touchdown run from scrimmage by quarterback Jordan Tassio. Carthage's first drive of the second half reached the North Central 32-yard line before quarterback Pete Djurickovic was sacked for eight yards on fourth-and-four. The Cardinals took over and scored on a 23-yard field goal by Nick Dace at 12:19 fourth period to up the lead to 17-0. The next Red Men drive ended when a Chris Schulz punt was blocked by North Central, and the Cardinals' Kane Thompson ran the ball five yards for a touchdown and the final, 24-0 margin.
North Central collected 287 total offensive yards, 221 passing and 66 yards rushing, while Carthage totaled 208 yards, 131 on the ground and 77 in the air. The Red Men had a giant lead in time-of-possession, 35:36 to 24:24. North Central quarterback Jordan Tassio ran for 140 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, while running back Nick Kukuc rushed for 80 yards on nine carries. Red Men quarterback T.J. Trepanier (Jr., Winthrop Harbor, Ill./Zion-Benton Township) ran for 53 yards on 13 carries, with tailback Reggie Miller (So., Downers Grove, Ill./South) running for 39 yards on nine carries. Defensively, the Cardinals middle linebacker Joey Michaels had eight tackles (6 solo, 2 assisted), including a sack, while Red Men outside linebacker Brandon Mecozzi (Jr., Kenosha, Wis./Bradford) collected six tackles (5 solo, 1 assisted).
"This loss was hard to take," said Carthage head coach Tim Rucks, "because we actually did everything we wanted to do. We wanted to run the football, control the time-of-possession, not turn the ball over and let our defense play some football. The only thing we didn't plan on was not getting any points. I thought we had a good game plan, but you have to score to win. North Central is probably the best football team we'll play all year. They're so athletic and so fast. They have speed all over the field. They're pretty good. Valente Garza and Willie Hayes are the best pair of defensive ends I've seen in the league in a long, long time. We played toe-to-toe with a top-10 team, but we just couldn't score. We thought we could win this game, but we think there are a lot of wins left in this team, this year."
Carthage travels to Decatur, Ill., on Oct. 8 to take on Millikin University in a 1 p.m. clash at Frank M. Lindsay Field.