Wheaton surges when play resumes to dump No. 4 North Central

More news about: Wheaton (Ill.)

This year's "Battle for the Little Brass Bell" game between Wheaton and North Central took a few extra days to complete, when play was suspended at halftime on Saturday due to lightning, However, the wait was worth it for the hosts, as the Thunder rolled in the second half to earn a 42-20 victory against the fourth-ranked Cardinals. 

Saturday's first half consumed three hours and 30 minutes, including a lighting delay of 2:11 in the first quarter. Monday's second half was played in an hour and 22 minutes.

Wheaton accumulated 426 yards of offense in the game, including 321 passing yards with 105 rushing yards. The Cardinals passed for 296 yards and ran for 116 yards to total 412 yards of offense.

Thunder quarterback Curtis McWilliams completed 18 of his 29 passing attempts for 287 yards with three touchdown tosses and a touchdown run. Senior running back Sola Olateju ran for 120 yards on 22 carries with one touchdown run. Sophomore Phillip Nichols caught six passes for 68 yards with a touchdown catch. Zach Lindquist caught five passes for 78 yards and Trey Hanley caught three passes for 73 yards, with a touchdown reception.

Linebacker Eric Stevenson led the Thunder defense with a team-high 10 total tackles. Luke Sahlyrecorded eight total tackles, including six solo stops. Corey KennedyLuke Smith and Chase Greenlee each made six total tackles. Greenlee and Austin Hoover each recorded a quarterback sack. Smith and Nick Blazek each had an interception and Greenlee registered three quarterback hurries.

On Saturday when play resumed following the first delay, North Central completed its drive with a 19-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 7:52 remaining in the first quarter. The Cardinals reached the end zone on their drive that followed with a five-yard touchdown run by Dominick Muoghalu to cap a seven-play drive of 56 yards. Muoghalu's touchdown run extended the Cardinals' lead to 10-0 with 3:41 remaining in the first quarter.

Late in the second quarter, North Central capped a 12-play drive with a 23-yard field goal to give the guests a 13-0 lead with 2:12 remaining in the first half. Wheaton's Carter Roberts returned the kickoff that followed the NCC field goal out of the end zone to the Thunder 47-yard line. Four plays later Thunder quarterback Spencer Peterson connected with Carter Roberts on a 34-yard touchdown pass to to cut the NCC lead to 13-7 with 1:12 remaining in the first half. North Central ran two plays before the first half expired and play was suspended as both teams left for the locker rooms.

Wheaton with the Little Brass Bell
Wheaton celebrates snapping a two-game losing streak by taking home the Little Brass Bell.
Photo for Wheaton athletics by Steve Woltmann

Action resumed under a sunny sky on Monday night. Wheaton returned the kickoff to open the second half; and second day of play. Wheaton marched down the field on a seven-play drive of 78 yards that culminated with a 14-yard touchdown pass from McWilliams to TJ Williams to give the Thunder a 14-13 lead with 11:28 remaining in the third quarter. The key play of the drive was a 44-yard pass from McWilliams to Lindquist on third-and-4 that moved the ball from the Thunder 28-yard line to the NCC 28-yard line. The Thunder defense forced a three-and-out on the Cardinals' first drive of the second half. Wheaton had strong field position to start its second drive of the second half, beginning at the NCC 47-yard line. Olateju had runs of 29 yards and eight yards on the drive; and the eight yard run reached the end zone to increase the hosts' lead to 21-13 with 9:00 left in the third quarter. Smith intercepted a NCC pass on the Cardinals' ensuing drive to stall the guests' offense at the Thunder 35-yard line. Seven plays later, McWilliams connected with Trey Hanley for a 15-yard touchdown pass to increase the Wheaton lead to 28-13 with 3:24 remaining in the third quarter. The Thunder had an impressive third quarter with 190 yards offense in the quarter, including 139 passing yards.

The Cardinals reached the scoreboard for the first time on Monday with a 4-yard touchdown run by Muoghalu that cut the Thunder lead to 28-20 with 14:57 remaining in the fourth quarter. Wheaton responded on the drive that followed as Olateju had runs of six and 24 yards on the first two plays of the drive. McWilliams connected with Nichols for an 18-yard touchdown pass to increase the Wheaton lead to 35-20 with 13:32 remaining in the game. The Thunder defense forced Cardinals into a four-and-out and the NCC 26-yard line as Wheaton regained the ball at the guests' 26-yard line. The ensuing Thunder drive culminated with a four-yard touchdown run by McWilliams to increase Wheaton's lead to 42-20 with 9:24 left in the fourth quarter.

North Central followed with a lengthy drive, but Wheaton's defense stopped the Cardinals' offense on third-and-3 and fourth-and-3 at the Thunder 7-yard line to regain the ball as Wheaton held on for the key win against its longtime rival.

Wheaton (5-2, 3-2 CCIW) travels to North Park next Saturday and North Central (5-1, 3-1) hosts Augustana.