Two convincing wins on the road turned out to be a prelude to an even more dominant showing in Saturday's home opener for the North Central College football team, as the Cardinals celebrated Homecoming with a 77-0 shutout of the North Park University Vikings at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.
No. 5-ranked North Central (3-0, 2-0 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin) held the Vikings scoreless for the third straight year, posting the sixth-highest point total and fourth-largest margin of victory in the program's history. The Cardinals tallied their highest point total since an 86-14 victory over Olivet College on Sept. 17, 2011 and their largest margin of victory since an 86-0 win over Elmhurst College on Oct. 18, 1958.
The hosts seized control immediately and kept their collective foot on the accelerator throughout the first half, scoring touchdowns on each of their eight possessions. The scoring started on the first play from scrimmage, as Broc Rutter fired a 60-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Kamienski just 20 seconds after play began. Ethan Greenfield added a nine-yard scoring run later in the period before connected with Kamienski again, this time from 33 yards away, as Kamienski bulled his way through a series of attempted arm tackles.
North Central also scored on the first play of the second period, as receiver DeAngelo Hardy took a handoff and scampered through the left side for a 43-yard TD run. Rutter followed with a 34-yard scoring toss to Blake Williams and senior running back Zach Garrett rambled 42 yards for his first career touchdown before Rutter found a wide-open Khori Blair for a 79-yard TD pass with 4:47 left in the second period. The pass is the 10th-longest in the Cardinals' history. Garrett capped off the first-half scoring with a 13-yard run to paydirt with 1:13 on the clock, sending North Central into halftime with a 56-0 advantage.
Backup quarterback Jake Johnson took the field for the Cardinals to open the second half and led the home team down the field for a six-play, 58-yard scoring drive, throwing a nine-yard touchdown pass to Nic Rummell on the first North Central drive of the third quarter. Johnson later found Tommy Coates on a 10-yard fade route for another score just before the period ended, and tacked on a one-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter for the game's final score.
The Cardinals finished the day with 685 yards of total offense, second in program history only to a 693-yard effort against North Park on Oct. 10, 2015. North Central's defense, meanwhile, limited the Vikings to just 117 yards, the fourth-lowest by a Cardinal opponent, and allowed only 31 yards after halftime. Rutter set a new North Central single-game record for passing accuracy (minimum 15 attempts), completing 16 of 17 passes (94.1 percent) for 334 yards.
Kamienski finished with four receptions for 137 yards, while Williams caught four balls for 68 yards and Blair made three grabs for 101 yards. Rafael Rios was the top ground gainer for the victors with 98 yards on 11 carries, while Garrett rolled up 73 yards on just four attempts.
The Cardinal defense was led by Ben Wong, who finished with seven tackles, while Storm Simmons and Cole Griffin each totaled four. Tim Mayerhofer snared his first collegiate interception, while Adam Haushahn recorded two of the team's 14 tackles for loss.
North Central travels to face 11th-ranked Wheaton College next Saturday in the annual Battle for the Little Brass Bell. Kickoff at McCully Stadium is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.