Saturday, Oct. 15 was a major highlight for the North Central College football team’s season so far. For the first time since losing it back in 2014, the Cardinals took the bell from Wheaton College while hosting a season high attendance of 4,500 fans.
The team’s 35-25 win was against their toughest opponent of the year. Previously ranked number 11 by D3football.com, the Thunder gave the Cardinals a run for their money with a surge of 22 points in the second half.
The Thunders strong second half was not enough to recover from the dominant first half by the Cardinals. With a pair of passing touchdowns from freshman quarterback Broc Rutter, a punt return for a touchdown by junior defensive back Pat Cravens, and a 29-yard field goal by Liam Crotty.
The Thunder came out from halftime with a second wind, scoring a safety and a pair of touchdowns unanswered. Two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Cardinals were hanging on to a 24-18 lead until the Cardinals reestablished a two possession lead with a touchdown pass from Rutter to senior wide receiver Dylan Warden.
Less than a minute later, the Thunder answered with a 56-yard passing touchdown of their own, and put the pressure back on the Cardinals to produce another scoring drive. After a methodical 67 yard drive that knocked over five minutes off of the clock, North Central junior kicker Liam Crotty clinched the game with a 25 yard field goal.
Crotty earned the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) special teams player of the week with his nine-point performance. But more importantly, helped to clinch his team’s victory over their biggest rivals Wheaton College.
With four more CCIW games left this season, the Cardinals have a chance to sweep their conference and earn a CCIW championship along with a ticket in to the NCAA Division III championship playoffs.