Luke Lehnen named Gagliardi Trophy Finalist as North Central College football advances to semifinals

Luke Lehnen Gagliardi trophy finalist celebrates quarterfinal win
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North Central College quarterback Luke Lehnen has been named one of five finalists for the Gagliardi Trophy, which is given annually to the top player in Division III football. The Cardinal senior became the seventh North Central player to be named a finalist for the prestigious award, which has been given out since 1993.

Lehnen and NCC moves on to the semis

In the NCAA quarterfinals, Lehnen led the Cardinals to a 55-42 victory over UW-Lacrosse, advancing to the Division III semifinals for a fourth consecutive season. The signal caller completed 12-15 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns while running for 86 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown in the victory. North Central jumped out to a 35-14 halftime advantage and hung on for the win, despite the Eagles cutting the deficit within six points at two different points in the second half. Senior wide receiver D’Angelo Hardy became the first Cardinal player to record one receiving touchdown, throw for a touchdown, catch an interception and return a kickoff for a touchdown in the same game.

NCC advances to the semifinals to face Wartburg College in Iowa, who defeated UW-Whitewater 31-28. The winner will face the winner of SUNY-Cortland and Randolph-Macon in the 2023 Alonzo Stagg Bowl, which will be played on December 15th in Salem, Virginia. This is the first even matchup between the two programs. North Central has a 3-1 record in the semifinal round and have won three straight, since losing the first appearance in 2013.

Lehnen continues his historic season

Lehnen has completed 150 of 196 passes (76.5 percent) for 3,006 yards and 43 touchdowns with just one interception on the season. The CCIW Offensive Student-Athlete of the Year and Region 5 Offensive Player of the Year this season, Lehnen has also run for 714 yards (8.3 per carry) and 11 scores on the ground. He still maintains the highest passer effinciacy rating in college football history at 267.7, well ahead of the previous record of 230.4.

The other NCC players to be named Gagliardi Finalists were running back Dominic Sulo (2008), defensive tackle Peter Bulandr (2011), quarterback Broc Rutter (2018 and 2019), wide receiver Andrew Kamienski (2021) and running back Ethan Greenfield (2022). Lehnen hopes to join Rutter and Greenfield, who went on to win the Gagliardi Trophy in 2019 and 2022 respectively.

Other finalists are Gustavus Adolphus College (Minnesota) wide receiver Jake Breitbach, Wartburg (Iowa) linebacker Owen Grover, Trinity University (Texas) quarterback Tucker Horn and Mount Union (Ohio) quarterback Braxton Plunk. Grover and Lehnen are the only two finalists still playing in the post season.

The top ranked Cardinals (13-0) take on No. 3-ranked Wartburg (13-0) Saturday at Walston-Hoover Stadium in Iowa with a spot in the 2023 Stagg Bowl on the line. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. Central time, which will be streamed live by ESPN+.