After a dominant victory over Trinity in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs, North Central College football is moving on to the quarterfinal round for a fourth consecutive season. The Cardinals continued their undefeated season, improving to 12-0 on the year following the 71-28 win.
North Central heads to UW-Lacrosse
Waiting for North Central in the quarterfinals is UW-Lacrosse, who earned their spot in the final eight following a 56-35 victory over Aurora University. Just like NCC, the Eagles have won two Division III National Championships back in 1992 and 1995. This marks the first quarterfinal appearance for UW-Lacrosse since 1996.
The two teams met in the second round of the 2021 playoffs, with the Cardinals advancing with a 34-20 victory. This is the fourth all-time meeting between the two programs, with the Eagles winning in 2012 and the Cardinals taking the matchup in 2013.
North Central football has a 4-1 all-time record in the quarterfinal round. The Cardinals lost their first appearance to UW-Whitewater in 2010, but since then were victorious in 2013, 2019, 2021 and 2022.
The Cardinals hit the road amid controversy
One of the biggest surprises of the Division III post season came during the playoff bracket reveal when it became clear that the undefeated Cardinals would likely have to travel to UW-Lacrosse for this potential matchup, despite the 9-1 Eagles having a loss on their record. North Central spent the entire 2023 season as the number one ranked team in both the d3football.com and AFCA polls.
The reason behind this decision is due to the regional rankings, where North Central trailed Wartburg in the region five rankings, with both teams being undefeated, but Wartburg getting the edge due to strength of schedule. UW-Lacrosse was the top team in the region six rankings, so the NCAA gave priority to a regional number one.
Lehnen looks to continue to build his case for the Gagliardi Trophy
Senior quarterback Luke Lehnen will look to continue his historic season for the red and white as he makes his case to be named a Gagliardi Trophy finalist. Lehnen was named a semifinalist in November and has continued to thrive in the post season. The Cardinals scored on 10 of 12 offensive possessions with Lehnen completing 11 of 14 passes for 245 yards and four scores while rushing for a team-high 94 yards.
The Gagliardi Trophy finalists will be announced during a live show on Thursday, December 7th, on D3football.com.
How to watch the game
The quarterfinal matchup between North Central College football and UW-Lacrosse is scheduled for a noon kickoff and can be streamed live on the WIAC website. There will also be three watch party locations in Naperville and one in Chicago.
The Lantern opening @ 10 A.M. (8 W Chicago Ave., #1)
JoJo’s Shake Bar opening @ 11 A.M. (5 Jackson Ave.)
Empire Burgers + Brew opening @ 11 A.M. (48 W Chicago Ave.)
Theory Chicago opening @ 10 A.M. (9 W Hubbard St, Chicago)