North Central Football Wins 2022 Stagg Bowl Championship

North Central Football With The Stagg Bowl
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North Central College entered the 2022 Stagg Bowl looking to bring home the team’s second Division III National Championship in the past three seasons. Standing in the way was one of the most decorated programs in college football history and a familiar post season foe, the Mount Union Purple Raiders.

Coming into the contest, NCC held a 1-1 record in the Stagg Bowl, winning the title in 2019 after a 41-14 victory over University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. However the Cardinals fell in the 2021 Championship game to Mary Hardin-Baylor by the score of 57-24, a loss the Cardinals avenged in last week’s semifinal matchup in Naperville.

This time it was Mount Union looking for revenge after Cardinals defeated Mount Union 52-45 in the second round of the 2019 NCAA playoffs and 26-13 in the 2021 semifinals. The Purple Raiders won the first matchup between the two powerhouses back in the 2013 semifinals 41-40.

Cardinals Get off to a Fast Start

Much similar to the Cardinals semifinal matchup, the red and white came out strong. On the opening drive Luke Lehnen got the team downfield with a 26-yard run. A couple of plays later Lehnen goes deep and finds the Gagliadri Trophy winner Ethan Greenfield for the 34-yard touchdown putting NCC up 7-0 early on in the first quarter.

On the ensuing drive the Cardinals defense stood tall forcing a third and out giving NCC the ball right back. After working their way into Purple Raider territory, Tanner Rains steps onto the field to attempt a 32-yard field goal but it goes wide left.

A Record Setting Second Quarter For North Central

Three minutes into the second quarter the Purple Raiders have the ball when quarterback Braxton Plunk is hit by BJ Adamchik and after review Adamchik is disqualified from the game for targeting, a big loss for the Cardinal defense.

With 9:51 to play in the half, Ethan Greenfield has a three yard run that sees NCC set a new Division III team rushing record of 5,188 yards on the ground in a single-season, the play doesn’t lead to anything but nonetheless a notable achievement from the North Central offense.

The top team in the country continued to break records in the second quarter. With 6:18 left in half, Luke Lehnen has the ball on his own six yard line when the second year quarterback fires down field to DeAngelo Hardy who breaks a tackle at midfield and sprints away for a 94-yard touchdown to double the Cardinals lead. The longest touchdown in North Central College history saw NCC go into halftime with a 14-0 lead over Mount Union 

Mount Union Comes Out Strong In The Third

 Mount Union received the kickoff to start the second half. The Raiders worked their way down the field thanks to a third and 11 quarterback rush from Braxton Plunk to get Mount Union to the North Central 19-yard line. A couple of plays later and the Raiders face a fourth and one as Lance Mitchell is stuffed by Angelo Cusumano and Julian Bell. A 19 play drive from Mount Union that sees them turn the ball over on downs.

The Cardinals took over on their own 16 yard line, but they didn’t stay on that half of the field for long as Ethan Greenfield picked up a huge gain of 58-yards. North Central ended the third quarter with the ball on the Mount Union four yard line.

A Wild Finish To The Stagg Bowl

NCC started the fourth quarter with a direct snap to Ethan Greenfield who ran in the short touchdown extending the Cardinal’s lead to 21-0.
However, Mount Union didn’t go away. The Purple Raiders made their way downfield on the next drive and after 12 plays Braxton Plunk took it himself for a nine yard rushing touchdown. Purple Raiders trail 21-7 with 9:19 to play in the fourth quarter.
The Purple Raiders continued to mount the pressure. After forcing the North Central offense to punt, Mount Union once again made their way into Cardinal territory. In need of two touchdowns and only four minutes on the clock Braxton Plunk and Mount Union went for it on fourth and 13 on the 30 and Plunk went over the top to Wayne Ruby for a huge first down! Two plays later on the three yard line as Plunk connects with Ruby in the endzone for a Purple Raider touchdown! All of a sudden it was a one touchdown game with 3:34 left in the fourth.
Not so fast said Luke Lehnen, as the quarterback goes on a 42-yard run to put the Cardinals in the red zone with 2:13 left on the clock. Three plays later Lehnen puts one up in the endzone that is caught by DeAngelo Hardy! However, the ruling on the field was no touchdown and after video review the call was overturned! Cardinals lead 28-14 with 1:24 to play.
But wait, this game isn’t over. On the Purple Raiders next possession Braxton Plunk connects with Wayne Ruby for a 41-yard play. All of a sudden Mount Union is in the red zone as Plunk finds Edwin Reed in the endzone, once again making it a one touchdown game.
Mount Union attempted an onside kick but DeAngelo Hardy was there to cover. Luke Lehnen comes on the field one last time and takes a knee! The North Central College Cardinals take down Mount Union by a score of 28-21 and for the second time in program history the Cardinals win the Stagg Bowl and are Division III Football National Champions!
You can find the latest North Central College Football highlights and interviews on The Red Zone!