Jake Beesley and Luke Lehnen

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Jake Beesley and Luke Lehnen look ahead to North Central’s journey to Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio with a trip to the Stagg Bowl on the line.

The location came as a surprise to a Cardinals team that expected to once again play at home, but for the players it’s a reality they’ll contend with like any other obstacle this season.

“It was kind of surprising, but when we think about it it doesn’t really matter where we play,” said Beesley. “We’re gonna show up and we’re gonna be prepared to play.”

“Not what we were expecting, we were hoping for a home playoff game because that would be pretty cool for the semifinals,” Lehnen said. “But we’ll have to go to Alliance and beat them there so it should be fun.”

The Cardinals and Purple Raiders last met in the 2019 playoffs, when North Central pulled off a 59-52 upset en route to the Stagg Bowl.

“That was a statement game for us back then,” said Beesley. “But I think now we’re a more veteran group and we should have a really good game-plan going in and be able to succeed.”

The biggest difference from that team to this one is under center, where Lehnen has succeeded Gagliardi Trophy winner Broc Rutter at the helm of the Cardinals offense.

“I think I’ve grown a lot,” Lehnen said. “The main focus for me was staying more in the pocket and become more of a true quarterback…I definitely feel like I’ve developed a lot as a passer.”

North Central’s seniors have said previously that the win earlier this season over Wheaton felt like winning a national championship. A win this weekend would carry with it similar significance.

“This is another game that we circled and hope that we can get to another Stagg Bowl,” said Beesley. “But these guys are gonna be ready to play and so are we, but if we’re able to come out with a win it’ll be huge for us.”