North Central College Football vs. Aurora 9.11.21

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North Central Football begins its title defense as the fourth-ranked team in the country hosting Aurora University on opening night.

Coach Jeff Thorne and the North Central Cardinals are back to defend their national title with a few new faces like QB Luke Lehnen, but also plenty of experienced players like All America wide receiver Andrew Kamienski.

First Quarter

Speaking of experience, on the game’s first drive 2019 national championship MVP Ethan Greenfield broke off a couple of big runs: first, this burst across midfield, and then this sharp cut around the right side to set up first and goal for the Cardinal offense. Then came the first touchdown of the day: Lehnen with his first completion as a Cardinal for the score finding Kamienski in the end zone for six; a play combining the Cardinals past, present and future.

Aurora looking to answer, but All America quarterback Gavin Zimbelman is swung to the turf by senior linebacker Storm Simmons, and the Cardinal defense was fired up early in this one.

On the very next play: Zimbelman, looking long down the right side but his pass is picked off by Dakota Cremeens. The senior reading that throw all the way and snagging the first pick of the season.

The Cardinals’ offense went right back to work: Lehnen with a picture perfect rainbow of a throw in stride to DeAngelo Hardy.

Next Cardinals drive: Greenfield, up the middle and virtually untouched for another Cardinal touchdown to make it twenty-one to nothing.

Second Quarter

After another quick and scoreless possession by Aurora, it’s Greenfield, again, slicing, dicing and somehow finding his way into the end zone. He’s pumped, the fans are pumped, and it’s a blowout at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.

Aurora just trying to get anything going, and this time Zimbelman is brought down by Tyler Rich for the sack. The Aurora O-Line struggled all night to contain the North Central pass rush.

Cardinals force another Spartan punt, and you know what’s next: more offense! This time it’s Lehnen to Blake Williams for the score. Williams had to wait a bit for confirmation he was in, but the Cardinals don’t mind a little waiting after almost two years away from the football field.

Finally, Aurora made it into the red zone, but they wouldn’t reach the end zone this time as Zimbelman throws into traffic and is intercepted by junior Sam Taviani. That was the closest the Spartans got to erasing that zero on the scoreboard the entire first half.

This next play, not a touchdown, but maybe the best throw of the night for Lehnen as he perfectly drops this one in the bread basket of Kamienski for a huge gain.

With the game getting out of hand, Aurora got desperate. Zimbelman with the QB draw on fourth and short but he is absolutely smothered by the Cardinals’ defensive front. Both sides of the ball with great opening night showcases for North Central.

Second Half

On to the second half, and here’s more Greenfield. Somehow escapes several would-be Spartan tacklers and finishes off his third touchdown run of the night with a dive over the pylon. That would make it forty-one to nothing. The Cardinals would add a few more scores, Aurora did eventually get on the board as well, but in the end it was an absolute blowout: Cardinals 64, Spartans 7.

For coverage of North Central football throughout the season, visit the Red Zone page on the NCTV17 website.