North Central Senior Day
Plenty to celebrate for the North Central Cardinals as they conclude their regular season, with Senior Day festivities pregame, a conference championship already in hand, and the opportunity to once again go into the postseason with a 10-0 record. They took on the Augustana College Vikings on a chilly day in Naperville, as the weather jumped from summer to winter overnight.
Turnovers and Running Away With It
After a Cardinals fumble on 4th Down gave the visitors great field position, Augie QB Cole Bhardwaj is hit as he throws and the ball floats right to sophomore linebacker Angelo Cusumano for yet another red zone turnover by the Cardinals defense. The very next play the Vikings run on offense, it’s another turnover! Senior linebacker Sam Taviani knocks the ball loose and, guess who, Cusumano jumps on top of it! Two takeaways in two plays doubled his season total to four. The Cardinals then do what the Vikings couldn’t and take advantage of the turnover, with senior Ethan Greenfield punching in the touchdown to give North Central the lead.
Next Vikings possession, and here comes the Cardinals defense again. Senior defensive end Tyler Rich gets the sack after a nice spin move left his blocker in the dust. After his two-yard score, Ethan Greenfield ups the difficulty level on his next one: 78 yards on this Touchdown run, a new longest run of the season for Greenfield, and one of the Cardinals’ brightest-shining senior stars was going supernova on Senior Day. How about another sack to force a Vikings punt? It’s Taviani this time, shot out of a cannon into the backfield to bring down Bhardwaj for a huge loss. On the first play after the ensuing punt, it’s Terrence Hill’s turn for a big touchdown run! Thirty-five yards, straight up the middle, and the two senior running backs were really putting on a show still in the first quarter. I know this is sounding like a bit of a broken record, but how about not one but two sacks for senior defensive end Dan Gilroy on the next Augie possession! First, he literally pushed a lineman into the quarterback, and then a nice stunt move frees him up for two in two plays.
Junior Nic Rummell was playing only his second game as a wide receiver since 2019, but you wouldn’t know it when he’s making plays like this great diving catch to reel in the pass from quarterback Luke Lehnen. By this time Greenfield was overdue for another touchdown run, so he carries this one in from 11 yards out for his third score of the first half and a 28-3 lead. But there was no Atlanta Falcons curse for the Cardinals, as on their next possession Lehnen airs it out for DeAngelo Hardy, who makes a great catch despite good coverage by the defense. It’s the junior’s twelfth TD catch of the year, finishing off a career-best regular season.
The Cardinals registered seven sacks as a team on the day, and here’s cornerback Antwain Walker getting in on the action, the NIU transfer showing he can rush the passer just as well as he breaks up down-field throws.
With time winding down in the first half, Lehnen is flushed out of the pocket but is eventually able to find a wide open Greenfield along the far sideline, and Ethan lowers his shoulder for the final yard into the end zone. His fourth score of the game, in which he ran for 163 yards. Trying to keep up with Greenfield, on the first play of the second half it looks like Hill is on his way to a 70-plus-yard score of his own, but he’s tripped up just short of the end zone after a 70-yard run. Of course, he does eventually finish off the drive with his second TD of the game. But naturally, he wouldn’t be denied next time. After barely staying on his feet, Hill goes 68-yards for the touchdown. His longest run of the season, as he led the Cardinals on the day with 216 yards on seven carries.
Another Undefeated Season
Angelo Cusumano would contribute to one more turnover, as he knocks this ball lose for it to be recovered by Zack Orr, who nows has five takeaways in the last six games and brings the Cardinals’ season total to 29. Sophomore Joe Sacco would finish off the scoring for the day with his sixth rushing score of the season, and it’s party time in Naperville! The Cardinals go undefeated once again, are CCIW Champions once again, and have lot of momentum as they embark on another journey towards playing for a national championship.