North Central Football Homecoming With an Arch-Rival
Homecoming weekend at North Central College, and what better way to celebrate than with the marquee matchup of every Cardinals football season: the Battle for the Little Brass Bell against the Wheaton College Thunder, as the Cardinals look to retain the trophy for the first time since 2011 after reclaiming it last year for the first time in five years.
Cardinals Strong First Half
Both offenses got off to a slow start, but that changed for North Central in large part due to junior wide receiver DeAngelo Hardy, who quarterback Luke Lehnen finds wide open over the middle for a big gain. That sets up Ethan Greenfield to power his way into the end zone on the next play. 7-0 Cardinals on his eighth rushing touchdown of the season.
The Cardinals defense did more than just hold the Thunder to a three-and-out on the next drive: sophomore safety Zack Orr picks off a floated pass by Will Bowers to give the offense a chance for a quick one-two punch. And they delivered, with the throw of the day by Lehnen finding Hardy for six despite excellent coverage by the Wheaton defense. Neither tight man coverage nor safety help over the top could do anything about this time of a delivery from Lehnen.
A difficult first half for Bowers and the Wheaton offense got no better when he was picked off again, this time by sophomore linebacker Angelo Cusumano. The Cardinals defense making a statement shutting down the Thunder’s formidable passing attack. Later on the ensuing drive, another good run by Greenfield gets the Cardinals once again into scoring position, but a defensive stand by the Thunder results in them settling for a field goal by Tanner Rains to make it 17-0.
On their next drive the Cardinals fake a fourth down attempt with a punt by Lehnen, but it bounces off an unsuspecting Wheaton player and the Cardinals recover inside the 15 yard line. With 18 seconds left and no timeouts this yielded an absolutely insane sequence. Lehnen completes a pass to Jacob Paradee, but the sophomore wide receiver is unable to get out of bounds. The field goal unit comes rushing on to the field as the offense goes sprinting off, and just after lineman Sam Pryor dives onto the sideline and just before time expires, the Cardinals get the snap off and Rains banks it in off the upright. Total chaos to end the first half, but at 20-0 the Cardinals looked firmly in control.
Wheaton Responds as the Teams Trade Blows
But the Thunder came out rumbling in the second half. Two touchdowns from senior running back Giovanni Weeks, first on a pass from Bowers and then on a handoff, combined with stout defense throughout the third quarter, cut the Cardinals lead to six. But once again it’s Hardy who jumpstarts the Cardinal offense, here on a crafty option handoff to move the chains on third down and move North Central into Wheaton territory. 199 total yards of offense on the night for Hardy. A few plays later, Lehnen swings a pass out to Greenfield who goes flying over the pylon and into the endzone to restore the Cardinals two-score advantage. But it wouldn’t last long, as the Thunder marched down the field again and were back within a score thanks to a Bowers touchdown pass to Ben Bonga.
Ethan Greenfield Seals the Deal
Of course, when North Central need a closer they turn to Greenfield. First a massive run, breaking tackles and dragging defenders with him all the way inside the 10-yard line, and then capping the night off with a rushing touchdown much like he did in the Cardinals victory last year.
North Central retains the Brass Bell for the first time in over a decade, moving to 4-0 on the season and likely securing the CCIW championship for a second consecutive season as well. Plenty of fans, family, friends and alumni to celebrate with for the Cardinals, who take down Wheaton 33 – 20.