Local college football roundup: North Central, Wheaton, College of DuPage, Benedictine win

Treating its Senior Day crowd to an afternoon filled with thrilling performances, the North Central College football team seized control of Saturday's matchup with Illinois Wesleyan University in the very early going and decimated the Titans 83-26 at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.

The Cardinals' point total matches the sixth-highest in their history and is the program's third-highest point total in a College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) game. It is the fifth-highest scoring output by any NCAA Division III team this season. With the victory, North Central has clinched at least a share of its third straight CCIW championship and its 17th CCIW title all-time.

The hosts took a lead they would never relinquish just 17 seconds after play began, as Joey Lombardi returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. Lombardi, who established a North Central record for the longest kickoff return (98 yards) Oct. 7 against Carroll University, is one of just four Division III players to return two kickoffs to the end zone in 2023.

Benedictine 41, Eureka 21:

The Benedictine University football scored five consecutive touchdowns and piled up nearly 600 yards of offense in taking down Eureka College 41-21 to grab a win on Senior Day.

Following a scoreless opening 15 minutes, Benedictine struck on the first play of the second quarter. Nathan Rillo connected with Justin Hocker on a 2-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring. Eureka scored the next 14 points, recovering a fumble to set up the go-ahead score with 7:33 remaining in the half. Benedictine responded with five consecutive touchdowns to pull away. Answering immediately, Blake Shoddie caught a 56-yard pass to set up a 2-yard run from Rillo to tie the score with 5:58 left. Benedictine forced a punt and took the lead with under four minutes to go in the half when Evan Wydajewski dumped a short pass to the right to Rillo for a 3-yard score.

Receiving the kickoff to open the third, Benedictine needed just three plays to push the lead to 28-14. Alexander Corbett broke away for a 38-yard run before Dylan Sigel followed with a 22-yard touchdown run. After another punt, Wydajewski found a wide open Nick Shelton for a 31-yard touchdown on third down to lead 34-14 with 8:07 remaining in the third. Forcing another punt, Sami Ayosh found himself wide open for a 44-yard touchdown to cap the Benedictine scoring. Eureka responded with a touchdown and had several opportunities to cut into the deficit but the Benedictine defense consistently came up with big plays including a fourth-quarter interception from Keenon Davis.

Benedictine (5-3, 5-2 NACC) plays at St. Norbert next week to end the season.

College of DuPage 37, Georgia Military 21:

All-American running back Jaden McGill used a full-body approach Saturday afternoon, scoring four touchdowns as No. 1 College of DuPage closed the regular season with an impressive 37-21 victory over Division I and No. 11-ranked Georgia Military College in NJCAA football Saturday afternoon.

McGill caught one TD pass, and ran for three more as COD closed the regular season with a 10-1 overall record.

Not since the Bob MacDougall-coached era has a Chaparral team earned 10 victories in a season, marking the first time since 1995 when COD accomplished the achievement and only the eighth time in school history.

Maybe the victory was meant to be when the Chaps donned throwback jerseys in tribute to the late MacDougall, sporting the Green and Yellow in tribute to that era.

"No question, our best team effort of the season,'' coach Matthew Rahn said. "Our defense got a little bit lax, but since coach (Trevor) Cipriano took over the defense, they've shown that we can settle down and we pressured them hard. Our offense sputtered, but we controlled the ball, sustained drives and cashed in.''

No. 12 Wheaton 36, Washington U. 35:

The 12th-ranked Wheaton football team earned a dramatic 36-35 win against Washington University in St. Louis (6-3, 5-3 CCIW) Saturday with no time left on the clock. Wheaton improves to 8-1 overall and 7-1 in CCIW play.

Senior quarterback Ben Thorson's 34-yard Hail Mary pass was caught in the end zone over five defenders by Seth Kortenhoeven (Wheaton North) to cut the WashU lead to 35-34. The Thunder kicking team came onto the field for a PAT kick attempt when WashU called time out. When the timeout concluded Wheaton's offense came back on the field for a two-point conversion attempt. Thorson tossed the ball to All-American running back Giovanni Weeks who got the ball into the end zone for the dramatic 36-35 Wheaton win.

The Wheaton offense put up 443 yards, with 266 passing yards and 177 rushing yards. The Bears had 468 yards of total offense as the guests passed for 350 yards and ran for 118 yards.

Weeks carried the ball 30 times today for 172 rushing yards. He also caught two passes for 11 receiving yards.

Ben Thorson (Wheaton Academy) completed 16 of his 28 passing attempts for 266 yards through the air. All five Wheaton touchdowns today came through the air on Thorson passes and he did not have an interception.

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