College of DuPage three-peats in NJCAA Division III football
In a football game of massive momentum swings, College of DuPage owned the last one.
The Chaparrals rode it to a third straight national title.
Robert Brazziel's 16-yard touchdown pass to Fabian Baez with 1:03 left to play gave No. 1 College of DuPage a 33-29 victory Saturday over No. 2 Rochester in the Red Grange Bowl, the NJCAA Division III Football Championship, at MacDougall Field in Glen Ellyn.
"The accolades and winning, it is a byproduct of us getting kids moved on to the next level," said coach Matt Rahn, the Wheaton North graduate now 3-0 in title games. Spanning all sports it's COD's 42nd national championship.
"Each year we've been able to send on average 35 guys out a year on scholarship. Because of that the wins come with it," Rahn said.
Paced by Yellowjackets quarterback Devin Watson's 390 yards passing and 2 touchdowns, Rochester (Minnesota) rallied from a 24-7 halftime deficit to take a 29-26 lead on Raphael Manning's 4-yard touchdown run with 5:08 left to play.
The margin might have been wider without Brandon Vines' fourth-quarter interception at COD's 8-yard line.
"As long as you can get your 1/11th done you'll be victorious," the sophomore from Batavia said.
COD (11-1) answered Manning's go-ahead score with game MVP Jaden McGill's (Naperville Central) 50-yard kickoff return, plus a penalty that gave the Chaparrals possession at the 29-yard line.
Keeping the winning 9-play drive alive, on third-and-8 Brazziel (Montini) completed an 8-yard pass to Madixx Morris.
Rochester (8-3) stalled COD on consecutive tackles for loss before Brazziel's perfect third-down strike found Baez (Schaumburg) in the back left corner of the end zone.
A redshirt sophomore, Brazziel got the start because starting quarterback Peyton O'Laughlin was injured in COD's prior game against Georgia Military.
"For this to be my first and last start, this means everything to me. I'm really going to take this one in," said Brazziel, 14-of-24 passing for 134 yards.
"Jaden gave us a great play on the kickoff return, and we used that momentum to go score. So it was never in doubt that we were going to score. I never had a doubt, I promise you," Brazziel said.
McGill, who ran for 54 yards with 98 yards on returns and 19 receiving yards, scored on first-half touchdown runs of 3, 4 and 4 yards. Christian Casillas was perfect on conversion kicks, plus a 29-yard field goal for the Chaparrals' 24-7 halftime lead.
"It feels amazing to be a part of a program like this," said McGill, part of two titles. "Coach Rahn and the rest of the coaches, they do a great job here. This is a premier JUCO. We're top of the nation."