Warhawk wins mean more games at Perkins
Another playoff game means another home game.
The Warhawks (10-1), fresh off their 34-14 victory over Capital (Ohio) in last week’s NCAA Division III playoff opener, will get another appearance at Perkins Stadium on Saturday as they host North Central College (9-2) from Naperville, Ill., in a noon game. Two more wins will almost certainly guarantee the Warhawks two more home games as they chase a third straight trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Salem, Va.
Whitewater has won 22 consecutive games at Perkins Stadium dating back to the 2004 regular season finale.
But before the Warhawks face the Cardinals, they have to survive a quirky week disrupted by the Thanksgiving holiday.
Lance Leipold’s team held a conditioning session on Monday, regular practices on Tuesday and Wednesday and an early session Thursday before players were allowed to head home for a holiday with the families. The team was scheduled for a light workout today in helmets only.
“We wanted to do everything we could to make sure our players had some time on Thanksgiving with their families,” Leipold said.
Several players served as guests for teammates unable to get to their homes and back. Leipold invited a few players to his home. The mother of junior defensive lineman Mike Dufrane, also offered to cook for several Warhawks at the family home in Hortonville.
“We’re like family on this team,” Leipold said. “Everybody took care of everybody.”
But the real business this week is to prepare for North Central, the champions of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW).
“That’s a good football team,” Leipold said. “They might not be as big as Capital, but they’re extremely quick.”
Saturday’s game marks the Cardinals’ third trip to Wisconsin this season.
They scored a 28-7 victory at Mequon in the season opener against Concordia and they added a 56-10 victory over Carthage College at Kenosha.
North Central and Illinois Wesleyan tied for the CCIW title, with the Cardinals earning the league’s automatic berth playoff berth based on its 23-7 victory in the head-to-head matchup.
North Central’s two losses—both at home—were close calls, 16-13 to Washington University (Mo.) and 28-24 to Wheaton College (Ill.).
The Cardinals are coming off a 44-42 victory over Franklin (Ind.) in the first round of the playoffs. That was the highest-scoring game in the opening round of the Division III playoffs.
North Central quarterback Aaron Fanthorpe tied a school record with five TD passes.
Steve Hlavac also tied a school record by hauling in four of Fanthorpe’s scoring strikes.
“Their quarterback is elusive but accurate. He’s the best dual threat we’ve seen this year,” Leipold said.
Fanthorpe has completed 125 of 218 passes for 1,800 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has also carried 149 times for 698 yards and five touchdowns.
It will be up to the Whitewater defense to keep North Central in check. The Warhawks rank second nationally with 25 interceptions, third in turnovers forced (39), ninth in scoring defense (13.3 ppg), and 10th in quarterback sacks (3.64 per game).
Of course, North Central must try to slow down Whitewater’s offense, including Gagliardi Trophy finalist Justin Beaver.
The senior comes into the game with 5,889 career yards, leaving him 111 shy of 6,000 for his magnificent career. He has moved into fourth place all-time in NCAA III career rushing statistics.
The Cardinals use a 3-3-5 defensive scheme built around a solid linebacking corps. Leipold said North Central sophomore Matthew Wenger (5-foot-11, 220 pounds) is one of the best linebackers he has seen all season.
“Their defense can cause a lot of problems,” Leipold said. “But Steve Dinkel, our offensive line coach, does a good job seeing what people do with their defenses and reacting to that.”
A major push is being made to entice Warhawk fans to show up at Perkins Stadium this week. Warhawk booster David Kachel purchased 500 tickets to give away on first-come, first-served basis. All Warhawk fans are invited to attend a pregame tailgate party at the Coulthart Family Pavilion at 10 a.m. Saturday. Fans can score free chili dogs and beverages.
Leipold has a hunch that the opening of Wisconsin’s traditional deer-hunting season played a role in keeping last week’s crowd below what was expected.
“I went into a convenience store Saturday morning to get a cup of coffee. There was a guy in there wearing all blaze orange. I knew he wasn’t going to be at the game,” Leiopld said.
Saturday’s victor faces the winner of the game between 10-1 Wabash (Ind.) and 11-0 Case Western Reserve (Ohio) in a Dec. 1 quarterfinal game.
Last updated: 10:03 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012