Warhawks move on
North Central (Ill.) head coach Jim Thorne’s consolation was making heavily favored UW-Whitewater worry about its playoff life after the Cardinals drew to within three points of the lead early in third quarter.
Unfortunately for Thorne, Whitewater’s worries promptly turned into a 35-7 second half explosion that sent his team home with a painful 59-28 loss in a NCAA Division III second round contest at Perkins Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Whitewater (11-1) moves on to host Wabash (Ind.) at noon Saturday in a Division III quarterfinal matchup. The Little Giants advanced after knocking off Case Western Reserve (Ohio), 38-23.
Quarterfinals aside, Whitewater head coach Lance Leipold is still focusing on his team’s incomplete performance against North Central.
“I don’t want to say we get relaxed, but it’s my responsibility to keep up our intensity,” said Leipold who saw his team nearly surrender a 21-point advantage.
Dominic Sulo’s 1-yard touchdown run early in the third cut Whitewater’s advantage to just 24-21.
Sulo’s run, however, wound up marking the beginning of the end for North Central.
Two plays later, Whitewater quarterback Danny Jones put a fork in the Cardinals’ momentum with a 70-yard touchdown pass to Matt Gifford.
“I thought that play was huge because they (North Central) had the momentum at halftime and then they went down the field and scored, and it was a three-point game,” Jones said. “When you can make a big play like that, it kind of takes a lot out of the other team.”
Thorne agreed that momentum was a key to the loss.
“Momentum is a big thing in football and in most any sport, but its really huge in football,” Thorne said. “We had it for a while, and we let it slip away, which is always a bad thing against a really good team.”
From that point, running back Justin Beaver made sure the Warhawks never relinquished momentum. The senior from Palmyra-Eagle High School used two second-half touchdown runs of 47 and 40 yards to become just the fourth running back in NCAA Division III history to eclipse the 6,000 yard mark.
“I guess you can just look back at the years, and it’s been a wild run,” said Beaver, who racked up 241 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns.” A lot of people have helped from coaches, players, and family, and it adds up after a long time.”
Beaver began adding up his yardage on the second play of the game when he broke loose for a 74-yard touchdown run.
Beaver’s run was the first of six Warhawk touchdowns on plays of 30 or yards.
“The plays reminded me of last year and the year before when we used to just base our offense on big plays,” Beaver said.
Whitewater kept the big plays rolling with Jones’ 2-yard touchdown run and Matt Blaziewske’s 35-yard touchdown interception return and jumped ahead 21-0 in the first.
But the Cardinals stormed back with a pair of Steve Hlavac second-quarter touchdown receptions of 38 and 21 yards.
Nick Croak’s 25-yard field goal briefly slowed the second-quarter swing and gave Whitewater a 24-14 halftime advantage.
North Central eventually cut the deficit to three before Beaver and Gifford each added two touchdowns, and defensive end Ryan Ogrizovich chipped in with a 40-yard touchdown interception return to ensure the victory.
“This game probably was a lot tighter than what the score indicated,” Leipold said.
UW-WHITEWATER 59, NORTH CENTRAL COLLEGE 28
North Central 0 14 7 7—28
UW-Whitewater 21 3 14 21—59
UWW—Justin Beaver, 74 run (Nick Croak kick), 14:03. UWW—Danny Jones, 2 run (Croak kick), 6:25. UWW—Matt Blaziewske, 35 interception return (Croak Kick), 5:14.
NCC—Steve Hlavac, 38 pass from Aaro Fanthorpe (Ben Aguilar kick), 8:10. UWW—FG, Croak, 25, 4:04. NCC—Hlavac, 21 pass from Fanthorpe (Afuilar kick), :20.
NCC—Doninic Sulo, 1 run (Aguilar kick), 9:34. UWW—Matt Gifford, 70 pass from Jones (Croak kick), 9:18. UWW—Beaver, 47 run (Croak kick), 2:49.
NCC—Sulo, 1 run (Aguilar kick), 14:06. UWW—Gifford, 15 pass from Jones (Croak kick), 10:22. UWW—Beaver, 40 run (Croak kick), 8:06. UWW—Ryan Orgizovich, 40 interception return (Croak kick), 7:44.
First downs 20 20
Rushes-yards 37-109 49-310
Passing 237 168
Comp-Att-Int 18-47-2 10-19-1
Return Yards 98 176
Punts-Avg. 5-35 5-27.8
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 4-2
Penalties-Yards 7-47 4-40
Time of Possession 28:24 31:36
RUSHING—North Central, Fanthorpe 21-62, Sulo 14-51. UW-Whitewater, Beaver 29-241, Derek Underwood 4-30, Jones 11-18, Brady Pitts 4-17, Jeff Donovan 1-4.
PASSING—North Central, Fanthorpe 18-47-2-237. UW-Whitewater, Jones 10-19-1-168.
RECEIVING—North Central, Hlavac 9-155, Sulo 3-17, Scott Hogan 2-30, Perry Welch 2-19, Moe Mastriono 2-16. UW-Whitewater, Neil Mrkvicka 4-52, Gifford 2-85, Aaron Rusch 2-19, Nick Slupski 2-12.