Full steam ahead
BY PAUL LATOUR For The Sun November 14, 2010 9:28PM
NCAA Division III Playoffs: Round 1
NCC (10-0) vs. St. Norbert College (DePere, Wis.) (7-3)
Noon Saturday at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Many similarities exist for North Central College between this football season and the 2008 one.
In both seasons the Cardinals won the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, completed an unbeaten regular season and earned a No. 1 seed in their NCAA Division III playoff bracket.
This year’s squad hopes the similarities end there.
In 2008 NCC was upended by Franklin College in the second round at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium, preventing the Cardinals from advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time in school history.
“We thought, ‘Oh we’re the No. 1 seed,’ so we might have taken our opponent lightly,” said fifth-year senior Matt Wenger, a first-team coaches’ All-American linebacker selection in 2008. “But you can never underestimate anybody. Every team in the playoffs is good.”
The Cardinals’ earning one of the four top seeds in the brackets came as a surprise to many — especially those at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. The defending national champion Warhawks (10-0) were ranked first in the nation every week this season in both the coaches and D3football.com polls.
The Warhawks, owners of an NCAA-best 25-game winning streak, were given the No. 2 seed in the same bracket as the Cardinals. The other top seeds are Wesley College, the University of St. Thomas and the University of Mount Union.
“It’s interesting, that’s for sure,” Cardinals strong safety Derek Sulo said. “I didn’t think we’d be the No. 1 seed over Whitewater in our bracket. We were all hoping for the No. 1 seed, but we thought Whitewater would be shipped off. But we’ll take it.”
The Cardinals (10-0) play host to St. Norbert College of DePere, Wis., in the opening round at noon Saturday at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium. The Green Knights (7-3) won the Midwest Conference title to earn an automatic bid.
Finding out the first-round opponent gave the Cardinals something tangible to focus on after finishing the regular season with a 61-7 victory over visiting North Park University on Saturday.
“We were all wondering what was going to happen,” cornerback Scott Hogan said.
“There were so many different projections out there. We were anxious just to see who were going to get to play so we could get back to work.”
The fifth-ranked Cardinals reached the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. They are 3-4 in the postseason. The Green Knights are making their first appearance since 2007 and carry a 1-8 playoff record.
Wheaton College (9-1) earned a No. 2 seed in the St. Thomas bracket and plays host to Coe College on Saturday. Benedictine University (8-2) plays at St. Thomas.