Cardinals cruise into second round
By Paul LaTour For Sun-Times Media November 20, 2010 11:27PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
For much of the season, John Thorne was looking for the North Central College offense to have a breakout performance.
It’s not that the Cardinals weren’t performing well with the ball, just that Thorne believed they could be even better.
On Saturday, he got what he’s been looking for.
The fifth-ranked Cardinals scored on their first nine possessions and rolled up 612 yards in a dominating 57-7 victory over St. Norbert College in an NCAA Division III first-round playoff game Saturday at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.
In his first postseason start, quarterback Spencer Stanek completed his first seven passes and finished 12 of 14 for 262 yards and four touchdowns before giving way to Brad Crackel early in the third quarter.
“(Stanek) really had a breakout game,” said Thorne, who improved his postseason coaching record to 4-4. “We’ve talked about how we were close, close, close with the offense. I’m hoping (Saturday) was the real Cardinals offense that you’re going to see for the rest of the playoffs.”
NCC (11-0), the top-seeded team in the North Region, faces No. 4-seed Ohio Northern (10-1) in a second-round game at noon Saturday at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium. Ohio Northern advanced with a 37-14 victory over Wittenberg, also Saturday.
The Cardinals have never won a second-round game (0-3), but improved to 4-1 in the first round.
Stanek, a sophomore former Lincoln-Way East standout, threw three touchdowns on his first four attempts as the Cardinals built a 20-0 lead after one quarter. The lead ballooned to 36-0 at halftime. They added 21 second-half points before the Green Knights (7-4) spoiled the shutout bid with 35 seconds left.
NCC set school records for points and yardage in a playoff game. Their total offense was fourth-best overall in school history.
“We felt comfortable with every play call coming in,” said sophomore Jordan Tassio, who ran for a game-high 87 yards and one touchdown. “We felt we could make a great play out of anything.”
That’s just what they did. Stanek found tight end Kyle Fiedorowicz for 41-yard touchdown on the game’s fourth play. On their next possession, Stanek threw to the other tight end, Jeff Grunwald, for a 2-yard touchdown on a drive that featured a 45-yard completion to Fiedorowicz.
Stanek’s third scoring pass came on his fourth attempt, a 37-yarder to Manny Juarez. Stanek’s final scoring pass went to Joey Antonacci for a 49-yard touchdown just before halftime. Crackel, who missed the past two games with a cracked rib, was 4 of 5 for 71 yards and one touchdown replacing Stanek.
The defense did its part, too, holding the Green Knights to only 121 yards through three quarters. St. Norbert finished with 271 yards, but threw three interceptions.
“We did a nice job — a lot of guys got in and were able to do good things on the field,” linebacker Matt Wenger said. “It showed in how we were able to hold them to seven points. When you hold a team to seven points, you’re usually going to win the game.”
It doesn’t hurt when the offense has already put up 57 points, either.