Turnovers costly for Cardinals
By Paul LaTour For the Sun December 4, 2010 5:58PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
All season so many things had gone in favor of the North Central College football team it was difficult to believe the good fortune wouldn’t always continue.
And it did remain for most of the Cardinals’ game against the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater on Saturday. For nearly three quarters the Cardinals were playing a near-perfect game.
Then it all went wrong. Turnovers on three consecutive drives turned a three-point lead into a 20-10 defeat in the NCAA Division III quarterfinal game at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.
“The ball took some really bad bounces,” Cardinals coach John Thorne said. “One of our tallest receivers, it’s in his hands and bounces up into the air into the hands of their player. Those are bad breaks. But you can’t make those mistakes.”
The play Thorne referred to came less than 30 seconds left in the third quarter. Spencer Stanek threw to Kyle Fiedorowicz on third down, but the ball ended up in the hands of Sam Overton. The Warhawks converted that into a touchdown 1:14 into the fourth quarter.
Stanek then fumbled on a long second-down play. The ball was picked up by Luke Hibner to account for the second turnover. The Warhawks kicked a field goal to go up 17-10 with 6:06 to play.
“We came in knowing whatever adversity we were going to face we needed to stay cool because that’s when we as an offense played our best all year,” NCC wide receiver Steve Hlavac said of the turnovers. “We don’t put pressure on ourselves and we don’t press. There were just a few things that didn’t fall in our favor at the end.”
Hibner was at it again on the next drive, intercepting a pass after he batted it down at the line and then juggled before returning it 33 yards to the Cardinals’ 3.
“I came around the edge and threw my hands up — I don’t even know these hands even touched the ball but they did,” Hibner said. “Next thing I knew I was running downfield. I thought I had blacked out. It was one of those plays I’ll probably never make again.”
The Cardinals defense once again came up strong, holding the Warhawks to another field goal, which made it 20-10 with 2:03 to play.
Just like that, the Cardinals’ good fortune was gone and a record-setting season was over.