Last season, North Central College’s football team entered the season opener against Wisconsin-La Crosse ranked sixth in the nation in Division III and suffered a stunning 21-17 loss, breaking its 24-game home winning streak.
In Saturday’s rematch in Wisconsin, the Cardinals made sure that no such disappointment would start this season.
Again ranked sixth by D3football.com coming into the game, North Central racked up a school-record 674 yards of offense en route to a convincing 41-24 win.
“I thought we were moving the ball quite a bit, but I didn’t realize we had that many yards,” North Central College coach John Thorne told the NCC sports information department. “More and more programs are going to this faster system. We practiced it all spring and through camp, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
The Cardinals ran a whopping 90 plays in the win to help break the yardage record of 669, which was set against Millikin in 2011. Fifth-year senior quarterback Spencer Stanek led the way with arguably the finest game of his North Central career.
He completed 26-of-35 passes for 330 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for a team-high 106 yards on 15 carries. It was the second-most passing yards in a game in his career and only six rushing yards fewer than his entire 2012 season total.
“It was great to come out here and win,” Stanek said. “It’s always nice to start out the season like this. Putting ourselves on the board quickly after they did was important. We had to stay quick on our feet to gain the yards.”
La Crosse (0-2) opened the scoring with a touchdown pass, but North Central wound up taking a 21-10 halftime lead on the strength of touchdown runs of 12 and 13 yards from Stanek and a one-yard scoring plunge from Naperville Central graduate Matt Randolph.
A defensive touchdown from La Crosse cut the lead to 21-17 in the third, but the Cardinals put the hammer down from there. In the second half, Stanek found A.J. Thomas for an eight-yard touchdown and Ryan Kent and Tyler Dicken each had TD runs.
“I’m really happy for the guys,” Thorne said. “They worked hard and came together the way they were supposed to. This is a good program up here.”
North Central kicker Nick Dace connected on five extra points to become the school’s all-time leading scorer with 289 points. Receivers Chad O’Kane (nine catches, 105 yards) and Peter Sorenson (eight catches, 142 yards) each set new career highs in receptions and receiving yardage in the win.
The Cardinals host Wisconsin-Stout (2-0) in their first home game at 1 p.m. Saturday.