Coming into the season, North Central football coach John Thorne said that he was hoping that one of the three candidates to play quarterback would step up and take control of the job early in the season.
Fifth-year senior Spencer Stanek got the first crack at it, and through two games, it doesn’t appear that he’ll be giving that job up anytime soon.
Following up on his CCIW Offensive Player of the Week nod last week, Stanek completed 24-of-26 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns in barely over a half of play, adding 50 yards and a score on the ground. That helped propel the Cardinals to a 41-14 win over UW-Stout in their home opener Saturday.
“I think the original plan was to rotate the first few games and make a decision come conference, but the way Spencer is playing, it’s hard to go with anyone but him,” junior receiver Peter Sorenson said. “Spencer was just great today. He’s just been killing it. It just feels like I have the easy part of the deal.”
For the second straight week, Sorenson established a new career high in receptions as Stanek’s favorite target. He caught eight passes at UW-La Crosse last week and followed that up with a 10-catch, 129-yard performance.
Stanek got the scoring started with a six-yard touchdown run with 3:44 left in the first quarter. He then completed touchdown passes of five and six yards to Sorenson and four and two yards to Ryan Szudarski to push the lead to 34-0 with 11:27 left in the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Dicken took over from there and Waubonsie Valley graduate Dylan Warden also made his collegiate debut for a series under center.
“That’s a pretty great number,” Thorne said of Stanek’s 24-of-26 performance. “Let’s hope he stays on a roll. He’s doing some great things.”
The Cardinals set a program record with 674 yards of offense last week, and they didn’t slow down Saturday. They racked up 584 yards, including 264 yards on the ground. Zach Pattat, a freshman from Byron, led the way with 80 yards on 15 carries.
“Our offense is clicking awesome,” Sorenson said. “It starts up front. Our O-line has been terrific, really setting the tone. They’re establishing the run game. That makes it pretty easy for us on the outside. They have to respect the run and we can take the options presented to us.”
Dicken threw a touchdown pass to Ryne Rezac on the first play of the fourth quarter to cap the scoring for NCC. Stout (2-1) scored two late touchdowns to break the shutout.
Offensively, the only criticism that Thorne could find was the lack of big plays. The Cardinals had only three plays of at least 30 yards, a 39-yard pass from Stanek to A.J. Thomas, a 32-yard pass from Stanek to Sorenson and a 30-yard Stanek run.
“There were a lot of really good things there,” Thorne said. “The good thing is that we’re getting a lot of first downs (36). The bad thing is that we’re not getting a lot of explosion plays.”
Defensively, Nick Slezak led the way with nine tackles and a sack. Josh Beveridge and Josh Fick also recorded sacks and Shane Dierking picked off the 10th pass of his career.
North Central is back in action at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium next Saturday at 1 p.m. against UW-Stevens Point in the final non-conference game before CCIW play begins at Elmhurst the following week.