Written by News Bulletin News Sources
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:00
North Central College football players walked off the field at Bethel University feeling a numbness comprised of equal parts frostbite and euphoria Saturday, fighting its way past sub-zero temperatures and a sturdy opponent to post a 41-17 victory over the Royals in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Football Championship at Royal Stadium.
The win advances the Cardinals (13-0) to the national semifinals for the first time, where they will face top-rankedand defending national champion Mount Union for the opportunity to advance to the national championship game.
Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. (CT) Saturday at Mount Union Stadium in Alliance, Ohio.
"I was very proud of the way our guys played today," said North Central head coach John Thorne. "Bethel is a wonderful team and they're very well-coached so we knew it would be a hard-fought game.
"The weather and the field and all that kind of stuff made it difficult, but it's also going to turn into a day that both teams are going to remember forever. It was a very interesting day, a lot of fun, and we're very excited to have the chance to move on."
On a day when the temperature stayed in the negative digits and a natural-grass field worn down by a long season was particularly unforgiving, North Central entered the game prepared to tackle the elements as well as its opponent.
"The coaches prepared us to stay warm," said senior defensive back Shane Dierking, who became the Cardinals' all-time leader in interceptions (16) while also recovering a fumble and recording a team-high 10 tackles to enter North Central's career top 10. "Once the game started, it wasn't that big of a factor. Cutting and breaking was a little difficult, but there are going to be games like that in the playoffs so it was good to see us overcome those things."
The Cardinals were also boosted for the second straight game by junior Ryan Kent. Carrying the ball a career-high 28 times, Kent gained 109 yards and tied a North Central single-game record with four rushing touchdowns for the second straight week.
"It's all the offensive line and the playcalling," Kent said. "There are huge holes to run through, and when you're running behind a line like that, I can't take too much credit for it."
"I've played in cold games before, but the field was pretty hard. It was like playing on cement. I don't think we were too limited in our ability to make cuts, it was just when you hit the ground there were elbows and knees getting cut open."
Stanek completed 15 of 27 passes for 249 yards, becoming North Central's all-time single-season leader in completions (245) and passing yards (3,297) while becoming the first Cardinal quarterback to throw at least 40 touchdown passes in a season (41). Sorenson caught seven passes for a game-high 109 yards.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 11:09