No. 8 CLU hosts No. 14 NCC in First Round Action
Game 10 for CLU: This Saturday, Nov. 17, the No. 8 Cal Lutheran Kingsmen (8-1) host their first-ever NCAA Division III Football Playoff game as they take on the No. 14 North Central (Ill.) Cardinals (8-2) in the First Round. Kickoff is set for noon at Rolland Stadium in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Playoff Central has everything you need to know about the event.
Ticket Information: Tickets are available online, at the Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center in the Main Athletics Offices on the second floor beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at noon through Friday, Nov. 16 during business hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or 90 minutes prior to kickoff outside of Rolland Stadium.
Tickets purchased on site Saturday will be CASH ONLY. Cash or credit cards will be accepted for presale tickets. Prices can be found here.
Series History: Saturday’s meeting will be the first time the teams will meet. Cal Lutheran and North Central did have one common opponent this season, Redlands.
North Central came out to Southern California earlier this season and returned home with a decisive 42-16 win over the then No. 14 ranked Bulldogs.
Cal Lutheran faced Redlands a few weeks later and a year after staging a dramatic 24-point comeback, CLU raced out to a 28-7 lead midway through the second quarter and held on for a 45-35 win.
Playoff History: The Kingsmen will be making their fourth-straight NCAA Division III Playoff appearance. Cal Lutheran was defeated in the first round each of the past three seasons by west region foe Linfield (Ore.).
North Central will be making their seventh overall appearance in the post season, holding a 6-6 record. The Cardinals advanced to the second round of the playoffs last season, defeating the University of Dubuque, 59-13, in the first round before falling 29-28 at Wabash in the second.
About Cal Lutheran: The Kingsmen are ranked No. 8 by D3football.com after last week’s 38-28 victory over Chapman. With the win CLU clinched its fourth-straight SCIAC championship and the 2012 senior became the first class in school history to never lose a conference game in their careers.
The road to four-straight wasn’t an easy one however. CLU trailed Chapman 14-7 at halftime, the first time all season the Kingsmen were behind going into the half.
The Kingsmen, however, wasted little time before tying things back up as wide receiver Eric Rogers hauled in a 32-yard touchdown catch three minutes into the second half.
Chapman would respond with a touchdown drive of their own, making the score 21-14 but it would be all CLU the rest of the way.
Wide receiver Donald Senegal would have touchdown receptions on back-to-back drives as the Kingsmen regained the lead 28-21 a minute into fourth quarter.
Kicker David Sandler would tack on a 30-yard field goal a few minutes later and freshman running back Romello Goodman iced the victory with a 34-yard touchdown run with a little more than two minutes left in the game.
The Kingsmen continue to be led by Rogers, the third-leading receiver in Division III. The senior wide-out now has 82 receptions for 1,187 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. He now owns the single-season record in all three categories, also surpassing the former season scoring total to etch his name in the record books for a fourth time. Displaying his versatility, Rogers has also run for three touchdowns and thrown for a score as well.
Quarterback Zach Shultis is second in the nation in passing efficiency. The senior from Thousand Oaks, Calif. has thrown for 1,698 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. His quarterback rating of 186.01 is right behind Division III leader Kevin Burke of Mount Union, who has a rating of 193.4.
Shultis also doubles as the team’s place-kicker, converting all 45 PAT’s he has attempted this season.
The offensive line consisting of tackles Jordan Austin and Andrew Pankow, guards Ty Olson and Andrew Gessler and center Seth Zimmerman has paved the way for CLU all season. The Kingsmen are averaging over 526 yards of total offense per game, which ranks them fifth in Division III.
Running behind the Kingsmen offensive line has been freshman Romello Goodman. The running back from Corona, Calif. has rushed for 1,055 yards and eight touchdowns. Goodman is also second on the team with 15 explosive plays, described as a play of 20 yards of more, this season.
Goodman and Senegal are tied for second on the team in receptions, both with 27. Senegal has 261 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches.
Defensively, Cal Lutheran has been led by safety Derrick Romo. In his first year with Kingsmen, Romo is the leading tackler, finishing the regular season with 73 total stops, including 44 solo.
Fellow safety Broc Galbreth is second on the team in tackles, recording 70 total with 42 coming unassisted. Galbreth also leads the team in interceptions with four.
Defensive lineman Anthony Monroe has come on strong in the latter stages of the season. The sophomore piled up 15 tackles against La Verne two weeks ago and then had 10 last week against Chapman, including two sacks for a loss of 37 combined yards.
Cornerbacks Caius Radu and Vince Minor have each picked off passes this season, with Minor returning his 36 yards for a touchdown.
Minor has also been a threat on special teams returning one punt for a touchdown while averaging over 18 yards per return, which ranks fourth in Division III.
About North Central: The Cardinals enter Saturday’s playoff game 8-2 overall. Last Saturday saw The Cardinals defeat Augustana 37-6 and clinch a share of their seventh consecutive College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) championship. Cornerback Josh Mitchell guided the Cardinals to the win, returning six punts for 224 yards, including an 80-yard return for a touchdown in the first quarter.
The Cardinals are led by a duo of running backs, Nick Kukuc and Jordan Tassio. Kukuc has rushed for 1,009 yards on the season, averaging nearly eight yards a carry en route to scoring 14 touchdowns, while Tassio has rushed for 455 yards with 14 rushing touchdowns as well.
Quarterback Spencer Stanek was efficient in the regular season, throwing for 2,123 yards, connecting for 17 touchdowns with just five interceptions.
Stanek has been diverse in his distribution of the ball as North Central has four receivers with over 20 catches. Peter Sorenson and Jeff Stolzenburg lead the receiving corps with five touchdown catches apiece and Chad O’Kane is the team leader with 443 yards.
The North Central offensive line is one of the biggest in Division III, averaging 6-4, 275 lbs. across the line. The Cardinals start two solid tackles in Jace Werkheiser (6-6, 298 lbs.) and Greg Whalen (6-6, 285 lbs.).
Field goal kicker, Nick Dace, has a strong leg, connecting on two field goals over 50 yards this season.
Statistically, the Cardinals boast the twelfth best defense in Division III, holding their opponents to 259 yards of total offense per game. The North Central defense has been opportunistic, intercepting 18 passes and average over eight tackles for loss per game.
Linebacker Joey Michals is the Cardinals top tackler, tallying 66 during the regular season. The senior from Frankfort Ill. also has two interceptions including a 39-yard return for a touchdown against Illinois Wesleyan.
Strong safety Shane Dierking is the second leading tackler with 55 total, 36 coming unassisted. The junior strong safety leads the team in interceptions with four.
A trio of defensive linemen have at least five sacks each as freshman Josh Beveridge leads with five and half sacks while Josh Focosi and Alex Tripp each have five.
About the Coaches:
Cal Lutheran head coach Ben McEnroe is in his sixth year at the helm of the Kingsmen football program, where he has compiled a 44-11 overall record. A former All-SCIAC center for the Kingsmen, McEnroe joined his alma-mater in 1993 as the offensive line coach. In 1998, he joined Division II Humboldt State, and in 2003, was named the head coach of Chaminade High School. After leading Chaminade to four straight CIF playoff appearances, McEnroe was named head coach at Cal Lutheran in 2006.
Since then, McEnroe has led Cal Lutheran to five conference titles in six seasons, including consecutive Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) championships in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The Kingsmen have now won 27 straight league games. Coach McEnroe and his coaching staff recruited both 2011 SCIAC Players of the Year, Jake Laudenslayer (Offense) and Justin Haulcy-Bateman (Defense).
North Central head coach John Thorne is in his eleventh year at the helm of the Cardinals football program. With a career record of 96-26, Thorn is the school’s all-time leader in wins. In his time at NCC, Thorn has led the Cardinals to seven straight CCIW titles.
2008 was a banner year for Thorn and the Cardinals as NCC went 11-1 and garnered a No. 2 from D3football.com ranking for much of the season.
Prior to coaching the Cardinals, Thorn was the head coach of Wheaton Warrenville South High School for 22 seasons. Under Thorn’s tutelage, WWSHS captured four state championships and two runner-up finishes.
Coach McEnroe on North Central: Saturday will mark the first time a SCIAC member has hosted a NCAA Playoff game in eight years. When asked what it meant to host a post season game, Coach McEnroe said, “This game is an hour, anytime the NCAA selects an institution to host a playoff game to our University, administration, facilities and student-athletes. We are honored.”
Despite being excited to host the playoff game, McEnroe is quick to point out the Cardinals would be a tough test for any Division III team, “North Central is a very sound, solid football ball team.” He continued, “NCC has a big, strong offensive line, their backs are talented and a solid defensive line too, they’re just a very good football team.”
With two running backs that have a combined 28 touchdowns this season, CLU’s sixth year coach talked about defensive assignments being key in stopping the Cardinal offense, “Their QB is very capable of running and their tailbacks can hit a home run anywhere on the field. We have to be assignment-sound, guys have to run to the football and get blocks to survive it.”
“We’ve seen option teams in the past and teams that run various option schemes but every game is different.”
When they Kingsmen have the ball, McEnroe believes whoever controls the line of scrimmage will determine the winner, “Their defensive front will run a lot of games and stunts or zone drop with them, a lot of things you can do with good players.”
But the former offensive line coach doesn’t believe a new game plan is in order, “We’re not going to change our approach; we’ll challenger them with our offensive line and power run game, and we’ll challenge them to defend the entire field, both vertically and laterally.”
Guiding the offense will be Shultis, who responded after throwing his first interception in five games by going 13-16 for 170 yards in the second half alone in CLU’s come-from-behind win over Chapman last week. “I think he came out at the start trying to put the game on his shoulders and was pressing, “ McEnroe said.
“But it’s a credit to him and Coach Richardson that he never got flustered and started to let the game come to him. It was a great performance but also a valuable learning opportunity that he doesn’t have to carry the team, just give his teammates the opportunity to make plays.”
Coach McEnroe’s keys to victory:
- Play the play in front of us.
- Slow their running game.
- Win with our offensive line.