College of DuPage repeats national title
College Of DuPage was looking to repeat its National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III national title of a season ago.
North Dakota State College Of Science was looking to bring back to its Wahpeton, N.D. campus just over the Minnesota border a first national title for a program whose roots trace back all the way to 1909.
Thanks to a combination of timely defensive stands plus a successful running game by committee, the host Chapparals grounded out a 14-12 victory at Bjarne Ullsvik Stadium on Glen Ellyn's COD campus to earn its second consecutive non-scholarship national crown before a packed house Saturday afternoon.
"Our defense was phenomenal. On offense we had our struggles but at the end of the day the strongest thing about this team is how they don't give up," DuPage coach Matt Rahn said. "These kids are champions because of that. It's a great feeling. I couldn't be more proud of these guys."
With DuPage (9-2) up 7-6 with 7:05 left until halftime after a 25-yard Gavin Sukup TD pass to Marquel Porter and a 63-yard Graedyn Buell TD strike to Marsello Mendez providing the NDS response, the Wildcats (10-2) made another charge in the half's final minute.
North Dakota got to the COD 12-yard line where Hinsdale Central freshman product Guy Goss sacked Buell (12-22 passing for 196 yards) for a 6-yard loss which came after a 6-yard tackle for loss from game MVP Byron Puryear on the previous play.
Defensive Back Goss then broke up a pass attempt from NDSCS on an aborted pass attempt that began as a 41-yard field goal try.
"We got a defense that grinded (it) all year," Goss said. "We felt good about the matchup today. They had a couple of big plays and that happens. This whole year we've been saying that big plays happen (but) we're not going to let you drive all the way down the field and score on us."
The Chaparrals successfully implemented a three-way running back rotation featuring sophomore Randy Young and a pair of redshirt freshmen in Brian Trobel and Glenbard West alum Samson Zander.
The trio ran for 155 yards including a 15-yard TD run by Young (12 carries, 66 yards) that expanded the lead to 14-6 with 11:27 left in the third.
Zander, a reverse transfer from Indiana Wesleyan, credited their success to an ability to both respect as well as trust their respective styles.
"We have a rotation (that) we know what we need to do and we ended up executing our jobs and that's all it matters," said Zander, who carried 11 times for 47 yards.
And when it mattered most, the COD defense came up big in the fourth. It stopped Buell on a game-tying two-point conversion run after he had scored on a 17-yard keeper with 13:41 left that kept the Chaparrals up 14-12.
It then held the Wildcats at the DuPage 26 when Buell faced the onslaught of a rush from Wheaton North redshirt freshman LaJuan Hill with 9:04 left which forced an incomplete pass.
DuPage got another key play by Goss with a hit and strip of Wildcats receiver Brady Borgen after a 20-yard completion at the NDSCS 35 with 2:50 to play.
DuPage clinched the championship trophy when Puryear sacked Buell on the game's final play leaving Rahn appreciative of the postgame bath he received from his players even as the windchill was in the teens throughought the game.
"Actually, the water's warmer than the air."