Cougars clinch share of conference title

Cougars clinch share of conference title

Courtesy of Concordia University Chicago

AURORA, Ill. -- The Concordia Chicago Cougars are co-champions of the Northern Athletics Conference following today's 42-14 win over the Aurora University Spartans at AU's Vago Field. The Cougars tied for the title with Benedictine University after the Eagles' 23-21 loss to Wisconsin Lutheran College. Both teams finished with 6-1 records in NCA play, although Benedictine owns the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA III playoffs by virtue of their win over the Cougars Oct. 1.

Concordia took today's game through a familiar method - one big offensive quarter. This afternoon, it was the second quarter that saw Concordia score 21 unanswered points to take control of the game.

The defenses controlled much of the first quarter, but the Cougars had the edge in field possession. Late in the quarter, that edge translated into points as an Aurora penalty against Concordia punt returner C.J. Pasley (St. Louis, MO/Lutheran North) gave the Cougars possession at the Spartans' 40. A Jake Koehler (Belvidere, IL/Rockford Lutheran) to Jamal Thomas (Weirsdale, FL/Lake Weir) pass picked up a first down. Runs by Sherman Jones ((Pensacola, FL/J.M. Tate) and Andrew Maddox (Gainesville, FL/P.K. Yonge) put the Cougars in the red zone. Moments later, Maddox slipped through a hole on the right side and scored from 11 yards out. The extra point by Danny Colapietro (Chicago, IL/Maine South) gave Concordia the 7-0 lead with 3:14 remaining in the quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Concordia stopped Aurora on fourth down at the 25 and went back to work. A 13-yard completion to Savonte Hunt (Archer, FL/Buchholz) picked up 13 yards on third down, and a 16-yard run by Thomas gained another first down at the Spartans' 32. From there, Koehler got around the left end and raced untouched into the end zone for the touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

The momentum continued to build for the visitors, even after penalty flags wiped out a big interception return by Matt Rolf (Rochester, MI/Lutheran Northwest) and later a 33-yard completion to Hunt. Koehler connected with Thomas on a high-arcing pass to the right sideline that gave the Cougars a first-and-goal at the three. A penalty set Concordia back five yards, but Koehler took the next snap and raced up the middle to the end zone to put the visitors up 21-0.

Concordia's special teams set up the final score of the half. Ryan Kastner's (South Bend, IN/Clay) punt was mishandled, and James Washington (Montgomery, IL/Oswego East) came up with the ball at the one. A first-down run was stuffed, but Koehler came back with a five-yard pass to Thomas in the left flat. The Cougars led 28-0 with 2:14 remaining, and the half would end with that same score.

The Cougars outgained the Spartans 242-95 in the half with Koehler accounting for 195 of the yards. Koehler rushed for 110 yards on nine carries and threw for 85 on seven completions in 16 tries. The Spartans rushed for 56 yards and threw for 39 as Noah Martin was 4-9 passing.

Jones began the second half with a 43-yard run with Aurora's defensive back making a touchdown-saving tackle from behind. The Cougars then fumbled on the next play, giving the Spartans possession at their 39. Ten plays later, Aurora was in the end zone as Martin found Jordan Peterson behind the secondary for a 39-yard touchdown.

A Cougar penalty on the extra point allowed the Spartans to kick from the 45. Aurora elected to go with the onside kick, but Concordia's Chris Decker (Ocala, FL/St. John Lutheran) foiled the strategy by picking up the football and rambling 55 yards for the Cougars' first kick return touchdown of the season and a 35-7 lead.

Aurora answered in the first minute of the fourth quarter on a 39-yard Martin to Evan Hackbarth pass on fourth down. The Spartans then caught a break as the Cougars let the ensuing kickoff fall near the sideline. The Spartans alertly recovered at the Cougars' 30 with thoughts of a comeback beginning to take shape. However, a sack by Marcus Frazier (Chicago, IL/Evergreen Park) forced the hosts into a fourth-and-long, and an incomplete pass ended the Spartans' threat.

Aurora's next possession saw them in Concordia's end of the field again. This time, Michael Dingman (Glendale, AZ/Barry Goldwater) came up with the big play as he dropped Brandon Trujillo in the backfield on a fourth-and-one at the 29.

Concordia would add the final seven points of the game in the final minute. Koehler recorded his third touchdown run of the day, this one from 24 yards out. The Cougars' quarterback finished with 139 yards on 15 carries. The total marked Koehler's second 100-yard rushing game of the year following a 144-yard effort Oct. 15 versus Rockford College.

The Cougars amassed 342 total yards on 238 rushing and 104 passing. Thomas was Concordia's leading receiver with five catches for 65 yards. Defensively, Jason Mielzynski (Chicago, IL/St. Laurence) made 12 tackles (six solo), followed by Dingman and Beckman with 10 each. Decker recorded nine tackles to go with his kick return touchdown.

The Spartans finished with 291 yards on 136 rushing, 155 passing. Trujillo led the ground game with 109 yards on 37 carries while Martin accounted for the passing yardage on 12 of 24. Peterson led Aurora's receivers with four catches for 69 yards. Cory Young was the Spartans' top tackler with 12 total (six solo).

Concordia (7-2, 6-1 NAC) will finish the regular season next Saturday with the resumption of their Sept. 3 contest against Lake Forest College. Play will resume at noon with the Cougars trailing 28-26 with 7:20 left in the second quarter.