The North Central College journey to realize a football dream
The Cardinals’ run to the championship was epic. North Central dominated the CCIW during the regular season, placing second in the conference in defense while leading the conference and ranking second in the nation in offense. A loss to rival Wheaton College on October 5 threatened to upend their championship hopes, but the Cardinals rallied to finish the season 9-1 and earn an at-large bid in the national playoffs.
North Central faced about as tough a path to their Stagg Bowl win as possible. The Cardinals defeated four opponents ranked in D3football.com’s national top 10, including the championship win over No. 7 UW-Whitewater, a quarterfinal victory over No. 9 Delaware Valley University, and an upset of 13-time national champions and No. 2-ranked Mount Union University in the second round. A decisive semifinal victory over No. 4 Muhlenberg College by a score of 45-14 sent the team to its first national championship game in school history.
While the championship victory is a surprise to some, this accomplishment has been a long time in coming for the Cardinals. North Central has won or shared the CCIW championship in 11 of the past 14 seasons. They have appeared in the NCAA Division III playoffs in 10 of those seasons, compiling 17 victories.