Benedictine blanks Lakeland, gaining NCAA Playoff Seed

By: Elana Garay
Staff Writer

Photo by: Tai Cole-Jay

Photo by: Tai Cole-Jay

Benedictine University’s football team beat Lakeland College this past Saturday at the lisle sports complex, earning their second shut out game of the season. This victory advances the Eagles into the NCAA playoffs.

The Eagles need one of the two outcomes to occur. They needed Wisconsin Lutheran to lose or they needed to beat Lakeland by 15 points. Strong determination and motivation surrounded the football field from the crowd, student section and teammates.

The Eagles beat Lakeland with a final score of 16-0. This was an especially memorable game not only because this is the first time in three years that Benedictine has entered the playoffs, but it was also senior day as well.

“This was one of the most exciting wins of my football career. To go through what we went through at the beginning of the season and to come back like we did was a challenge. I am so glad that we stepped up to that challenge as a team,” said senior Stefan Herron.

“Lakeland was a great team win. We knew it was a must to win the game to advance into the playoffs. We had great performances on both sides of the ball. Since it was the last home game for the seniors, we could not have asked for a better way to go out at home,” said senior Tommy DiPonio.

In the first quarter, the first touchdown was made by senior Artie Monaco. Benedictine became in the lead with 6-0. During the second quarter, both teams were unable to score.

In the third quarter, Drew Keil kicked a 22-yard touchdown, extending the lead for Benedictine to 9-0. In the final quarter, Herron made his second interception. Herron’s interception lead to senior Ryan Keener passing the football to Greg German, making the final touchdown of the game. Although this was the final touchdown of the game, it was not the last attempted to score in the game. The Eagles intercepted 4 passes, with half of those interceptions from Herron. Seniors Keil and Rodney Nichols each had an interception as well.

“Playing Lakeland, we knew that they had a fantastic defense and that our offense playing had to be amazing,” said senior Greg Simms.

Benedictine achieved 372 total yards, 216 rushing yards and 156 passing yards. Lakeland had -16 rushing yards and 70 passing yards, giving themselves 70 total yards. Sophomores Omar Lopez caught 6 passes and Jarrett Lecas had 8 tackles.

“This win was a culmination of the belief we had in ourselves and all of the hard work we have put in to make this 5 game winning streak and playoff berth a reality. It was a testament to this senior class to go out with a bang on our home field and live to play another week. The atmosphere the fans created was nothing like I’ve ever seen here,” stated senior Phil Kloc.

At the end of the game, the enthusiastic crowd rushed onto the field to congratulate the team and listened to the different coaches each speak to the boys.

“The moment where we did our first kneel down at the end of the game will always be one of my fondest memories,” stated Herron.

The Eagles will be playing their first playoff game of the season at Wheaton College Saturday, November 22 at 12 p.m. Benedictine is the first school in the NACC to make three appearances in the last five seasons in the NACC.

“We were counted out by everyone when we started out our season 0-3. We believed that we could still be a special team. We kept working to get better everyday and now we are conference champs! Saturday we knew it would be a hard fought game. We came in with a different mentality than the other games and that showed we were deserving of playoff from the first play of the game. This upcoming game against Wheaton is one that our entire team is excited for. We are familiar with Wheaton as an opponent and we really believe that we are going to win this game. We have played them tough before and now it is time to take the next step and beat them,” said senior Alvin Taylor.