Division-III Football Playoffs: Round 2 Preview: Wheaton vs. John Carroll
Match-Up: On Saturday at 1 P.M. Eastern Time the Wheaton College Thunder will play host to the John Carroll University Blue Streaks in the second round of the NCAA Division-III playoffs. Both of these teams are ranked in the top-10 in the final regular season D3Football poll, with Wheaton coming in at No. 8 and John Carroll at No. 6.
How They Got Here:
The Thunder rolled out to a 28-7 halftime lead over Benedictine University on route to a 43-14 win. That made Wheaton 8-0 in opening round games all-time.
The Thunder jumped out on top of their first possession when Danny Puknaltis scored from three yards out to make it 7-0. On the team’s second possession Johnny Peltz completed a 12-yard pass to Luke Thorson for the score, and the team rolled from there.
The Thunder put up 542 yards of total offense, including 325 on the ground. Puknaltis finished with 121 yards on the ground on just 18 carries and he scored twice. Luke Thorson had 7 catches for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns.
John Carroll made quick work of the Centre Colonels by scoring 28 points in the first quarter on their way to a 63-28 win. The 63-points was a school record, and got started when Kelly Culbertson returned the opening kickoff 94-yards for the touchdown. On Centre’s first possession of the game Michael Hollins picked off a Heath Haden pass and returned it 43-yards for another score. The Blue Streaks’ offense hadn’t even been on the field, and the team led 14-0.
The defense for the Blue Streak intercepted three passes on the afternoon and had four sacks. Mark Myers had a spectacular game for John Carroll, completing 24 of 30 attempts for 264 yards and 5 touchdowns. Tommy Michals rushed for 150 yards on just 17 carries and scored twice, and Marshall Howell and Brendan Carozzoni each had two touchdown receptions.
John Carroll can simply do it all. They run well (2163 yards) and QB Mark Myers is just a machine out there, leading the nation in passer efficiency at 189.6. He has passed for 2837 yards during the season, with 37 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. Unreal numbers. He is incredibly proficient and accurate, and when he is on a roll he is a sniper.
Marshall Howell and Aramis Greenwood continue to light it up at the receiver position. Howell has now caught 57 passes for 922 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Greenwood has 45 catches for 812 yards and 9 TDs. On the ground Michals continues to move the ball, now with 1349 yards and 18 touchdowns.
With the 4 sacks and 3 interceptions the Blue Streaks had this last Saturday the team now has 30 sacks, 16 interceptions and 21 forced fumbles. This is a team that can get a sack from any player and they also play incredible pass defense. Michael Hollins had 27 pass breakups/defenses.
The Wheaton Thunder offense can do it all as well. They rushed for 2053 yards and had 2626 yards of passing. They have a running game by committee that features tailback Jesse Geary and quarterback Johnny Peltz. Geary gained 623 rushing and 6 TDs. Peltz rushed for 568 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also threw for 1384 yards and 13 TDs. The Thunder will also play Reece Butler, who had 1040 yards passing and 7 scores. Combined the two quarterbacks have only thrown 5 picks.
No matter who is throwing the ball, Luke Thorson will go up and get it. He now has 63 catches for 827 yards and 14 touchdowns. Keegan Kemp added 48 catches for 694 yards and 2 TDs.
Adam Dansdill is the leader of this defense and with good reason. His 123 tackles is an unbelievable number. That would be incredible on its own, but he can play excellent pass coverage as well, making 21 pass breakups/defenses, a pick and a sack. He just seems to be everywhere, which is much like how the Thunder’s defense plays. 30 sacks, 13 interceptions, and 7 fumble recoveries shows that this team is just as formidable on defense.
What could be better than a battle of the No. 6 team vs. the No. 8 team on the second weekend of the NCAA Division-III playoffs? This should be an absolutely amazing matchup between two teams that are incredibly well coached and very skilled. The smallest mistake could cost a team victory, but I don’t see that as a deciding factor. Michals is going to be the big difference for the John Carroll Blue Streaks, and so I expect him to lead his team to victory. John Carroll wins 31-27.
By Robert Pannier