Jeff Thorne on awards, senior day, Playoffs as he and the North Central Cardinals football team prepare to defend their national title.
“It’s been an exciting few days,” Thorne said of his team’s victory, conference championship, and numerous accolades.
Thorne was named CCIW coach of the year for the second time, and 17 different Cardinals were named to the CCIW all conference teams.
“It’s special just because you’ve had so many guys come back for another year and it’s worked out well so far,” Thorne said of the success the fifth-year seniors have helped bring as leaders of the team.
North Central also became the top-scoring offense this season in all of Division III football with 84 points in their season finale against North Park in which they broke the CCIW single game yardage record. That was led by the offensive line and running backs, who helped rack up 591 yards on the ground.
“I’m just really proud of the depth we’ve been able to develop over the course of the year,” Thorne said, a compliment both to the numerous running backs beyond Ethan Greenfield and Terrence Hill who have contributed this season as well as the offensive line’s ability to not lose a step if a usual starter is missing.
The defense also had a strong final game and has been strong all season, and Thorne hopes that they receive just as much praise as the offense.
“I’m pretty certain we’re the only defense that has faced two offenses in the top ten, in Wheaton College…and Aurora,” Thorne said. “And we held both of those teams to seven points. So our defense has been dynamite this year.”
The North Park game also served as Senior Day for Cardinal Football, which included a chance for Thorne to greet every senior and their families on the field pregame. He called it an “emotional day” reflecting on all these players have contributed. There was an added emotional element: a moment of silence for Martin Evan Linborg, who passed away earlier in 2021.
“He was a great ambassador for what you can do with your life when circumstances aren’t what you would have wanted them to be,” Thorne said of Lindborg, who had transitioned from being a player to the team’s staff due to a career-ending injury. “We’ll never forget Marty, our players loved him.”