Jeff Thorne on the bye and quarterfinal qualification following North Central College football’s win over UW La Crosse.
It was strange week for the Cardinals, after their first round game against Carnegie-Mellon was canceled due to a COVID outbreak within the Tartan locker room.
“I think some of the guys may have thought, based on their reaction when we shared the news, that our season was over,” Thorne said.
He added that he felt bad for the fifth-year seniors who came back with a playoff run in mind, but that it held the benefit of the team being healthier for their second-round matchup than they otherwise would have been.
“It’s just a little extra time off, we’ve got a veteran team these guys have played a lot of football games. So to get that extra week off after playing ten straight games I think was valuable for their bodies,” Thorne said.
The North Central offense was led by junior running back Ethan Greenfield with 198 yards and two touchdowns, in a performance that appeared to somehow be elevated from his phenomenal regular season form.
“That’s what Ethan’s brought to the table the last couple of years,” Thorne said. “It’s kind of a flashback to the playoffs in 2019, and Ethan is one of those guys who just refuses to lose.”
Junior running back Terrence Hill only had five carries in the win, but he turned that into 80 yards and two touchdowns. Thorne has singled out as a unique leader in the Cardinals locker room with on-field performances to match.
“There’s a heavy amount of love that we all have for Terrence,” Thorne said of Hill, whose mother passed away in 2018. “He’s been a great role model for our players and coaches to be inspired by.”
The play of the day didn’t come from Greenfield or Hill, but rather cornerback Nic Rummell who made a remarkable one-handed interception in the end zone to help North Central maintain the lead.
“That was a heck of a play, and we needed it,” Thorne said. “Having looked at that and Kamienski’s catch, those were two incredible plays in the game.”
Up next for the Cardinals is Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), with a spot in the semifinals on the line. The two schools have never played, and Thorne is expecting a challenge.
“They’re gonna play hard. It’s a veteran team,” Thorne said of the experience-filled Engineers roster. “We’re gonna have to play good football, at this time of year that’s the case. We’re not able to lay an egg and advance.”