Backs against wall, College of DuPage wills way to win NJCAA Division III title

  • The COD football team celebratesafter winning the inaugural NJCAA Division III Football Championship 34-29 over Nassau (NY) on Saturday in Glen Ellyn.

    The COD football team celebratesafter winning the inaugural NJCAA Division III Football Championship 34-29 over Nassau (NY) on Saturday in Glen Ellyn. Courtesy of Press Photography

 
By Scott Schmid
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/4/2021 5:31 PM

Watching its 2020 season get wiped away due to the COIVD-19 pandemic, the College of DuPage football team was already well-schooled in handling adversity.

So when the Chaparrals saw their 21-point advantage vanish in the final minute of Saturday's inaugural NJCAA Division III Football Championship, they didn't panic.

 

They simply responded.

With just over half a minute remaining, COD needed only three plays to cover 56 yards, culminating in a 33-yard touchdown pass from Brooks Blount to Matthew Brown (West Aurora High School) to give the home team a 34-29 win over Nassau (NY) before a large crowd in Glen Ellyn.

In capturing the national title, the Chaparrals (9-2) also avenged a 17-15 regular season defeat to the Lions (6-4) back on Oct. 16, their last loss before finishing the year on a 6-game winning streak.

"This definitely means a lot," said sophomore Lazerick Eatman, who was a part of two state championship teams at IC Catholic Prep. "It feels a little different, this being college and not high school. With the COVID year and everything, we had a lot to overcome but we persevered and came through with the win.

"We are the first in school history to win a national championship with a coach (Matthew Rahn) who was in his first year as the head coach. So we made a lot of history today."

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Eatman's 94-yard kickoff return for a score had given COD a 28-7 advantage early in the third quarter. But Nassau QB Michael Batton threw a pair of TD passes and ran for another before Joshua Arevalo's 28-yard field goal put the visitors ahead with 40 seconds left.

"There were a lot of emotions," said freshman defensive back Nick Bucaro, a Bartlett graduate who recovered a fumble in the first quarter. "It was back and forth. We battled our butts off; defensively we battled and then our offense had our backs at the end. That's part of being a team. A lot of these guys didn't get to play last year but they came back and we came out with the win."

The Chaparrals led 14-0 at half thanks to a 1-yard run by Tom Trieb and a 76-yard scamper by Darrell Smith, who rushed for 178 yards on 21 carries. COD then increased that margin to 21-0 as Jack Dorsey, who played at Glenbard West, hauled in a five-yard touchdown from Blount.

"I'm at a loss for words," Dorsey said. "This is probably the best feeling I've had. It is such a great way to finish off a great year. We worked so hard. I'm so blessed to be a part of this team. Once we all came together, we were unbeatable."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Blount finished 15-of-30 through the air for 173 yards. Chase Graham also recovered a fumble on defense and Vince Brown blocked a punt.

"We started off fast like we have the last five weeks," said Lisle graduate Michael Walker, who started at linebacker. "We had a slump in the second half but we pulled through in the end. We never gave up on ourselves. It was the inaugural National Championship and COD owns the first trophy. That's a blessing."

Rahn, a graduate of Wheaton North, played for the Chaparrals from 2000-01 and was the associate head coach for seven years before taking over after the retirement of Matt Foster.

"We've got kids who are overlooked and undervalued," said Rahn, whose team beat five NJCAA Division I programs this season. "But they are great kids and they represent the school and community so well.

"That game was the way the season has gone. We have tough, resilient kids. They are fighters."

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