Concordia University Chicago’s no-huddle offense often wears down opponents because of its fast pace.
At Elmhurst College, film study and a focus on preparation have allowed the team’s defense to shut out two of its first three opponents.
The dividends for both football programs this season are 3-0 records and spots atop their respective conferences.
At NCAA Division III Concordia in River Forest, the Cougars are averaging 41.7 points and 524 yards a game. In last weekend’s 63-47 win against Hope College, Concordia piled up a school-record 650 yards of offense.
“It really comes down to wearing down a defense,” said Crystal Lake Central grad Scott Illich, the Cougars’ starting right offensive tackle. “We can have a six- , seven-play drive and they’re gassed.”
Concordia’s linemen, including the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Illich, have taken to the system.
“We’re in shape for being big guys,” he said.
Illich, who played guard as a freshman and sophomore and missed last season because of a right knee injury, has been a part of three consecutive 8-2 seasons. The highlight was earning a share of the Northern Athletics Conference title last season, the team’s first league title since 1987.
“To win conference was definitely an amazing experience,” Illich said. “We feel pretty good, but there’s still room for improvement.”
Illich’s biggest adjustment in college has been blocking for a quarterback who is averaging 32 passes a game this season.
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better at pass blocking,” he said. “At Central, we’d be lucky to throw the ball twice in a game.”
At D-III Elmhurst, junior free safety Alec Giles (Crystal Lake South) and his teammates have become adept at taking the ball away from opposing offenses.
During the Bluejays’ 3-0 start, the team has collected nine turnovers, including Giles’ team-leading two interceptions. Elmhurst’s two shutouts are the most in a season since 2003.
“It’s preparation,” Giles said. “When we’re not practicing, we’re studying film.”
In a 33-0 win last weekend against the University of Chicago, Elmhurst’s focus was on standout receiver Dee Brizzolara, who averages 24 yards a catch. Against Elmhurst, he was limited to four catches.
“We put a lot of effort into trying to cancel him out,” Giles said.
On offense, Elmhurst has piled up 100 points, thanks to senior running back Scottie Williams’ 193 rushing yards a game and senior quarterback Joe Furco’s 65 percent completion rate.
Starting tight end Vince Gabrys of Harvard has contributed five receptions for 63 yards and plenty of blocks to spring Williams, who has seven rushing touchdowns.
The team opens College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin play next weekend at North Central College in Naperville.
“We feel like this is the year we can make some noise in the conference,” said Gabrys, whose team last won the league in 1980. “The guys are pretty excited.”
Warhawk streak ends: The longest current winning streak on any college football level ended last weekend in Whitewater, Wis,.
UW-Whitewater, a team that has won three consecutive D-III national titles and four of the last five championships, had its 46-game winning streak snapped with a 7-6 loss to Buffalo (N.Y.) State, which scored the tying touchdown with 3 seconds remaining, then kicked the winning PAT.
In a game dominated by defense, Whitewater junior linebacker Kyle Wismer of Richmond-Burton had seven tackles and a fumble recovery. For the season, Wismer leads Whitewater (1-1), which is ranked No. 4 nationally by D3Football.com, with 13 tackles.
Former Trojans shine: Cary-Grove grads Melanie Jereb (Creighton) and Ashley Rosch (Illinois State) were honored this month as back-to-back winners of the Missouri Valley Conference Freshmen of the Week award in women’s volleyball.
Jereb, who was honored Monday, posted back-to-back double-doubles last weekend with a career-high 15 kills against Missouri State to go along with 10 digs. An outside hitter, Jereb had 14 kills and 12 digs against Wichita State. She has started every match this season for Creighton (10-2). Jereb is averaging 2.58 digs and 2.27 kills per set.
Rosch, an outside hitter, was honored by the MVC on Sept. 10 after earning all-tournament honors at Toledo’s Rocket Classic. She posted 14 kills and 13 digs in tournament play against the host school.
Rosch leads the Redbirds (7-5) in kills (114) and digs (123) this season.
Bees take flight: Crystal Lake Central grad Ellen Fairfield scored her first goal of the season Sept. 13 to help NAIA St. Ambrose to a 5-0 women’s soccer win against Coe.
Fairfield, a senior defender/midfielder, has played every match for the Bees (4-3) and started twice.
Johnsburg grad Susan Conroy, a sophomore midfielder, has played in every match as a top reserve.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryOnCampus.