William Penn University’s football team finished the 2010 season with a 10-1 record. A year later, the Statesmen went 9-2.
The NAIA school’s reward for winning 86 percent of its games was being passed over for the national playoffs.
“It was a feeling of being the last team left out,” said Marcus Kerrigan, a Cary-Grove grad who is the team’s junior placekicker and punter.
In 2010, WPU’s only loss was to then-No. 16 McKendree in a season in which the Statesman won their first Mid-States Football Association Midwest League title in 34 years.
“That was tough to take,” said John Bryan, the team’s starting tight end and a fellow C-G grad.Last fall, both of the team’s losses were by one point.
“The playoffs basically came down to a couple of yards,” Bryan said.
When the Statesmen gathered Sunday after beating then-No. 9 Grand View, 17-12, head coach Todd Hafner cut to the chase.
“Coach came out (to a meeting) jumping around, saying, ‘We’re in! We’re in!’ ” Bryan said.
The team’s 9-2 record this season finally yielded a playoff berth for the first time in 37 years.
Today, the 13th-ranked Statesmen from Oskaloosa, Iowa, will play defending national champion and fourth-ranked Saint Xavier at noon in Chicago.
“They’re the cream of the crop in NAIA,” Bryan said. “It’s a great opportunity for our team.”
Kerrigan, who won his fourth MSFA Midwest League Special Teams Player of the Week award of the season Monday, has a single-season school record of 12 field goals this season, is the team’s top scorer with 69 points and is averaging 39 yards a punt.
Bryan, the team’s starting tight end, is a key member of WPU’s option offense as a blocker, matching up against defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.
The team ranks No. 3 in the nation with 320.9 rushing yards a game.
William Penn’s roster has three C-G grads, including redshirt freshman linebacker Sean Bryan, John’s brother.
Today’s matchup with Saint Xavier is a glimpse into the Fox Valley Conference’s past as the Cougars’ roster includes Crystal Lake South grads Mike Brown, Ryan Miles, J.D. Barchard and Brett Barchard.
Kerrigan still recalls missing a field goal in regulation that could have beaten the Gators in the 2008 state playoffs. C-G lost, 14-7, in overtime.
“That was one of the worst days I’ve ever had,” Kerrigan said.
All-conference awards: D-III Carthage College men’s soccer teammates Michael Dombrowski (Johnsburg), Jordan Innis (Crystal Lake South) and Greg Pignataro (Jacobs) were named All-College of Illinois and Wisconsin Conference honorees this month.
Dombrowski, a sophomore forward who made the first team, had 10 goals and three assists for Carthage (14-6). Innis, a senior forward, led the team with 12 goals and 28 points to go along with four assists to earn second-team honors. Pignataro, a senior midfielder who also made the second team, had a team-high eight assists and scored two goals.
Hot-shooting Hawkeye: Johnsburg grad Melissa Dixon is leading Iowa’s women’s basketball team in three-point shooting and averaging 7.3 points a game for the Hawkeyes, who have started 3-0 this season.
Dixon, a sophomore guard, is 6 for 13 (46.2 percent) from behind the three-point arc while starting every game and averaging more than 27 minutes a game.
Wheaton winner: Jacobs grad Dan Olsen, a sophomore 184-pound wrestler for D-III Wheaton College, was honored Tuesday as the CCIW Wrestler of the Week.
Olsen went 4-0 at the Knox Invitational last weekend to win his weight class. For the previous week, Olsen was 5-0 with two wins by fall.
CCAC star: NAIA Roosevelt University junior women’s basketball forward Maria Tamburrino was named Chicagoland Collegiate Athlete Conference Player of the Week on Nov. 6.
Tamburrino, a Jacobs grad, leads the Lakers (4-1) in rebounding (7.0 a game) and is the team’s second-leading scorer (9.0 points a game) and ranks second in blocked shots (seven).
• 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 @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.