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On Campus: PR grad Knipfel ‘still in shock’ over NAIA football title

The 2-minute, 3-second video on Marian University’s website has more than 2,200 views in the past week.

Prairie Ridge graduate Brad Knipfel admits the scenes from NAIA Marian’s national championship football win last week in Rome, Ga., have gotten his attention.

“I’m saying double digits, at least,” Knipfel said of his own views. “I watch it and say, ‘OK, we did win.’”

Fifth-ranked Marian’s 30-27 overtime victory against No. 3 Morningside had plenty of drama for Knipfel, a senior offensive lineman, and his teammates.

Marian, located in Indianapolis, outscored Morningside, 20-7, in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead the Knights (12-1) to the crown in only their sixth season of football.

“It was surreal,” said Knipfel, the team’s starting right guard. “It’s hard to put into words. It was 22 weeks of hard work that went into it. It still gives me chills.”

Down 20-10 in the fourth quarter, Marian scored a pair of touchdowns to take a 24-20 lead with 2:46 to go. At the 1:04 mark, Morningside took back the lead, 27-24.

“We knew their offense was good enough to score (again),” Knipfel said.

In the final 64 seconds, Marian drove 50 yards to set up Mike Josifovski’s tying 35-yard field goal. On its only possession in overtime, Marian got a 26-yard field goal from Josifovski, which set off a wild celebration scene captured in the school’s online video.

“This whole year, we never really blew anybody out,” Knipfel said. “We knew we were going to have to grind it out with them. We have a lot of heart.”

The start to Knipfel’s season was quite a grind as he recovered from a broken left ankle that caused him to sit out last fall.

“I came into camp at about 70 percent (healthy),” said Knipfel, who will return for his final season of eligibility in the fall. “It slowed me down.”

About a month into the season, Knipfel said he got back to 100 percent and quickly moved into the starting lineup when a fellow lineman went down with an injury.

Marian was guided this season, Knipfel said, by a devastating loss in last season’s national semifinals to eventual champ St. Xavier. The game ended on a turnover with Marian at the St. Xavier 1-yard line.

“Our saying all year was, ‘How much do you want that extra yard?’” he said.

While Marian’s players are “still in shock” a week after the game, Knipfel said winning the title was equally emotional for ex-Marian players such as his older brother, Randy, who was an offensive lineman on the Knights’ inaugural team. Randy Knipfel also was on the coaching staff two seasons ago.

“I told him, ‘We’re playing this game for you and other guys who wore this jersey,’” Brad Knipfel said.

MVC’s best: Ashley Rosch and Melanie Jereb got used to volleyball success at Cary-Grove.

As college freshmen, the local athletes who helped the Trojans become a state power continued to succeed in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Rosch, an outside hitter at Illinois State, was named the MVC Freshman of the Year last month and was joined on the All-MVC first team and the All-Freshman squad by Jereb, an outside hitter at Creighton.

Rosch is the fifth player in ISU history to win the MVC’s top freshman honor. This season, she led ISU (18-12) with 336 kills and ranked second with 324 digs.

Jereb was the first freshman in school history to be named first-team All-MVC.

Jereb started every match as Creighton (29-4) won the first regular-season and league tournament titles in school history. Jereb, an MVC All-Tournament selection, ranked third on the team with 306 kills and third with 340 digs. Creighton went 1-1 in the NCAA tournament and was eliminated by then-No. 11 Minnesota in the second round.

CCIW studs: Crystal Lake Central grad Josh Fick was chosen this month as a member of the D3Football.com All-North Region third team.

Fick, a junior defensive tackle at North Central College in Naperville, helped the Cardinals to a 9-3 record by compiling 33 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles. He also was a first-team selection to the All-College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin football squad. The Cardinals won a share of the league title this season for the seventh year in a row.

Marian Central grad Greg Whalen, a junior at North Central, was named to the first-team All-CCIW offensive line. The NCC offense ranked 25th in the nation in scoring offense (37.3 points a game) and 36th in total offense (434.2 yards).

Junior wide receiver Chad O’Kane (Richmond-Burton) was a second-team all-conference choice after catching 38 passes for a team-best 547 yards. He had two TD receptions.

The Cardinals also got a key defensive contribution this season from freshman defensive end Josh Beveridge (Crystal Lake South), who had a team-high 7.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. Junior linebacker Adam Szudarski (Marian) had 31 tackles and 1.5 sacks, while freshman defensive back Brian Frapolly (McHenry) had seven tackles. Junior tight end Ryan Szudarski (Marian) had 10 receptions for 151 yards.

Relay tops nation: In the final rankings of 2012, the U.S. Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association honored the men’s 4x1,600-meter relay team at D-III Augustana College.

The quartet, which included senior Brad Keating of Cary-Grove, posted the nation’s best time of 17:26.29 on April 27 at the Drake Relays in Iowa.

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.

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