It was over before you could say Eureka! Football secured their first winning season since 2001 with a 557 thrashing of Eureka on Saturday.
On Senior Day at Stagg Field, the Maroons (54, 30 UAA) conceded an early touchdown to the Red Devils (19, 16 IBFC) but stormed back to score 55 unanswered points to run away with the contest, carried by a dominant defensive performance and a balanced offensive attack. The victory capped off an improbable championship season and spoiled the Chicago homecoming of Red Devils head coach Daniel Sullivan, who was an assistant coach with the Maroons the last two seasons.
After scoring a modern-era record-tying seven touchdowns last year in Eureka, the Maroons one-upped themselves on Saturday with an eight-touchdown performance. They also tied a school record with 55 points, first set in 1977.
For five minutes, it looked as if Chicago might be primed for a letdown game after the emotional victory over Case to clinch the UAA title. A fumble by third-year quarterback Matt Rinklin gave Eureka the ball near midfield for its first possession, and the Red Devils shocked the Maroons with a 43-yard touchdown strike to take a 70 lead. But in a game that seemed to parallel their miraculous season, the Maroons stepped up their game and scored touchdowns on five of their next seven possessions to take a 347 lead at halftime.Down 70, Rinklin orchestrated a methodical eight-play, 67-yard drive, capping it off with a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
The Maroons never looked back. Chicago scored again on its next possession on an eight-yard pass from Rinklin to second-year wideout Mike Albian. Third-year running back Nick Schey next scored the first of his three touchdowns on a two-yard run and less than two minutes later, Rinklin hit third-year wide recevier Micah Dawson for a 63-yard strike. Chicago scored once more before halftime, on a 23-yard run by Schey with 6:40 left. Schey, who had room to run all game, gave the credit to his teammates.
My linemen made huge holes for me up front and the receivers and [fourth-year tight end] Brandon Igyarto had some great downfield blocks, said Schey, who rushed for 146 yards on 19 carries.
On the two non-scoring drives, Chicago drove the ball inside the Eureka 10-yard line before stalling. So much for the letdown.
Although the Maroons continued to be plagued by turnovers after halftime, fumbling the ball twice in the third quarter for a total of six on the day, they got another touchdown from Schey, this time on a 27-yard run. With the Red Devils unable to capitalize on Chicagos mistakes, the touchdown effectively ended Eurekas ideas of a comeback.
The onslaught continued in the final period as Rinklin threw his third touchdown of the day, a 20-yarder to Igyarto, and with 5:25 left in the game, first-year running back Chuck Little found the end zone on a three-yard to round out the scoring.
The Maroons faced a familiar face in Sullivan, who was coaching against his former team for the first time.
He put in a whole new offense for this game, head coach Dick Maloney said. It forced a few adjustments early on. But that just shows the character of our team.
Despite an insiders knowledge of the Chicago defense, the Red Devils could accomplish nothing after their opening scoring drive. Fourth-year co-captain Rob Tamillow led the way with two sacks, for a total of 12 on the season to match his modern-era school record set last year, and move him into second-place on the schools career list with 28. The Maroons held Eureka to just 108 yards of total offense.
The win brought to an end one of the more satisfying seasons in recent memory. After starting out 04, Chicago looked to be headed to a fourth straight losing season going into their October 8 contest at four-time defending UAA champion Wash U. Clinging to a 60 lead at halftime, the Maroons season turned around after the break, running off 21 second-half points to win 270, and send a message to the rest of the league.
We came out of the locker room determined to show everyone that we were capable of getting the [Founders] Cup, winning the UAA, and posting a winning record, Schey said. Ive never seen a happier, more determined team than this team after we beat Wash U. We really developed a swagger after that game which drove us forward for the rest of the season.
Chicago was tested only once after their trip to St. Louis. In their UAA finale against Case, the Maroons needed Chuck Littles fourth-quarter touchdown and clutch defensive performances to escape with the win.
In their final five games, Chicago outscored their opponents 17326 and earned their longest winning streak in five years.
In a team that featured two freshman starters and a host of second-years, the senior leadership proved to be crucial to the success of the team. Against Case, with the Spartans driving towards a game-tying score, it was fourth-year defensive back/wide receiver Colin Carrier who saved the day with his third interception of the day, and with the Spartans threatening in the final minutes, Tamillow notched his third sack of the game on fourth and 10 to allow the Maroons to run out the clock.
Senior leadership is the prominent factor in the character of the team, Maloney said. The seniors set the bar and did a tremendous job. Rob Tamillow and Colin Carrier are as good of players as there are in Division III.
Maloney has coached three UAA champions during his stint on the Midway, but he admits that this team was special:
This is as much of a team as you can get. You dont see that very much these days. The whole teams attitude was very refreshing, he said. This team was easy to coach because they wanted to play well and be successful.
The Maroons set a pair of school offensive records in the rout. They broke the modern-era record for touchdowns in a game with eight and the 55 points tied the previous mark set against Loras in 1977.