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Small colleges: Playoff-hopeful Lake Forest will be carried by veteran ‘D’

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Updated: September 11, 2013 11:01PM

Lake Forest had a football breakthrough last season, going 8-2 overall and tying St. Norbert for the Midwest Conference championship at 8-1. But the Foresters were left with a sense of unfinished business, too.

“We feel like there’s a lot more for us to accomplish this year,” said coach Jim Catanzaro, whose 15 returning starters include nine on defense. “We were not happy to not make the playoffs last year, so that’s kind of been the goal guys have set for themselves. We know we’re not going to sneak up on anybody this year, so that’s going to make it a little bit challenging. We feel like we took a great first step on Saturday toward reaching those goals.”

That first step was a season-opening 45-3 nonconference rout of Concordia Chicago, under new coach Randy Awrey. Lake Forest seniors had never beaten Concordia, which was an NCAA Division III playoff team and Northern Athletics Conference champion at 10-1 last season. The Foresters held the Cougars to 185 yards in total offense.

“[Defensive lineman] Jake Rotkvich, a fifth-year senior and a two-time team captain, had a great game for us,” Catanzaro said. “He had 21/2 tackles for a loss. [Defensive lineman] Michael Garetto-Balmer had two sacks. Eddie Dobernig, our starting corner, had an interception and a forced fumble, so he created two takeaways for us.”

Mike Lewis, a senior in his first season as the starting quarterback, completed 13 of 22 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns. But it’s the defense that’s expected to do the heavy lifting early in the season.

“We expect our team to be paced by our defense,” Catanzaro said. “The offense, we knew we’d have some learning curve early [with five new starters].”

The defense gets a challenge Saturday when the Foresters travel to Appleton, Wis., to take on Lawrence and quarterback Luke Barthelmess. He’s passed for more than 6,000 career yards, including 362 in a game Lake Forest won 20-16 last season.

St. Xavier opens strong

Joe Gill’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Sean Gill in overtime boosted No. 4 St. Xavier to a 31-24 opening victory over Marian of Indiana, the defending NAIA champion and No. 1 team in preseason rankings. Senior linebacker Zach Dolph was named defensive player of the week both in the NAIA and the Mid-States Football Association Midwest League. Dolph had 15 tackles, nine solo, 11/2 sacks, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.

St. Xavier plays a nonconference game Saturday at the University of Indianapolis.

In the rankings

North Central, which plays its opener Saturday at Wisconsin-LaCrosse, leads Chicago-area teams ranked in’s top 25. The Cardinals are No. 6 in the poll led by Mount Union. Other College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin teams in the rankings are No. 15 Wheaton (1-0), which hosts Albion on Saturday, and No. 22 Elmhurst (1-0), which plays Saturday at Trine in Angola, Ind.

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