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North Central quarterback Spencer Stanek gets his due

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Updated: December 18, 2013 10:11PM

In a North Central football season chock full of highlights, many of the biggest thrills were provided by quarterback Spencer Stanek.

Stanek led the No. 4 Cardinals (13-1) to the NCAA Division III semifinals, where they lost 41-40 on Saturday at No. 1 Mount Union (14-0). Then on Monday, Stanek was named to the Division III All-American team by the American Football Coaches Association.

‘‘He’s our sixth guy in the 12 years that we’ve been here at North Central [to make the All-American team], but he’s the first quarterback,’’ coach John Thorne said. ‘‘We’ve had some really great quarterbacks, but Spencer’s numbers were really pretty amazing.’’

He completed 264 of 372 passes — a .710 percentage — for 3,495 yards and 43 touchdowns while throwing only two interceptions. That’s a passing efficiency rating of 187.0, second in the nation. While setting North Central single-season records for completions, percentage, yards and touchdowns, he rounded out a career that included school bests in passing efficiency (166.1) and completion percentage (.655). He ranks second on the career lists with 546 completions, 833 attempts, 7,549 yards and 75 touchdowns.

‘‘We are very proud of him,’’ Thorne said. ‘‘He’s a great leader. He has shown amazing vision. I just can’t imagine very many quarterbacks having a chance to accomplish those kinds of numbers. We’re very, very excited for him, and so are his teammates who did a great job of protecting him up front. We had terrific play from our offensive linemen, and our receivers really did a great job of making some unbelievable catches.’’

The semifinals were a first for North Central. The Cardinals led the defending champion Purple Raiders 40-35 with 1:38 to play. But Mount Union scored on a 26-yard pass from Kevin Burke to Mike Collichio with 1:06 to play.

“We had really amazing leadership from our seniors, and that just made it a really fun, exciting year for every player, freshmen all the way through the seniors,’’ Thorne said. ‘‘Our guys were just one of those teams that the players never gave up on each other, on the program or on any game. They played hard every single week, and they had a great love for each other. So we’re going to remember this one for a long time.’’

NAIA honors

The AFCA also released its NAIA All-Americans, and junior defensive end Jeff Cascella of St. Francis in Joliet was named to the first team. Cascella made 52 tackles — 21 behind the line of scrimmage — for 115 yards. He ranked 10th in the NAIA in tackles for loss and also was 10th with 9.5 sacks.

Cascella, who was an all-MFSA Mideast first-teamer for the second consecutive season, was a leader on a 7-4, 4-2 St. Francis team that was ranked No. 22 in NAIA.

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