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Illinois Wesleyan eyes CCIW football title

Wesleyan defensive back Tim Hollowed (16) collides with wide receiver Halaiano Fuentes (17) North Central whle breaking up pass. Hollowed

Wesleyan defensive back Tim Hollowed (16) collides with wide receiver Halaiano Fuentes (17) of North Central whle breaking up a pass. Hollowed drew a pass interference call on the play. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 30, 2013 10:07PM

As the football season enters its final weeks, the road to the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin championship runs through Illinois Wesleyan.

The Titans (7-0, 4-0) took a big step Saturday with a 30-19 victory against Wheaton (6-1, 3-1) in Bloomington. That helped Illinois Wesleyan move up from No. 20 to No. 13 in the latest poll; Wheaton dropped from No. 10 to No. 19.

Next up for the Titans is No. 4
North Central (7-0, 4-0), which visits Bloomington on Saturday.

‘‘We have been looking forward to this part of the schedule, and we took the first win against Wheaton,’’ coach Norm Eash said. ‘‘We’re very, very excited about that. Our players showed a lot of character in the ballgame.’’

Illinois Wesleyan led Wheaton only 23-19 early in the fourth quarter, and the Thunder drove to the Titans’ 5-yard line. But Illinois Wesleyan recovered a fumble, then went on a 15-play, 95-yard drive that ended in a 22-yard touchdown run by T.J. Stinde that put the game away.

Eash pointed to senior linebacker Chris Simms and junior defensive end John Worley as keys to his defense. Simms leads the CCIW with 63 tackles, including 41 solos, and Worley leads the conference with nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss.

On offense, Eash said: ‘‘I don’t know where to begin. We’re such a senior-dominated squad. Of course, our quarterback Rob Gallik [124-for-193, 1,586 yards, 18 touchdowns] kind of runs
the show.’’

It’s a balanced attack, with running back Devonte Jones second in the CCIW with 804 yards on 123 carries.

The Illinois Wesleyan-North Central winner will take sole possession of the lead in the CCIW. Eash knows it won’t be easy.

‘‘We’re going to have to play our best to even have a chance to win,’’ Eash said. ‘‘Our kids know that, but that’s why you play.’’

Perpetual motion

When North Central hosts the CCIW cross-country championships Saturday, the Cardinals will be going for their 40th consecutive conference championship. North Central’s dominance goes back nearly a half-century, with 44 CCIW titles in Al Carius’ 48 years as coach.

Ranked No. 1 in Division III, the Cardinals have been led by John Crain, who finished second in the conference meet last year. This year, he has won individual titles at Notre Dame, Oshkosh and the Hanover College Madison Kiwanis Inviational.

Elmhurst spiking

With victories Friday against Alma and No. 19 Chicago, Elmhurst is on the rise in Division III women’s volleyball. The No. 5 Bluejays (27-4, 5-0 CCIW) play in the Benedictine tournament Friday and Saturday, then are home against Millikin (25-8, 6-0) on Tuesday. The right to host the CCIW tournament is on the line in that one.

Senior middle hitter Megan Reynolds, a three-time All-American, was named CCIW defensive player of the week after she totaled 16 blocks and 17 kills in three matches last week.

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