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SMALL COLLEGES: Battle of 8-0's in CCIW- That's some Bell game


Can't-miss football, Division III style: North Central vs. Wheaton.

The matchup at 1 p.m. Saturday in Wheaton has more flavor than ever, with both teams bringing 8-0 records into a game that will all but decide the championship for the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, one of the best leagues in the country.

North Central is ranked fifth in the nation and looking for its fifth consecutive won or shared CCIW title. Wheaton is ranked 15th and has won five CCIW titles in the 2000s.

North Central will travel all of seven miles to Wheaton for this battle for the Little Brass Bell. The schools' proximity to each other is only one of the things that makes the rivalry special, Wheaton coach Mike Swider said. Tradition and a high level of football are the others.

''These teams have been playing for a long time with a trophy that goes to the winner,'' Swider said.

Wheaton has a 51-37-3 edge in the series and is 44-16-1 since the ''Bell'' was introduced in 1946. (It's a relic from a 19th-century political tussle between Wheaton and Naperville over the location of the DuPage County Courthouse.) They've split the last four games, but North Central has won the last two.

''Naperville and Wheaton are two fabulous cities with a wonderful spirit of competition in all aspects of life, but especially in sports,'' said North Central coach John Thorne, who coached at Wheaton Warrenville South High School (formerly Wheaton Central) for 22 years before going to North Central in 2002. ''Coach Swider has developed an awesome football program at Wheaton College, and it's always an honor to play them. We expect an entertaining and exciting game every year, and this year is even better with both teams at 8-0.''

Thorne, with a 74-21 record, has built an exceptional program as well. A win Saturday will make him the school's winningest coach. Swider is 122-35 in 15 seasons as head coach.

?Can't miss football, NAIA style: No. 3 Saint Xavier (10-0, 6-0), Chicago's very own 10-game winner -- the only one in college football -- hosts No. 7 St. Francis (Ind.) in a regular-season finale Saturday that will decide the Mid-States Football Association Mideast Division title.

The Cougars have scored 72 touchdowns and haven't been in a tight game all year. They're coming off a 41-10 home win against No. 16 Walsh (Ohio) in which senior receiver Mike Maher (Providence) caught 11 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns that tied him for first in all-time TD catches (15) and total TDs (18) in a season. Quarterback Anthony Kropp, who passed for 333 yards and four TDs, became Saint Xavier's all-time passing leader. He has 7,786 passing yards.

?Chicago (6-2, 1-0 University Athletic Association) ended No. 23 Case Western Reserve's 38-game regular-season winning streak with a 24-20 home victory Saturday. Senior quarterback Marshall Oium connected with Dee Brizzolara for touchdown passes of 52 and 46 yards in the final 7:13. Zach Homyk (St. Ignatius) caught eight passes for 142 yards for Case (7-1, 0-1). Chicago plays at Carnegie Mellon on Saturday.

?Concordia (6-2, 4-1 Northern Athletics), which routed Maranatha Baptist 49-21 as Khyree Copeland (105 yards) topped 100 yards for the seventh time in eight games and Mike Marotta (Riverside-Brookfield) passed for 297 yards and three TDs, plays at archrival Concordia Wisconsin (2-6) on Saturday.

?Robert Morris is ranked fourth in the NAIA Division I preseason basketball poll. Judson is ranked 21st in NAIA Division II. Illinois Wesleyan is ranked fourth in the d3hoops.com preseason basketball poll but was picked to finish second in the CCIW behind Carthage, which is ranked fifth.

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