When you hear of Friday Night Lights, what comes to mind? I immediately think of high school football. While high school football has concluded, there is a championship game this Friday. The 2019 Stagg Bowl will be played on Friday, December 20th, with the North Central Cardinals vs. the Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks. Both teams will enter the contest 13-1. As the game draws near, let us look at how each team got here. The countdown to the 2019 Stagg Bowl is almost over. Let us see which team will hoist the trophy at the end of the night.
North Central Cardinals
North Central finished the 2019 season 9-1. Their lone loss came in week four against Wheaton College. The Cardinals defeated Wabash College in round one and then upset division three powerhouse, Mount Union, in round two. In the quarterfinals, North Central took down Delaware Valley and clinched a spot in the Stagg Bowl with a win over Muhlenberg. The Cardinals won their semifinal matchup 45-14. This will be North Central’s first appearance in the Stagg Bowl. The Cardinals hope to make the most of their opportunity and take the championship back to Illinois.
Wisconsin-Whitewater concluded 2019 with a 9-1 record too. Their defeat came in the final week of the regular season, to conference rival, Wisconsin-Oshkosh. The Warhawks glided into the quarterfinals with wins over Monmouth (IL) and Wartburg College. Wisconsin-Whitewater upset defending champion Mary-Hardin Baylor in the quarterfinals.
The Warhawks knocked the champions out, winning by a final score of 26-7. Wisconsin-Whitewater advanced to its first Stagg Bowl since 2014 with a semifinal win over St. John’s (MN). The Warhawks prevailed 35-32 on a game-winning field goal by junior kicker, Wojciech Gasienica. The last time Whitewater appeared in the Stagg Bowl was also the last time the Warhawks won a championship. Wisconsin-Whitewater hopes to return to glory and win the program’s seventh national championship Friday night.
2019 Stagg Bowl (Team Statistics)
Each team had to defeat a former champion to get to the 2019 Stagg Bowl. That accomplishment makes either team deserving of this national championship. Quarterback Broc Rutter leads North Central’s offense and has registered 4,328 passing yards and 54 touchdowns. Thirty of those passing touchdowns have gone to receiver Andrew Kamienski. In addition to the 30 touchdown receptions, Kamienski has recorded 1,882 receiving yards. This dynamic duo hopes to put up more video game numbers against the Whitewater defense.
Similarly, on offense for the Warhawks, quarterback duo’s Zach Oles and Max Meylor lead the way. Together these quarterbacks have almost 2,500 passing yards and 22 touchdowns. On the outside, Whitewater has game-breaking receivers in Ryan Wisniewski and Derek Kumerow. These receivers have over 1,000 yards receiving and ten touchdowns. Look for the passing game to play a big role in the victory on Friday.
2019 Stagg Bowl (Keys to Victory)
As we talked about before, the winner in a championship game is the team that commits fewer turnovers. However, in this game, I feel North Central needs to get off to a fast start. If the Cardinals fall behind early, the championship game experience of Whitewater will take over. North Central has never been on this stage before, and it will be interesting to see how the coaches prepare this team. If the Cardinals can withstand the first quarter, they stand a better chance as the game progresses.
On the other hand, Whitewater has no current players that have championship game experience. While they may not have any players with championship experience, head coach Kevin Bullis is well experienced. As an assistant, he helped the Warhawks win five of their six championships. As a result, Whitewater named him head coach in 2015. Furthermore, his championship game experience may be enough to give the Warhawks the edge. In summary, whichever team limits turnovers and starts quickly will have an advantage throughout the game.
North Central is looking to become the eight-team to win their first championship in Stagg Bowl history. It will also be the second time in fifteen years a new school has been crowned champion. Wisconsin-Whitewater is second overall in national championships behind Mount Union. The Purple Raiders have won 13 national championships in their program’s history. That is seven more than Whitewater has won.
However, the Warhawks hope 2019 concludes with the gap closing to six. As noted earlier, both teams beat defending national champions. Each team deserves to win, and either team can walk out of the stadium with that trophy in hand. The 2019 Stagg Bowl will take place at Woodforest Bank Stadium in Shenandoah, Texas. Tune in to ESPNU Friday Night at 7:00 central to find out who will win the Stagg Bowl and the Division III National Championship.
Firstly, follow me on Twitter for more stories. Next, check us out online at Overtime Heroics for more college football stories. Lastly, check out our Merchandise and get that special someone something special for the holiday season.