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RIVER FOREST, ILL. - Concordia University Chicago continued its march to an undefeated regular season, defeating the Lakeland College football team 37-3 Saturday afternoon in a Northern Athletics Conference game.
The Cougars won their ninth consecutive game and also clinched the NAC regular season title and the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs. Concordia, ranked second in Division III's North Region and 22nd nationally in the AFCA Top 25 Coaches Poll, improved to 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the NAC.
The Muskies dropped to 2-7 overall and 2-4 in conference play. Lakeland sputtered early on to fall behind in the first quarter, and then was unable to take advantage of two Cougar turnovers and a defensive stop, not getting in gear offensively until the fourth quarter.
Concordia scored on its first drive of the game to take a 7-0 lead, while the Muskies went quietly on their first four drives, gaining just 40 yards and two first downs. The Cougars then needed just one play to go ahead 14-0, taking over on the Muskies' 33-yard line after a six-yard Lakeland punt and scored when Jacob Koehler found Trent Yancy for a 33-yard touchdown pass with 6:49 left in the first quarter.
Lakeland was able to slow the Cougars for a while, forcing a pair of turnovers and also stopping Concordia on downs. Yaphay Harvey (So.-Milwaukee, Wis.) intercepted Koehler to halt one drive, and Evan Dieringer (Sr.-Germantown, Wis.) recovered a fumble deep in Muskie territory to stop another drive.
The Muskies were unable to take advantage despite starting to move the ball late in the first quarter. A 62-yard drive was halted at the Concordia 22 after an interception, and Lakeland's next drive ended in an interception as well. The Cougars took advantage of the second touchdown, going 19 yards in three plays with Koehler scoring on a two-yard run to make it 20-0.
Concordia took that lead into halftime and then put the game away with 17 points in the third quarter. Koehler threw his third and fourth touchdown passes of the game, the latter a 34-yarder to Sherman Jones to make it 34-0.
Lakeland finally got its offense in gear midway through the third quarter, and the Muskies stacked up drives of 10, nine and 18 plays for a total of 211 yards. Cullin Kowalczyk (So.-Cecil, Wis.) gained a career high 96 yards on 17 carries in relief action in the second half, but the Muskies could only score on a 27-yard field goal by William Yelverton (Fr.-Oconomowoc, Wis.) early in the fourth quarter. The other two drives produced no points and both ended at the Concordia 19, one being stopped on downs and an 18-play, 80-yard drive ended with an interception with 10 seconds left in the game.
Kowalczyk led Lakeland in rushing while Kendrick Burks (So.-Pontiac, Mich.) rushed 19 times for 73 yards. Dylan Van Straten (Jr.-Shiocton, Wis.) added six carries for 50 yards and Justin Laack (Sr.-Sheboygan Falls, Wis.) rushed four times for 46 yards. As a team the Muskies piled up a season-high 277 yards on the ground.
Van Straten completed just two of nine passes for 20 yards and two interceptions before giving away to Dylan Kelly (So.-Appleton, Wis.) after the second interception in the second quarter. Kelly finished completing 5 of 13 passes for 59 yards and an interception. The Muskies gained 20 first downs and a total of 356 yards of offense.
Cody Lemke (Jr.-Kewaskum, Wis.) led the Lakeland defense with 11 tackles, while Erik Lucht (Jr.-Greenleaf, Wis.) finished with nine tackles and Harvey added eight. Concordia gained 587 yards of offense, including 385 yards through the air. Koehler completed 16 of 27 passes for 357 yards, while Austin Maddox rushed 17 times for 125 yards.
The Muskies wrap up their 2012 season next Saturday with Senior Day against Benedictine (Ill.) University. Kickoff time is set for noon at Taylor Field.