Category Archives: Football

Transfers lead Thunder football to 38-0 victory

By Cassidy Thornburg, Sports Editor

09.13.19

MONMOUTH, IL – Seven starters in the Wheaton Thunder Football team’s first game were either out-of-state transfers or fifth-year seniors. The game was a 38-0 win over Monmouth College. A combination of new and familiar faces elevated the Thunder to a much better start to their season than last year. Coach Mike Swider summed up how he felt about his team’s performance on the road. “To score 38 points is a good thing, and we showed signs of what we can do if we execute. It’s a good day for the Thunder.”

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Thunder freezes out Carroll University as season ends

November 16, 2017

This past Saturday, Nov. 11, the Wheaton Thunder kicked off for the last time this season against the Carroll University Pioneers. In the freezing weather, the Thunder pulled out a 71-0 victory. This is the most points the Thunder have scored since they scored 73 points against North Park in 2006. No. 22-ranked Wheaton finished out their season 8-2 and 6-2 in CCIW play.

The Thunder had an impressive 585 yards of total offense, with 236 passing yards and 349 rushing yards. Senior Sola Olateju contributed a career-high 273 rushing yards. This gave him 3,194 career rushing yards, a new record for the Thunder football team, breaking Pedro Arruza’s 1995 record of 3,179 yards. Olateju is one of two running backs in Wheaton’s history to gather more than 3,000 career yards.

Olateju also gained four touchdowns at Carroll, moving him into a tie for fifth in Wheaton’s career touchdown list with 34 touchdowns. Freshman T.J. Williams rushed for 52 yards on three attempts, gaining a touchdown. Senior Jerome Grey also had a touchdown for the Thunder on 16 total rushing yards.

Senior Spencer Peterson didn’t play in Saturday’s game, as expected. Junior Jesse Furrow started for the Thunder, completing 14 of 21 passing attempts for 236 yards. He had two touchdown passes to seniors Chase White and Zach Lindquist. White caught six passes for 110 yards, while Lindquist had four catches for 76 yards. Lindquist’s most exciting play was his 56-yard touchdown catch.

The Thunder defense kept the Pioneers on lock down, allowing only 125 yards of total offense. Senior Chase Greenlee led Wheaton with five solo sacks and eight solo tackles. He had 15.5 sacks for the year, tying for the third-highest single-season total in program history. Greenlee has 31.5 sacks for his career, placing him at second for Wheaton’s career sacks list. He also forced a fumble, which was recovered by Austin Hoover, who returned it for a four-yard touchdown. Senior Luke Sahly gathered seven total tackles. Junior Eric Stevenson also had seven total tackles and a forced fumble. Senior Luke Smith and junior Corey Kennedy each had six total tackles, with Smith recovering a fumble.

Sophomore Griffin Bowes had 12 kickoffs for the Thunder, kicking for a total of 691 yards with two touchbacks. He averaged 57 yards a kick. Junior Zach Feddeler punted twice for 82 yards. Returning for the Wheaton special teams, sophomore Phillip Nichols caught eight punts for 131 yards. Junior Carter Roberts received one kickoff for 33 yards.

Despite their thrilling performance against Carroll, the Thunder did not make it into the NCAA DIII football playoffs. With losses to Illinois Wesleyan and Millikin, both CCIW opponents, Wheaton lost the chance at gaining an automatic bid from the CCIW conference championship. The last time the Thunder failed to make it into the CCIW championship and the NCAA playoffs was in 2013.

Thunder strikes for the final time at McCully this season

November 9, 2017

Saturday, Nov. 4, marked the last home game for the Wheaton Thunder Football team’s 2017 season. The Thunder toppled the Augustana Vikings 53-10. Wheaton’s offense had a season high of 636 yards of offense with 314 passing yards and 322 rushing yards. Augustana’s offense was held by the Thunder defense to 221 total yards of offense.

The Vikings struck early in the first quarter with a 41-yard field goal within the first four minutes of the game. The Thunder came back with a 72-yard touchdown run by freshman TJ Williams, putting Wheaton in the lead 6-3 after a failed extra-point attempt. In the third quarter, senior Sola Olateju broke free for a 76-yard touchdown run, giving the Thunder a 33-3 lead. Senior Jerome Grey gave the Thunder their last touchdown of the game with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter.

Olateju led the Thunder with 194 rushing yards, 88 receiving yards and three touchdowns. After last week’s game, Olateju is 42 yards away from claiming second place on Wheaton’s all-time rushing list. Williams racked up 77 rushing yards.

Sophomore Phillip Nichols received for 66 yards on six passes. Senior Chase White caught four catches for 58 yards and senior Zach Lindquist collected 52 yards on four catches.

Senior Curtis McWilliams started at quarterback for the Thunder. He collected 42 yards before taking a rough hit in the first quarter that put him out for the rest of the game with an ankle injury. McWilliams is not expected to play in this Saturday’s game, which will most likely be the last game for the Thunder this season.

Junior Jesse Furrow took over for McWilliams after his injury. Furrow completed 16 of 26 passes to gain 239 yards with two touchdown passes. Sophomore Dave Beamer went 4-for-6 with 25 yards.

Junior Eric Stevenson led Wheaton’s defense with nine total tackles. Senior Austin Hoover and sophomore Patrick O’Connell both gathered six tackles. O’Connell also registered one and a half sacks. Senior Luke Sahly contributed five tackles and a pass breakup. Senior Luke Smith had three total tackles and the Thunder’s sole interception.

For Wheaton’s special teams, senior Stefan Knoerr had two field goals, both in the second quarter to boost the Thunder’s lead. His second field goal was 46 yards long. Sophomore Griffin Bowes kicked for 546 yards on nine kickoffs, with an average of 60 yards per kick. Receiving, Nichols led the Thunder with one kickoff return for 16 yards and five punt returns for 42 yards. White received one punt for 12 yards. Junior Carter Roberts received one kickoff for nine yards.

Thunder rolls over North Central and North Park

October 27, 2017

Fall break was an interesting one for the Thunder. On Saturday, Oct. 14, and Monday, Oct. 16, the Thunder faced off against No. 4 North Central. Wheaton won the “Battle for the Little Brass Bell” 42-20. The first half of the game took place under stormy conditions with a lightning delay of two hours. The Thunder left McCully Saturday underwater and down 7-13. On Monday, the only thunder rumbling was the Thunder, who scored five touchdowns in the second half and held the Cardinals to one.

Wheaton had 426 yards of offense, including 321 passing yards and 105 rushing yards. Senior Curtis McWilliams threw for 287 with three touchdown passes and a run. Sophomore Spencer Peterson threw 34 yards for a touchdown to junior Carter Roberts. Senior Sola Olateju ran for 120 yards with one touchdown. Senior Zach Lindquist caught for 78 yards and senior Trey Hanley received 73 yards with one touchdown.

The Thunder defense gave up 296 yards to the Cardinals. Junior Eric Stevenson led the defense with a team-high of 10 tackles. Senior Luke Sahly had eight tackles. Seniors Chase Greenlee and Austin Hoover each had a sack. Senior Nick Blazek and junior Luke Smith both recorded an interception.

After the exciting win against the Cardinals, head coach Mike Swider said, “This is the result of a lot of guys that love each other… the greatest motivator in the world isn’t the hate of your enemies, it’s the love of those guys behind you. This had nothing to do about North Central, this was about Wheaton.”

After winning against North Central, Wheaton walked into their game against North Park on October 21 riding high. Against North Park, Wheaton scored 56 points and held the Vikings to zero. The Thunder gathered 528 yards of offense, with 150 rushing yards and 378 passing yards. McWilliams went 16-22, passing for 252 yards and three touchdowns. Olateju and freshman TJ Williams both gained 67 yards. Olateju scored two touchdowns and Williams had one. Sophomore Phillip Nichols caught for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Hanley received for 83 yards and one score.

The Vikings were held to just 111 yards of offense. Stevenson lead the Thunder again with nine tackles. Junior Jack Bates had eight tackles, including one sack. Sahly and Smith both had six tackles and an interception.

After the North Park game, Olateju has moved into third on Wheaton’s career rushing list with 2,727 career rushing yards. He needs just over 400 more yards this season to claim first on the list.

After two much needed wins, the Thunder are in a bye week. They will resume play in a week against the Augustana Vikings. The Thunder are heading into the game on a two game winning streak, sitting in a comfortable 6-2 overall record and 4-2 in CCIW conference play. The Vikings are 1-7 overall and 1-5 in CCIW play. Wheaton kicks off against the Vikings for family weekend, November 4 at 1 p.m. in McCully Stadium.

Thunder football fails to get back on track

October 12, 2017

After losing to IWU for Homecoming, the Thunder traveled to Decatur, looking to redeem themselves against the Millikin Big Blue. Wheaton put up a valiant effort, eventually falling to the Big Blue 31-35. This brings the Thunder down to a 4-2 season and 2-2 for CCIW standings. The last time that Wheaton had two regular season losses was in 2013, when the Thunder fell to Illinois Wesleyan and North Central. The Thunder are also on a two-game losing streak, something that hasn’t happened since the 2009 season.

Despite the loss, the Thunder offense seemed to finally regain its step with 409 yards of total offense. Wheaton struck early in the first quarter, scoring within the first three minutes. After Millikin briefly tied the game up, the Thunder pulled back ahead and kept the lead until the fourth quarter.

Senior Curtis McWilliams led the Thunder in passing with 264 yards. He also threw four touchdowns. Sophomore Phillip Nichols received three of McWilliams’ touchdown passes and led the game in receiving with 94 yards. Senior Trey Hanley contributed 30 receiving yards and caught for a touchdown.

Senior Sola Olateju played both running back and receiver on Saturday. He led the game in rushing with 114 yards and also received for 76 yards. Sophomore Spencer Peterson gained 41 rushing yards.

Olateju’s 114 rushing yards earned him 2,540 career rushing yards, making him the fifth player in program history to surpass 2,500 rushing yards. He also moved up to fourth place on Wheaton’s career rushing list. Nichol’s three touchdown receptions are the most received by a Thunder player in a single game since 2014.

Senior Stefan Knoerr had the only field goal of the game late in the third quarter, kicking for 22 yards. Sophomore Griffin Bowes kicked for 357 yards, averaging 59 yards per kickoff. Junior Zach Feddeler punted for 252 yards and had 2 kicks inside the 20 yard line. Returning for the Thunder, Nichols gained 69 yards on punts and 24 yards on kickoffs. Junior Carter Roberts returned two kickoffs for 52 yards.

The Thunder defense gave up 438 yards to the Big Blue offense, which is the most yards an opposing offense has gained over the defense so far this season. Senior Marcus Smith and junior Corey Kennedy led Wheaton’s defense with seven tackles each. Junior Eric Stevenson contributed six tackles and senior Kyle Fox had five tackles with an interception. Senior Chase Greenlee had four tackles with two sacks for Wheaton. Junior Jack Bates and seniors Austin Hoover and Theo Selvaggio all had one sack each.

Wheaton’s defense had held Millikin’s offense to two touchdowns up until the fourth quarter. In 18 plays total, the Big Blue scored three touchdowns on the Thunder. Saturday marked the first time since 2001 that Millikin had toppled Wheaton Football. This week, the Thunder move back home, hungry to end their losing streak. They will kick off against North Central on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at McCully Stadium.

…or did they?

October 5, 2017

The Titan’s QB stepped back, scanned the field and threw 12 yards to a receiver in the end zone. The refs signaled a touchdown.

But what if the Titan’s touchdown shouldn’t have counted? Looking at the picture below of the game-winning catch, it appears the ball is more on the ground than in the receiver’s hands. There are pictures showing the seconds before the ball hits the ground and it looks like the receiver is bobbling the ball more than having secured it in a way that would count the pass as complete.

According to the NCAA rulebook, a completed catch is defined by a player “[securing] control of a live ball in his hands or arms before the ball touches the ground… and maintains control of the ball long enough to enable him to perform an act common to the game…”

If the player hits the ground and loses control of the ball, the catch is considered incomplete. If the player catches the ball, it hits the ground and then he regains control, it isn’t a catch. A catch that hits the ground is only considered complete if the receiving player secures control prior to hitting the ground and he maintains control the entire time.

In other photos, the receiver seems to completely lose control before being covered by senior Kyle Fox, who was on defense for the play.

At this point, the game is done and the score is final. But it is still important to point out that the play that cost Wheaton the game and caused them to plummet down in DIII football rankings was a fluke.

Wheaton Football wins the first regular season CCIW game

September 28, 2017

Saturday at Elmhurst College was a hot one for Wheaton. With heat wave protocols in place, the Thunder scorched the Bluejays 40-15. This improves the fourth-ranked Thunder to 4-0 for the season and 2-0 for CCIW conference play. However, if you hadn’t looked at the scoreboard, you might not have known just how much of a lead Wheaton had.

The Thunder had a rocky start on their opening drive when the ball was snapped too high, sending the Thunder back 20 yards during second down. The Bluejays quickly took the momentum after the Thunder’s blunder, scoring the first touchdown of the game and going for a two-point conversion. Elmhurst’s lead marked the first time all season that Wheaton has trailed behind in a game. Though the Thunder continued to have some setbacks, they managed to hold Elmhurst scoreless in the second and third quarters and scored an impressive 21 points in the fourth quarter alone.

Wheaton’s offense put up 402 yards, with 236 passing yards and 166 rushing yards. Senior quarterback Curtis McWilliams passed for all 236 of the Thunder’s passing yards, completing 17 of 25 passing attempts. Junior Carter Roberts lead the Thunder receivers with 87 yards. Sophomore Phillip Nichols contributed 48 receiving yards while senior Zach Lundquist had 32 and the lone touchdown for Wheaton’s receiving corps.

Freshman TJ Williams led the Thunder in rushing with 117 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Sola Olateju gained 88 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Spencer Peterson also added 26 yards for the Thunder. Last Saturday’s game marks the lowest number of rushing yards that Wheaton has gained all season, with their season average at 295 rushing yards before Elmhurst’s game.

The Thunder offense went 7-of-16 in third down conversions, which is an improvement from their 4-of-15 performance against Carthage. Of the six times Wheaton found themselves in the red zone, they scored on five of those chances.

Senior Stefan Knoerr kicked four field goals on Saturday, with all four soaring through the goalposts. Sophomore Griffin Bowes kicked for 430 yards with his nine kickoffs against the Bluejays. He averaged 47 yards per kick. Zach Feddeler had three punts for 117 yards. He averaged 39 yards, with a long kick of 50 yards and a touchback. On the receiving side, sophomore Phillip Nichols caught six punts, returning for 89 yards total. He also returned an Elmhurst kickoff for 23 yards. Senior Adam Sandy had a kickoff return, gaining 27 yards for the Thunder.

On the other side of the line, the Wheaton defense held the Bluejays to 222 yards of total offense. Junior Eric Stevenson led the Thunder with six tackles. Senior Chase Greenlee and junior Luke Smith both recorded five tackles and an interception each. Senior Marcus Smith had the Thunder’s third interception.

With the offense’s slow beginning, the defense played an integral role in last Saturday’s game with offensive coordinator Jesse Scott stating, “Our defense absolutely carried us through the first half.”

This week, the Thunder are back at McCully Stadium to face off against the Illinois Wesleyan Titans. The No. 20 Titans are currently 3-1 for the season and 1-1 for CCIW conference play. Kickoff for the Thunder’s Homecoming Game will be Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1 p.m.

Wheaton Football wins the first regular season CCIW game

September 21, 2017

This past Saturday, Sept. 16, Wheaton faced off against the Carthage Red Men for their home opener. Despite Carthage being a tougher team than their last two opponents, Wheaton still came out with a W. The Thunder took the lead early on and kept it all the way to a 37-14 victory.

Offensively, the Thunder ran Carthage into the ground with 251 rushing yards and 83 passing yards. Sophomore Spencer Peterson led the Thunder in rushing, with 141 yards and three touchdowns. Peterson had a 39-yard run that resulted in the Thunder’s first touchdown. Senior Sola Olateju contributed 95 yards and junior Stone Watson gained 20.

Senior Curtis McWilliams led the Thunder in passing yards, going 7-13 for 79 yards. He also threw for one touchdown, as did Peterson. Seniors Zach Lindquist and Chase White caught one touchdown each. Lindquist had 24 total yards and White contributed 18. Sophomore Adam Terrini led the Thunder in receiving yards with 29 yards.

The Thunder defense held the Red Men to three rushing yards and 117 receiving yards. Senior Luke Sahly led the line with 10 tackles and a sack. Senior Chase Greenlee and junior Eric Stevenson both had seven tackles. Greenlee, Sahly, seniors Noah Spielman and Austin Hoover and sophomore Patrick O’Connell all lent to Carthage’s six sacks. Senior Kyle Fox caught the only interception for the Thunder during the second quarter.

Sophomore Griffin Bowes saw the most action of the Thunder special teams, kicking for 334 yards, including one touchback. Junior Zach Feddeler gave Wheaton 198 punting yards with two of his punts landing inside the Red Men 20-yard line. On the receiving end of the special teams, junior Stone Watson ran for 55 yards in kickoff returns. Sophomore Daniel Herber gained 13 yards on punt returns.

With the stands packed for their home opener, the Thunder put on quite the performance. After the game, Coach Swider commented, “What a battle we have done here… For all those that had doubts that we didn’t play anybody early on, hopefully tonight answers some questions.” The Thunder are now 3-0 for the season and 1-0 for CCIW conference play. Wheaton will be away this week, traveling to play at Elmhurst College, Sept. 23 at 1 p.m.

Thunder Football rolls over Kalamazoo with ease

September 14, 2017

If you walked into McCully Stadium last week to watch the Thunder practice, you wouldn’t have guessed that they were preparing for a game against Kalamazoo College. That’s because they already had their sights set on Carthage, who the team will play this upcoming Saturday. After beating the Kalamazoo Hornets 60-6 in the 2016 season, it’s easy to see why the Thunder wasn’t worried about the matchup in 2017. The Thunder proved their swaggering attitude was well warranted after beating Kalamazoo 58-6 on Sept. 9, improving their record to 2-0.

Wheaton racked up a total of 516 yards on offense while holding the Hornets to 148 yards. Senior Sola Olateju ran for 87 of the Thunder’s 304 rushing yards and had a 59-yard touchdown on the second play of the Thunder’s opening offensive drive. Junior Stone Watson contributed 67 yards, including his own 59-yard touchdown.

Watson also played as a kickoff returner, taking the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown and returning a total of 115 yards. Sophomore Phillip Nichols returned a punt in the second half for 56 yards, resulting in a Thunder touchdown.

Senior Curtis McWilliams was the starting quarterback for the Thunder, going 4-for-8 with 35 yards. Sophomore Spencer Peterson went 3-for-3 with 44 passing yards. Junior Jesse Furrow lead the Thunder’s quarterbacks, going 10-for-13 with 133 passing yards and one touchdown. On the receiving end, senior Chase White had five catches, totaling 57 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore Adam Terrini put up 72 yards with three catches.

The Thunder defense also had an impressive night. Sophomore Dallas McRae led the defense with seven tackles while senior Luke Sahly and junior Eric Stevenson both had six tackles and a sack each. Sophomore Robby Schwartz had the only interception of the game during the third quarter. Wheaton held the Hornet offense to 42 rushing yards and 106 passing yards.

Saturday’s game was “a great opportunity for a lot of kids to play,” Head Coach Mike Swider said. As many teams do when playing weaker opponents, the Thunder put in several players that normally do not see as much playing time, allowing younger players to gain more experience at the collegiate level.

Yet no time is being wasted reminiscing on the game. “Our kids played well, but now we’ve got to move on. There’s no time to rest,” Swider said. Senior Noah Spielman echoed Swider’s attitude, saying that “Carthage is a totally different team than [Benedictine and Kalamazoo] …” The Thunder will be matching up against Carthage College this upcoming Saturday for their home opener in McCully Stadium at 6 p.m.

Thunder roll to victory in opener

September 7, 2017

The Wheaton Football team began their quest for the National Championship with a bang on Saturday, defeating Benedictine 57-14. Rainy conditions didn’t seem to hinder the Thunder as they gained 545 yards of offense, including an astonishing 331 yards on the ground, while holding Benedictine to 210 total yards.

Senior quarterback Curtis McWilliams made his first start for the Thunder, but rainy conditions and the lopsided score limited him to 11 passing attempts (six complete) for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Senior running back Sola Olateju racked up a remarkable 170 yards and two scores on eight carries.

In addition to holding Benedictine to 210 yards, the Thunder Defense put up seven points on a 95-yard pick-six by Senior DB Tyler Sigler, as well as a safety.

The Thunder special teams were solid as well, as senior kicker Stefan Knoerr made two field goals and five extra points, earning him CCIW Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

The 57 points scored represented the most ever in a season opener in Wheaton’s football program history. In short, the Thunder dominated. Still, as is often the case in season openers, the Thunder showed signs of rust. Wheaton gave up 155 yards on 14 penalties and lost the time-of-possession battle. They will need to improve these stats if they hope to make a deep playoff run.

Overall, Head Coach Mike Swider thinks this game showed what his team is capable of. “We showed our offense is pretty explosive,” he said. “You can see that there’s tremendous opportunity for us to score points and score them quickly.” Yet he cautioned his team about getting too high on themselves. “We can’t look past [our next opponent] … the only thing worse than a team that doesn’t think they can win, is a team that doesn’t think they can be beaten.”

The Thunder will be back in action on Saturday, as they head up to Michigan to take on Kalamazoo University.

All stats courtesy Wheaton Athletics