Category Archives: Football

Swider reflects on legacy on and off the field

By Cassidy Thornburg


Head football Coach Mike Swider, following a 12-1 final season record and 24 years of leading the Thunder football program, announced his retirement on Tuesday. Coach Swider played football at Wheaton College and graduated in 1977. He served as the defensive coordinator for 11 seasons immediately following, then took over as head coach. In his tenure with the program, Coach Swider led the Thunder to nine CCIW championships, ten NCAA Division III playoff appearances and 140 total conference game wins.

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Extra point ends Thunder playoff run

By Cassidy Thornburg


Twelve consecutive wins, spring ball, summer offseason plans, fall practices and Monday film sessions all came to a halt in the final seconds of play as the Thunder football team fell 34- 33 to St. John’s (Minn.) in the DIII Quarterfinals on Saturday, Dec. 7.

“That one is going to hurt for a long time, but I’ll tell you this, nobody can question how tough these guys are,” Coach Mike Swider said during a post-game press conference. “Nobody can question how they’ve endured. We came up a play short. It’s just hard to swallow.”

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Six steps to winning Wheaton’s first ever Division III football championship

By Cassidy Thornburg


1. Win the conference with a perfect record

Coach Mike Swider’s Gatorade shower, covertly deployed by seniors Caden Sigler and Spencer Rowland, celebrated the Thunder football team’s 58-0 win over the Elmhurst Bluejays on Nov. 16. This victory capped off their undefeated season and punched their ticket to the playoffs.

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No regrets: Tyler Sigler looks back on his head-spinning summer

By Cassidy Thornburg


This past summer, former Thunder defensive-back Tyler Sigler practiced through training camp and signed a preseason contract with the Arizona Cardinals. During his four preseason games, Sigler recorded nine total tackles and had a notable pick off against the Chargers, returning it for 52 yards. Sigler, who was cut from the Cardinals’ regular season roster, joined the Wheaton Thunder Sports Network live broadcast during a Thunder football home game for a quick interview to share about his summer with the Cardinals. Here are our five key takeaways.

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Football, family and fortitude

Corey Kennedy comes full circle

By Cassidy Thornburg


This past summer at a baseball park in California some 2,000 miles from Wheaton, I met Andrew Stout, a right-handed pitcher for Concordia University Irvine. When I mentioned Wheaton College, Stout lit up. It turned out he had played high school baseball in Aurora, Ill. with Wheaton safety Corey Kennedy.

Though Stout hadn’t seen or spoken to him in years he praised Kennedy. Shaking his head, Stout told me, “He was one of the hardest workers, especially given his size, and a great person. Corey never put people down and hoped the best for everyone.” Stout’s admiration of Kennedy goes to show the determination the Wheaton football transfer and now senior captain has carried with him into the many places the Lord has led him.

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A brief history of Bell Week

By Cassidy Thornburg, Sports Editor


MCCULLY STADIUM — If you haven’t followed Wheaton football for an entire season, you may be unfamiliar with the Wheaton Thunder vs. North Central Cardinals football rivalry — a rivalry almost 170 years in the making.

It began in the early 1800s, when the cities of Wheaton and Naperville couldn’t settle on where the DuPage County Courthouse would be located. Wheaton residents raided the courthouse one night and left with important documents and a little brass bell — a symbol of revolt. Years later, the bell resurfaced on a farm located between the two cities. The farm owner passed away, and the bell was inherited by one of his sons who attended North Central. The younger and somewhat disgruntled son went to Wheaton College. Through friendly night raids and college shenanigans, the bell was passed back and forth between the two schools. Out of that sibling rivalry, the Wheaton Thunder vs. North Central Cardinals football rivalry emerged.

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After seven years off the field, grad student returns to football

By Cassidy Thornburg, Sports Editor


At 5 a.m., with every intention of not waking up 10 9-year-old campers, Bert McJunkin shuffled out of a newly built wood cabin, cautiously placing his feet so the boards won’t squeak. On a weekday morning at K1, a Kanakuk Sports Kamp in Branson, Missouri, the grounds were quiet and barely lit by a peaking sun in the distance.

The 6’2” wide receiver crossed the stretch of P-gravel from his cabin to the little gym located beneath the dining hall. He opened up the equipment room and got to work. While the rest of camp slept, McJunkin was in the weight room. Why? The desire to compete that drives almost every Wheaton football player. It’s a new title for the 24-year-old Texas boy, but it’s one he’s been preparing for all summer.

After staying committed to his summer lifts and workouts despite long days at Kanakuk, McJunkin immediately jumped into training camp, mid-August. His story is different than many of the 19 to 22-year-olds who take the field in McCully Stadium beside him, still in their undergraduate years.

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Transfers lead Thunder football to 38-0 victory

By Cassidy Thornburg, Sports Editor


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.