College of DuPage's Student Newspaper

The Courier

College of DuPage's Student Newspaper

The Courier

Title Art by ADHL
“Eva's World” Page 25
Title Art by ADHL
“Eva's World” Page 24
Title Art by ADHL
“Eva's World” Page 25
Title Art by ADHL
“Eva's World” Page 24

COD Football Completes Three-Peat for First Time in JUCO Football History

The Chaparrals conclude their 2022-2023 season as NJCAA Division III Champions for the third consecutive season.
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Rachel Wagner

College of DuPage’s football team defeated the Rochester Community and Technical College Yellowjackets by the score of 33-29 after trailing by three points with 1:03 left in the game. The Chaparrals completed the win after sophomore Fabian Baez secured a 16-yard touchdown to give COD the lead late in the fourth quarter. For the first time in JUCO football history, COD has won three consecutive national championships at the JUCO level.

Head Football coach Matthew Rahn became a three-time NJCAA Division III National Champion on Saturday in only his third season as the official head coach for the Chaparrals. Rahn has an overall head coaching record of 29-5 at COD.

“This game was the epitome of what we do here [at COD]. We bend, but we don’t break. We won so many close games this year, and [the players] don’t want my heart to go on longer in my life, but it makes for some exciting football,” said head football coach Matthew Rahn. “I’m very proud of these guys, and they are resilient and a mentally tough group of kids. [Rochester] is a good football team, and I’m not surprised that they came back because they are capable of doing that. We expected that out of them and that was my fear when we came out in the first half and really laid it to them that they would flip the script on us like that, but we held water long enough to keep the victory.” 

The Chaparrals dominated the first half with the help of sophomore running back Jaden McGill’s three rushing touchdowns and freshman kicker Christian Castilla’s 29-yard field goal. COD’s 75 percent fourth down conversion rate and successful running game allowed COD to go into halftime with a 24-7 lead over the Yellowjackets.

Sophomore running back Jaden McGill reaches pass the goal line to score a touchdown. (Rachel Wagner)

Rochester’s only first-half touchdown came from an 11-yard touchdown pass with 9:43 left in the first quarter. The Yellowjackets were held to only five first downs in the first half and failed to convert on a fake punt attempt with the help of COD’s strong defensive front.

McGill scored three first-half rushing touchdowns from wildcat formation play calls, finished the night rushing for 65 yards, and secured three receptions for 19 yards. In addition, McGill ran for 98 yards from kickoff return yards and earned player of the game honors. McGill finished the season with 687 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

“Throughout the game, it was a rollercoaster,” said McGill. “We started off great and then they came out [in the second half] and got a great start on us. [My] hat goes off to Rochester, and they are a great team. I’m happy that we pulled it off with an amazing catch by Fabian [Baez] from Rob [Brazziel]. This means a lot especially since I’m a JUCO athlete. Everyone has their own path, and you find your way here at its usually not at the highest [point]. To be able to go out on this higher note is amazing and it means everything. We stayed locked and [kept telling each other] we had time to come back and all you need is one minute or a second to make a play.”

Despite failing to find their offensive rhythm in the first half, Rochester opened the second half with a 1-yard touchdown off a quarterback sneak to cut COD’s lead to 24-14.

Later in the quarter, the newly energized and determined Yellowjackets scored a 26-yard touchdown to cut COD’s lead to three points with 2:17 left in the third quarter.

After allowing Rochester 14 unanswered points, COD would gain some momentum back after an overthrown punt into the back of the endzone, which gave the Chaparrals a two-point safety to make the score 26-21 at the start of the fourth quarter.

With 9:58 left in the fourth, sophomore Brandon Vines leaped for a much-needed interception to shut down a red-zone opportunity for the Yellowjackets to give COD momentum.

“[The team] has put in so much work for this,” said Vines. “Every offseason and every season, everyone works their butt off, and it just feels amazing. [Securing the interception] was a relief, and our coaches did a good job keeping us even keeled. All the older guys [on the team] kept us locked in and level-headed. It got close at the end, but we stayed coarse and kept going. [At the beginning] of the season, we didn’t know if we would have enough numbers, but all the redshirt [players] who put the preparation in stayed with us and locked in.”

With 5:08 left in the game, Rochester scored a 4-yard touchdown from a quick pass and converted on a two-point attempt to give the Yellowjackets their first lead of the game and a 29-26 lead over COD.

After a 49-yard kickoff return by McGill to give COD excellent field position for their last drive, sophomore quarterback Robert Brazziel found sophomore wide receiver Fabian Baez on the left side of the end zone to score a late 16-yard touchdown to give the lead back to COD with only a minute left in the game.

Sophomore wide receiver Fabian Baez leaps over defender to catch the game winning touchdown.

After sustaining an injury from a previous game, Brazziel was called to take over for starting quarterback Peyton Laughlin for the National Championship game. Brazziel finished the game 14-24 for 134 yards and a touchdown.

“This is unbelievable, I am not going to lie,” said Brazziel. “I am at a loss of words because this is my first and last start at JUCO, so this means a lot to me. I just knew we would have to face adversity, and we just had to stay together and face the adversity as a team. We knew it was going to be a dogfight since we are the best two teams at the DIII level, so [our team] was saying it was 0-0 going back out in the second half. The coaches this season really designed the plays to help us succeed and become better players and to be in this position. I’m just so thankful and I think this is a special group of coaches.”

The Chaparrals finished the season with a record of 11-1 after winning their third consecutive NJCAA Division III National Championship. COD has now earned a total of 42 overall NJCAA titles and is 3-3 in title appearances since NJCAA awarded non-scholarship football with a national title.

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