The Chaparrals Triumph as Division III Football National Champions

The Chaparrals took down the Wildcats to become back-to-back NJCAA DIII National Champions.

Claire Valenti and Nick Karmia

College of DuPage’s football team won the the NJCAA DIII National Championship title for the second year in a row on Saturday, defeating top seed North Dakota State College of Science at Bjarne Ullsvik Stadium by a score of 14-12. From this hard-fought victory, COD has now taken home its third national championship title of the year.

Sophomore wide receiver Marquel Porter opened up the scoring off a pass from freshman quarterback Gavin Sukup from the 25-yard line. He made it to the end zone with 1:51 left in the first quarter.

“That was one of the plays we’ve had schemed up for quite a while now,” Porter said. “We figured it was going to happen; he was going to get a man-to-man, and that’s when I go slant.”

Porter made three catches with a total of 39 yards. He said he knew this would be a Chaparral victory from the first play of the game.

“We had to come out here and set the tone,” Porter said. “We should have set the tone [further], but we had a few plays where we took mental lapses.”

The second touchdown for the Chaparrals came from sophomore running back Randy Young. He rushed from the 13-yard line beating back the Wildcats and scored with 11:27 left in the third quarter.

“Driving the ball I just knew I had to score,” Young said. “There was a big platform at this game. Having the audience that we had today, I just knew I had to overcome a lot of things mentally and be the best version of myself.”

One of the strongest leaders among the talent was Sukup, a freshman, who played a key role in holding this team together during the grand finale. For Sukup, the team’s defense is what mainly pushed them toward victory.

“This game was a true defensive win,” said Sukup. “[NDSCS] had countless stops. We just couldn’t really get things to hook offensively. It was an ugly win, but that’s football sometimes.”

Sukup believed from the very beginning that his team had what it took to be worthy of another national championship victory.

“I knew we had a talented team, one of the more talented in [junior college] football,” Sukup said. “It was just a matter of if we could play together, and do what we needed to do for each other.”

It is the clear bond among his teammates that makes Sukup so thrilled to have won in this important matchup.

“I’m super proud,” Sukup said. “The way offense and defense just stuck together and saw this through, that’s what results in a win on the scoreboard.”

Sukup said the experiences and memories that formed their football team will never be forgotten.

“These are my brothers for life,” Sukup said. “I don’t see me not talking to a lot of these guys down the road, and we’re going to be friends forever.”

Sophomore player Joshua Winslow, who was the kicker for the Chaps in Saturday’s championship, had two opportunities for field goals and was successful with both.

“It feels like it’s a lot of work I’ve had pay off,” Winslow said. “Definitely a lot of cold nights kicking paying off with a victory.”

With such a close game between COD and NDSCS, the points Winslow was able to put on the board were paramount. Confidence among players like Winslow never dropped, as he too was someone who thought the team was bound for another championship win.

“We won it last year, and I was pretty sure we were gonna go all the way this year again,” said Winslow. “I felt like this year we had a lot of guys who were young and talented. It was a lot of fun seeing a bunch of new faces perform really well.”

As he looked back to just the beginning of this particular game, Winslow believed firmly that his team would prevail.

“From the start, we thought we should have been the first seed from the beginning,” Winslow said. “We thought this was going to be our game the whole time.

“Being able to travel with the team this year and be the starting kicker has been really fun,” Winslow continued. “I love this team. They’re a bunch of great guys. I’m so glad we got to win this together.”

One of the more creative plays of the afternoon was made by North Dakota wide receiver Dayton Smith. During an offensive play, Smith managed to make a bounce pass off the ground to another player fueling a touchdown for the Wildcats in the second quarter.

“It’s something that we practice for about five to six weeks for a moment like this,” Smith said. “It definitely took a lot of time.”

This is the first time NDSCS has made it to a national title game.

“It was a tough matchup. It was a pretty great team,” Smith said. “We had a couple mental mistakes, but we’re all good. You win some; you lose some.”

Smith said he feels immensely proud to have been part of such a significant moment in his program’s history.

“I’m happy with the team. I love this team with everything,” Smith said. “[Our team] played hard, and I love them to death.”