BY RICH PALZEWIC
DE PERE – St. Norbert College football player Ben Kornowski turned the course of Saturday’s Midwest Conference championship game on one play.
The Green Bay Preble graduate picked off a pass less than 2 minutes into the game and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown to help propel the Green Knights to a 10-7 victory over Monmouth College on a cold and blustery day at Schneider Stadium.
In all, the St. Norbert defense had six interceptions, including three by Joe Peterson.
With the victory, St. Norbert (9-1 overall, 6-0 MWC) received the automatic bid into the NCAA Division III playoffs after winning its 17th MWC title overall.
The Green Knights will learn their opponent Sunday, Nov. 11, at 4:30 p.m.
“We rep our technique all week in practice,” said Kornowski, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior linebacker. “We are told to sink under those routes and just make sure we see what’s behind us. Everyone did their job, which gave me the opportunity to make a play. Our whole team played really well and put forth a great effort.”
It was the second time this season that St. Norbert won a game without scoring an offensive touchdown. The Green Knights did the same in the opening game of the year in a 16-7 victory over Aurora. Before this season, the last time St. Norbert won a game without scoring on offense was in 1938, the same year Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office.
“I’m just super proud of the guys and their effort,” said St. Norbert head coach Dan McCarty. “Monmouth is a great team and it feels really good to defeat them. Defensively, we played great, and offensively we made some plays, but we weren’t consistent enough.”
The win also avenged last year’s 9-6 overtime loss to the Fighting Scots in the MWC championship game.
“It’s been a long year since Monmouth beat us last season in overtime,” McCarty added. “If we don’t win our conference, it’s a disappointment. It took us 365 days to get it back – this victory is for the seniors from last year and us getting the trophy back.”
After Spencer Thompson-Meyers booted a 24-yard field goal halfway through the first quarter to make it 10-0, Nate Essman intercepted another Monmouth pass on the ensuing possession.
Quarterback Drew Rhodes hit receiver Drew Chavarria on a 35-yard pass on the first play after the interception, but Chavarria was called for an offensive pass interference penalty to wipe out the score.
An interception thrown by Rhodes in the end zone with less than a minute remaining in the first half stopped another Green Knights’ drive.
The defenses ruled most of the game, with both teams combining for 15 punts, including nine by St. Norbert.
Overall, the Green Knights’ defense allowed 246 yards of offense and 10 first downs, including just one before intermission.
St. Norbert had given up less than 100 yards of offense until Monmouth scored on an 82-yard play near the end of the third quarter where it appeared receiver Yansay Williams pushed off before hauling in the catch.
David Lox had a big 26-yard rush late in the game to help seal the victory for the Green Knights on the final possession of the game.
Hunter Prokash also had an interception, while Matt Barrett led the team with seven tackles.
Rhodes finished 12-23 for 119 yards passing and two interceptions but also led the Green Knights with 91 yards rushing on 26 carries.
Matt Galanopoulus hauled in five balls for 44 yards.
Monmouth: 0, 0, 7, 0 – 7
St. Norbert: 10, 0, 0, 0 – 10