Sack attack: Talha Ayhan makes most of opportunity for North Central (Thank you to the Sun Times for this article)
“It was a great game,” Ayhan said. “The sacks were great. The record is great, and it’s going to stay in the books. But now it’s time to move on. This game is over. We have Wheaton next week.”
Ayhan, from Glenbard South, entered camp as a linebacker. Listed at only 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, he moved to defensive end three days in. He slowly worked his way into the rotation, recording a sack each of the past two weeks before Saturday’s breakout performance.
“I wanted to make an impact for this team,” Ayhan said. “I moved back to D-line and it works amazing. I love it.”
NCC defensive coordinator Mike Murray is finding opportunities for Ayhan, who didn’t even appear on Saturday’s two-deep depth chart.
“He’s got a great motor,” Murray said. “You try to put him in situations where he uses his assets and we try to eliminate as many of the liabilities as we can. There is a size thing there, but his motor is so good that there will be certain times where he will give us a great burst off the edge. People are going to have to take a peek at where he is.”
He connected with the Cardinals’ leading receiver, Andrew Kamienski, for a 25-yard TD and running back Austin Breunig for a 41-yard score, both in the second quarter as NCC built a 21-0 halftime lead.
Breunig and Dominick Muoghalu each scored rushing TDs. Muoghalu has scored seven TDs in the past three games and a team-high nine overall.
The Cardinals added a 27-yard field goal by Liam Crotty and a safety off of Matt Sutherland’s blocked punt.
The story, however, was the defense. North Park averaged less than a yard per carry, gaining 31 yards in 33 attempts. North Central recorded seven sacks and Zach Greenburg had an interception.
“It’s finally coming together where we’re seeing a championship-caliber defense, which we know we can play,” senior linebacker Tom Sora said. “We just had to put the pieces of the puzzle together. We know what this defense is capable of.”
Now, the Cardinals can look ahead to Wheaton. On the line is the Little Brass Bell, redemption for last year’s playoff loss to the Thunder and the inside track to the CCIW title.
“We hadn’t had any type of next-week talk at all until it went to 0:00 on the clock,” Murray said. “We still had so much that we wanted to improve on from our last performances, so our guys were really present, in the moment and focused.”
Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.
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