College of DuPage to host top 10 team in inaugural Red Grange Bowl
The DuPage area is getting a brand new college football bowl game, set up to honor one of Illinois' most famous legends.
The College of DuPage will be hosting the Inaugural Red Grange Bowl, 1 p.m. Dec. 3 at Bjarne Ullsvik Stadium, on the College of DuPage (COD) campus. It will be a home game for the college's Chapparals, who will play the Central Lakes College (CLC) Raiders, a highly ranked school in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) football polls, which was selected to be the COD's opponent.
The Chapparals are coming off a difficult season that has been the definition of up-and-down. Finishing 5-5, the Chapparals finished their season on a 2-2 run, which saw them win by an average of 45-7, but lose by an average of 38-14. However, one of those two losses was a near-upset of the seventh-ranked NJCAA team in the country, Lackawanna, which beat DuPage 31-21. The other loss was an injury-impacted 44-7 blowout loss to Iowa Western, which would be ranked 22nd in a standard 25-team poll (the NJCAA poll only ranks 20 teams).
"We compete against some of the top scholarship programs in the nation throughout the season," Chapparals head coach Matt Foster told the DuPage Policy Journal. "Our youth and inexperience this year has inhibited us from being as consistent as last year, but we feel our players will play a great game on Dec. 3. We had multiple injuries going into our last regular-season game, which resulted in a skewed performance and score. Our other loss was by 10 points to the No. 7 team in the country."
The Chapparals now have another game against a highly ranked opponent, a chance to prove they are more the team that nearly beat Lackawanna than the team that lost badly to Iowa Western. The CLC Raiders are finishing an 11-0 season and are Minnesota College Athletic Conference champions after beating North Dakota State College of Science 36-28 in the MCAC Championship game. Raiders head coach Gregory Medeck said there will be no temptation for the undefeated Raiders to look past the .500 Chapparals.
"The College of DuPage plays a grueling schedule against some of the best teams in the country," Medeck said. "Surely, they are prepared to compete against any opponent and will be looking for a strong showing on their home field in this inaugural bowl game. Part of our team creed is respect our opponent no matter what. I am certain that our team is not overlooking any opponent, particularly not one that is hosting a major bowl game. We are looking forward to a great contest between two top teams and are grateful to be a part of this terrific experience."
The Red Grange Bowl will be unique in that it will be the only NJCAA bowl game designed to feature the best of non-scholarship schools, giving players a unique showcase of their talents.
"The Red Grange Bowl is designed to match two of the top non-scholarship football programs in post-season play," Foster said. "The rest of the bowl games are hosted by scholarship programs, and this is the only non-scholarship venue to highlight our players, programs, and give the players another opportunity to compete at a high level, possibly helping their recruitment and scholarship opportunities."
Whereas many bowl games match two teams at a neutral site, this will basically be a home game for the Chapparals.
Medeck is mindful of this, but said he and his team are prepared for the challenge.
"Playing a postseason game at a home site has some natural advantages," he said. "However, we are accustomed to having to travel at the end of the season and actually relish the opportunity. A major component of the team-building experience is created through travel and shared experience. Our guys are looking forward to the trip, the competition and the environment."
The bowl game honors the life and career of Red Grange, perhaps one of the most prolific American athletes. At Wheaton High School (attended by Foster, the Chapparals' Coach, when it was called Wheaton Central, the school is now known as Wheaton Warrenville South High School), Grange won 16 varsity letters, having played football, baseball, basketball and track. In football, in his junior year, he scored 36 touchdowns and led the team to an undefeated season. Grange went on to play college football at the University of Illinois and even stayed in state for his professional career, playing for the Chicago Bears (along with a short baseball stint with the New York Yankees) and winning two NFL Championships.
The game will be preceded the night before by a banquet, at 6 p.m. Dec. 2. Tickets to the game are $10 each, and proceeds will benefit the Ronald McDonald House charity.