COD Football Three-peat National Champs


By: Mark Reinhiller

College of DuPage Chaparral Football, down 29-26 in the fourth quarter with 1:03 left in the game, pulled off a thrilling late touchdown securing the team’s third consecutive National Junior College Athletic Association Division III championship title.

Sophomore quarterback Robert Brazziel made the biggest play of his life when two-time defending champions needed it most.
COD, which dominated the first half, found itself trailing late in the game.

On a third-and-goal play from the 16, Brazziel checked off his tight end as the primary receiver, and found wide out Fabien Baez deep in the left corner for the touchdown as the Chaparrals went on to win their third national championship with a 33-29 victory over Rochester Community and Technical College before a crowd of 2,500 at Bjarne Ullsvik Stadium and MacDougall Field.
“When we needed a play from Robert at the most important time of the game, he came through,” Chaparrals head coach Matthew Rahn said. “I could not be prouder of the way Robert played today. Tremendous leadership and to have the presence of mind to stay cool and find Fabian for the game-winning TD is really something.”
COD dominated the first half, building a 24-7 lead thanks to three touchdowns from All-American Jaden McGill. The Naperville native delivered a three-run yard TD on COD’s opening possession, and then added two more in the second quarter.
But Rochester (8-3 overall) answered back with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter and grabbed the lead when running back Raphael Manning scored on a 4-yard run with 5:08 to go. Rochester added the two-point conversion and the Chaps found themselves needing a game-winning drive with precious time running out.
On the kickoff, McGill raced 50 yards to the Rochester 44, and COD picked up 15 yards on a personal foul call and COD opened at the 29. The Chaps worked themselves to a first-and-goal from the Yellowjackets 6, but lost 10 yards on the next two plays, setting up Brazziel’s heroics.
McGill, who rushed for 54 yards on 15 carries, also had three receptions for 19 yards and totaled 98 yards on two kickoff returns to earn the game’s most valuable player honors.
Setting up the Chaps’ final drive, McGill trusted the schemes set up by special teams assistant coach J.R. Niklos.
“The blocks and the schemes are what we work on in practice,” McGill said. “It didn’t really matter what direction I wanted to go. My teammates set me up so well all day long and I was just looking for a seam to get some distance.”
Brazziel finished 14 of 24 passing with 134 yards along with one interception. He rushed for 16 yards and kept the Chaps ahead for nearly the entire game.
The Chicago native picked up the start when regular-season starter Peyton O’Laughlin sustained an injury in the final regular season game against Georgia Military.
“We didn’t change anything because of Peyton’s status,” Braziel said. “From the third string to the starter, we all work together and practice with the top unit. I felt prepared and it was really something to find Fabian in the end zone.”
Braziel’s play call, an 81 Flint, called for the quarterback to look at his primary target, tight end Braden Downs was the primary receiver.
“I checked down and looked left and saw Fabian in the corner,” he said. “It looked good going out and Fabian looked even better making the catch.”
The victory secured College of DuPage’s 42nd overall NJCAA title and marked a perfect 3-for-3 in title appearances since the NJCAA recognized non-scholarship football with a national title.
“We’re thrilled to earn another title,” Rahn said. “Our program will always be about placing kids at the next level of college football. We want them to succeed on the field and in the classroom.
“But there’s no doubt, our success allows us to build upon our success. They know they can compete for a national title at College of DuPage.”