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Last updated: Sat. Aug. 23, 2014 - 10:20 am EDT

Sparks, Cadets knock off defending SAC champs

Junior QB rallies Concordia to victory

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Concordia junior quarterback Daniel Sparks looked poised from the get-go and spent the entire night chipping away at the North Side defense as the Cadets upended the defending Summit Athletic Conference champions, 31-21.

Sparks, who took over the reigns from graduated David Morrison, completed 19 of his 28 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Two of his scores came in a 7-for-8 third quarter after trailing 14-7 at the half.

"What we preached to our guys was to play with great effort and if you play with that effort, the scoreboard will take care of itself," Cadets coach Tim Mannigel said.

The Cadets struck first in the game after a defensive first quarter. Peterson Kerlegrand kicked off the second with a 51-yard touchdown run. From there, North Side dominated the rest of the opening half by making it look like airing out the football would pay bigger dividends. Redskin sophomore quarterback Arion Nieves connected on passes of 30, 46 and 63 yards to give the Redskins the halftime lead.

Nieves finished with 258 yards passing. Kerlegrand had 159 yards rushing on 20 carries for Concordia.

"We warned them that might happen," Mannigel said of North Side's penchant for big play offense. "But we didn't know how we were going to react to that. Tonight, these guys seemed really resilient."

And resiliency and poise, not the long pass, was the key throughout the night. The passing duo of Sparks to CJ Morris was critical in the second half, hooking up on four plays for 58 yards.

The Cadets, who all but lost an entire defense to graduation, also excelled in stopping North Side late. John Pynchon picked off Nieves twice in critical moments.

"I was just in the right place at the right time," Pynchon said. "They were big momentum shifters, but they just played off all of the other big plays in this game. It's a great confidence builder."

Pynchon's second interception, with 2:10 left, sealed the deal for the Cadets.

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