Stepina Snubbed?


Courtesy of Herald & Review

With the conclusion of the football regular season, the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, made their All-Conference selections.

The CCIW All-Conference selections were announced on November 14th, as well as the other awards.

And since then, there has been a lot of talk concerning the selections.

The Offensive Player of the Year selection has raised many eyebrows.

North Central senior running back Austin Breunig was selected as the Art Keller Offensive Player of the Year.

Breunig rushed for 1,266 yards on 212 carries and 15 touchdowns. Along with his rushing totals, he was the third leading receiver on the Cardinals, with 26 receptions for 411 yards and four touchdowns. Breunig recorded 1,686 all purpose yards and had a total of 19 TDs on the season.

Those are some impressive stats, and Breunig was definitely worthy of being in the running for the award, especially considering that his team tied for the conference title with Illinois Wesleyan University.

And if I didn’t follow CCIW football and someone told me this young man won with these numbers, I wouldn’t have anything to argue about.

But since I do follow CCIW football, I have a lot to argue about.

Breunig is an amazing athlete, and he had a fantastic season.

But he’s no Nicco Stepina.

Stepina is the junior quarterback of the Millikin football team. After posting good numbers last season, Stepina surprised everyone when he surpassed those numbers this season.

Last season, Stepina threw for 2467 yards and 22 touchdowns. In addition, he ran for 268 yards and 2 touchdowns.

This season was a different story for both Stepina and his team. Stepina threw for 2,785 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also ran for 285 yards and seven touchdowns, totaling 36 total touchdowns. 17 more than Breunig.
Stepina also set 10 school records, including passing yards in a single season. He also broke his own record of most passing touchdowns in a game with seven against Greenville College.

His teammates also made a name for the Big Blue, placing fourth in one of the toughest conferences in the country after sitting in the bottom half for the past few years.

Stepina stepped his performance up in every offensive category. He even brought down his interception total. Last season, he threw 13 interceptions. This season, he threw only nine.

So, 19 touchdowns versus 36 touchdowns.

And 1266 yards versus 2785 yards.

The numbers don’t lie. Stepina got snubbed

If that doesn’t surprise you, maybe this will.

Not only did Stepina not win the Offensive Player of the Year award, but he also wasn’t selected for the All-Conference first team.

While Stepina’s teammate and favorite target in sophomore receiver, Jordan Smith, was selected for the first team, Stepina was selected for the second team. Along with Stepina, Millikin senior center Nick Perry and junior receiver Gerald Perry, were also selected to the second team.

The CCIW selected North Central sophomore Broc Rutter as the All-Conference first team quarterback. Rutter won the Offensive Player of the Year award last season as a freshman.

Rutter was more than deserving of the honor last season. He threw for 3237 yards and 38 touchdowns. This season, his totals declined. He threw for 2571 yards and a mere 19 touchdowns.

How is it Stepina threw for around 200 yards more than Rutter, and almost twice as many touchdowns, and was named to the second team?

Something seems off.

Some believe that team performance plays a role in the award selections. Last season, the Cardinals won the conference title. This season, North Central finished the season 9-1 and are headed to the playoffs.

It would be pretty easy to give the top awards to the top team.

But to be fair, Millikin was no slouch in the CCIW, finishing 7-3 overall, 5-3 in conference.

But, I guess it is easier to give a 9-1 team prestigious honors than a 7-3 team.

Whether or not the CCIW was wrong in their selections, this will just motivate Stepina and his team.

Stepina is not one to stay down. After things at West Point didn’t work out due to health issues, he went to Lenoir-Rhyne to continue his academic and athletic careers. Once again, things did not work out as planned. Finally, Stepina found his place at Millikin University. In the three years that he has played for the Big Blue, the program has progressed. Last season, the team finished 4-6. This season, under Stepina’s leadership, the Big Blue finished 7-3.

So, along with not making the playoffs, and being snubbed, Stepina still has work to do. He has one year left, and is planning on leaving it all on the field.

So, could we be looking at the 2018 Offensive Player of the Year? On perhaps the 2018 conference championship team?

Only time will tell.