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Schepler makes most of his chance

DeKALB - When he came to the line late in the second quarter Saturday night, Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish said he already knew where he was going with his pass.

He saw man-to-man coverage and knew tight end Jason Schepler would have a good chance to make a play.

What Harnish didn't know, however, was exactly how wide open the Sycamore grad would be.

After staying in to block for a few seconds, Schepler released and ran into the left side of the end zone. No Western Illinois defender followed him.

All Schepler had to do was concentrate, make the catch, and then celebrate.

"That's a play that we've run a lot and I don't know whether we've seen it that open in practice," Harnish said. "Jason came through, did a good job and made the catch."

Schepler has taken on an increased role with the Huskies this season, but that role has mainly been as a blocking tight end, taking advantage of the blocking skills that made him a successful left tackle at Sycamore.

His pass opportunities, however, have been limited since he joined the Huskies as a walk-on last fall.

He caught two passes in 2008 - one against Navy and one at Tennessee - but Saturday's 4-yard touchdown was his first career score, and a moment he'll hang onto.

"It was just an awesome experience," Schepler said. "When I caught it and realized a touchdown, I was so excited."

Schepler didn't know what to expect when he joined the Huskies last fall. But the coaches immediately fell in love with his work ethic, something the coaches at Sycamore still rave about.

That helped open the door for Schepler to start last season on the kickoff and punt teams, which eventually led to opportunities as a tight end.

Schepler played so well in those chances last season that, when a scholarship came open late last spring, the coaches offered it to Schepler.

This fall, he hasn't disappointed, earning himself one of two starting tight end spots with the Huskies' multiple-look offense that sometimes uses three tight ends at a time.

"I do feel more confident this year and it really helps the financial burden, being on a scholarship," Schepler said. "I feel like I can play just as hard as I did last year.

"It feels like the coaches have a lot of trust in me, even after one year."

The coaches are so confident in the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder because of the effort he has shown them in everything he has done at the school. Not only did he work his way from being a walk-on to a starting role in just one season, he also held down a 3.889 grade-point average as he works to become an electical engineering major.

It's been nearly a year since Schepler had his first shot at a touchdown, when a ball was knocked out of his hands in the end zone against Indiana State last season.

This time, however, Schepler wasn't going to let that happen again. And, for that, he got a memory that will stick with him for a long time - or at least until the next time he finds himself that wide open again.

"We worked on that play this week coming in and I felt like we executed it really well," Schepler said. "Chandler threw a great ball and there was no one around me in the end zone. I just had to concentrate and catch it. It was a pretty awesome feeling once I did."

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