The football gods love drama, as evidenced by the fact that the NAIA National Championship Game will get one final round of the Sioux Falls Cougars taking on the CC Fighting Saints before USF heads off for D2. In 2007 the Fighting Saints beat the Cougars 17-9. The following year USF defeated CC in a filthy, rainy, muddy, beauty of a game by a final score of 23-7.
Saturday, December 18th will see the rubber game between these two NAIA football dynasties of recent years. The Cougars also won titles in 1996, 2006 and just last December and are hoping for a Threepeat. The Fighting Saints won the title four years in a row earlier this decade. At least one of these teams has played in every National Championship game since 2002. It’s very appropriate to see them square off against each other one last time not only to end the decade but to end USF’s time in the NAIA.
Both teams had one final obstacle to overcome today to set up this gridiron equivalent of the Battle of Dan-No-Ura (I love pompous and thoroughly inappropriate sports analogies!) The Cougars won their semifinal matchup against the MidAmerica Nazarene University Pioneers by a score of 38-0. The Pioneers had Sean “How Bad” Ransberg back at quarterback but that was nowhere near enough to cope with USF stars like QB Jon “Jonny East” Eastman and his teammates Jon “Mountain Lion” Ryan, Dom “The Dominator” Studzinski, “Brassy” Braden Wieking and “Smilin’ Dan” Schmeicher. The Fighting Saints were up against Chicago’s own Saint Xavier Cougars who no doubt had the spirit of Rich Koz accompanying them in their journey to Helena, MT (Which is really weird because Koz is STILL ALIVE!). CC won 27-5 with a safety when the game was all but over accounting for the odd final score. In 2006 SXU put themselves on the national map by defeating the Fighting Saints in Helena, but not even the superheroics of Anthony “Crop-Man” Kropp, Mike “M Squared” Maher and Tom “Tommy The Linchpin” Lynch could overcome the restored CC juggernaut.
I say the two teams should make a memorable wager on the outcome of this title game. How about if CC loses they have to use a “C Squared” symbol as a helmet logo on their plain gold helmets from now on. If USF loses Jon Eastman and Jon Ryan both have to start spelling their first names with an “h” in them? Naaah! The schools would never go along with that!
The 2-seed Whitewater Warhawks proved yet again that they should have been a 1 seed all along by polishing off the faux 1 seed in their region, the North Central Cardinals, by a final score of 20-10. Some Warhawk haters were claiming Whitewater was so spoiled from usually having home-field advantage through the playoffs that they would falter on the road today, but that was just wishful thinking on their part. The Warhawks are the reigning champs in D3 and their defense of their title continues.
The Mount Union Purple Raiders, the 1 seed in their region, took care of business in their usual style by routing the Alfred Saxons by a score of 37-7. Since my blog is largely a light introduction to the divisions I cover I’ll point out to newbies that Mount Union is the most dominant dynasty in D3 football history and they and Whitewater have played each other in the past 5 National Championship Games in a row. Just making it to the point in the playoffs where a team has to play one of those two powerhouses has been the most the other teams in D3 have been able to hope for in recent years.
The Wesley Wolverines, like Mount Union the 1 seed in their region, have got to be thoroughly sick of living in the shadow of the Purple Raiders and the Warhawks. Today they defeated the MHB Crusaders, another traditional D3 football power, by a score of 19-9 in what started out as a battle of field goals. By getting designated a 1 seed this year it gave Wesley the best chance they’ve ever had to break through to the championship game. They’ll finally get to have home-field advantage against one of the Big Two next Saturday when they host the Warhawks. The world will be watching to see if the Wolverines can make the most of this Golden Opportunity.
Minnesota was the site of the Game Of The Day in D3. The Bethel (MN) Royals took down the 1 seed in their region, the St Thomas Tommies, in a 12-7 Instant Classic. The Royals ended the Tommies’ 15-game home winning streak and their own 3-game losing streak to St Thomas. Bethel did not win their conference title (the only mbr of our Final Four not to do so) and have won all three playoff rounds on the road. That could all come to an end next Saturday for the Royals as they travel to Alliance, OH to face Mt Union. Logan Flannery may have to have another 200-yard rushing day like he did today if Bethel is to have any hope of pulling off the upset.
NCAA DIVISION 2 QUARTER FINALS
Coach Mel Tjeerdsma got his Northwest Missouri Bearcats one step closer to their sixth straight appearance in the D2 Championship Game. In a Show-Me State Showdown the Bearcats defeated the Central Missouri Mules 37-20. Quarterback “Blademaster” Blake Bolles threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in this victory. All of this further pads Bolles’ resume to possibly win the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is D2’s Heisman and which isn’t accompanied by the cloud of investigation and cheating hovering over the Heisman and its likely winner, Cam “The Scam” Newton.
The Delta State Statesmen out of Cleveland, MS and the Gulf South Conference were the 2 seed in their region and today upset the 1 seed, the Albany (GA) State Golden Rams 28-7. ASU plays in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Fleeces, as I call them for short, came into today’s game with high hopes that their Dirty Blue Defense and their Gold Rush O-Line could deal with their opponents from “The SEC of D2 Football” but talent and post-season experience told the tale. The Statesmen move on to next Saturday’s semifinals, still hoping to win their first National Championship since the year 2000.
The Minnesota- Duluth Bulldogs, the 1 seed in their region, beat the Augustana Vikings by a final score of 25-6. The outcome of this game sets up a very attractive semifinal confrontation next Saturday between UMD and the defending D2 champs, the Northwest Missouri Bearcats. The Bulldogs won the D2 National Championship in 2008 so not only does this game match up the two most recent title holders in the sport but, adding extra spice to the mix is the fact that the Bearcats were the team the Bulldogs defeated to win the 2008 championship. Mel Tjeerdsma’s boys are no doubt looking for some payback against UMD.
The Shepherd Rams were the 4 seed in their region, so they had to travel to the 2 seed, the Mercyhurst Lakers, for this quarter-final matchup. The final score would make you think the seeding should have been reversed in this Pennsylvania/West Virginia clash. The Rams put a heavy beat-down on their Keystone State opponents by the lopsided score of 49-14. Next up for SU will be their semifinal matchup against the Delta State Statesmen for a trip to the National Championship Game.
SATURDAY’S BOWL GAME RESULTS
SALT CITY BOWL – In a gridiron battle between two of the coolest-named teams imaginable the Hutchinson Blue Dragons doubled up on the Eastern Arizona Gila Monsters by a score of 42-21. The Blue Dragons came into the game with a 9-2 record so today’s victory gives them their first 10-win season since 1995.
MINERAL WATER BOWL – Another Kansas college football team, the Pittsburg State Gorillas, also won their bowl matchup today by defeating the Concordia- Saint Paul Golden Bears in a 13-9 Instant Classic. The Gorillas were trailing 9-7 in the 4th quarter but their defense stepped up big and kicker Jake “The Bad JC” Craig provided two field goals to give Pitt State their come-from- behind victory. Gus the gorilla and company end the season with a positive springboard into next year.
KANZA BOWL – The Kanza Bowl matched up a team from the Lone Star Conference and a team from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association . As in the Mineral Water Bowl the MIAA team came out on top as the Washburn Ichabods completely eviscerated the Midwestern State Mustangs by a final score of 45-14. With this win the Ichabods (Love that name!) close out their 2010 football season with a record of 8-4.
TOP OF THE MOUNTAINS BOWL – The Snow College Badgers defeated the Iowa Western Reivers today by a score of 48-36. The Reivers finished up their second year of intercollegiate football with an impressive 9-2 record and a bowl appearance. The Badgers (10-2) close out the season ranked 7th in the NJCAA poll while Iowa Western ends the season in the #11 spot.
*******SUNDAY DECEMBER 5TH ADDENDUM********
CITIZEN’S BANK BOWL – The Navarro College Bulldogs won the NJCAA National Championship Game in a match for the ages, topping the Butler (KS) Grizzlies 13-12. The Grizzlies had trailed most of the 2nd half and took their first lead of the game at 12-10 with just 2:28 left in the 3rd quarter. Butler’s kicking game has been so suspect of late that the 12 points came on 2 touchdowns with failed attempts at 2-point conversions. Bulldog kicker Jueventino Sanchez kicked the game-winning field goal with 1:11 left in the game. Navarro intercepted a tipped pass on the Grizzlies’ final drive and ran out the clock.