Playoffs! NAIA

SWC75

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#1
Just as my report on the local and state high school playoffs, (which is on the “Other Sports” board because it’s not about college football), was delayed by my cruise and other factors, so my annual presentation regarding the small college playoffs has also been delayed, to the point where I’ve had to do this post factum.

I’m going to list and provide some information about each team, (their won-loss record, points for an against, ranking, seeding and all-time post season record), the results of each game, a link to an article about it and a one or two line description of the game.

NAIA

The Teams: (the first number is the seed)
1- Morningside (Iowa) 11-0 (620-147) ranked #1 post season: 19-14
2- Marian (Ind) 10-0 (446-93) ranked #2 post season: 15-4 with 2 titles
3- Bethel (TN) 10-0 (558-219) ranked #3 post season: 3-4
4- Reinhardt (Ga.) 9-1 (474-179) ranked #4 post season: 5-3
Lost to: 21-31
5- Northwestern (Iowa) 9-1 (381-216) ranked #5 post season: 21-18 with 2 titles
Lost: Morningside 34-42
6- Kansas Wesleyan 11-0 (597-182) ranked #6 post season: 0-3
7- Benedictine (Kan) 10-1 (487-134) ranked #7 post season: 6-15
Lost to: Evangel 21-28
8- St. Francis (Ind) 8-2 (387-176) ranked #8 post season: 31-15 with 2 titles
Lost to:Marian 28-37 and Concordia 3-7
9- Grand View (Iowa) 8-2 (348-227) ranked #10 post season: 5-5 with 1 title
Lost to: Evangel 20-28 and Benedictine 13-25
10- Cumberlands (Ky) 10-1 (481-176) ranked #11 post season: 5-7
Lost to Reinhardt 10-27
11- Langston (Okla) 9-1 (392-255) ranked #9 post season: 3-12 with 2 titles
Lost to: Southern U. 18-33
12- Dickinson St. (ND) 8-2 (370-177) ranked #15 post season: 6-18
Lost to: Rocky Mountain 10-21 and Waldorf 22-23
13- Concordia (Mich) 9-2 (361-148) ranked #13 post season: 0-1
Lost to: Robert Morris 0-7 and Marian 17-48
14- Baker (Kan) 8-2 (403-128) ranked #12 post season: 16-17
Lost to: Grand View 17-39 and Benedictine 12-23
15- St. Xavier (Ill) 8-3 (346-287) ranked #17 post season: 16-10 with 1 title
Lost to: Marian 7-52, Illinois State 0-46, St. Francis 19-27
16- Rocky Mountain (Mont) 8-3 (381-211) ranked #16 post season: 1-2
Lost to Carroll, (Mont) 0-19, Montana Western 21-24, Montana Tech 27-31


The Results:

First Round

Morningside 49 Rocky Mountain 28
Marching Onward - Balanced effort sends Mside to quarterfinals
The Mustangs are perennially among the highest scoring teams at level of college football, a perennial NAIA contender and, until this year, a perennial also-ran in the playoffs. Since 2005 under Coach Steve Ryan, they are 150-25 and have averaged 45 points a game, including an astronomical 59 per game in 2015 when they scored 825 points in 14 games. Yet they have never won the title and only made the championship game once- in 2012. Is this finally their year? it was their defense that made the difference against Rocky Mountain. They passed for 368 yards but the Battlin’ Bears passed for 375. But Morningside won the rushing battle, 137-22 and forced three turnovers. The began each half with 21-0 quarters to take a 42-6 lead into the final period. QB Trent Solsa hit on 28 of 38 passes for those 368 yards and 4 scores, including 13 strikes to Connor Niles for 190 yards and 3TDs while RB Arnijae "AP" Ponder gained 131 yards and 2 scores.

Saint Xavier 34 Marian 21
St. Xavier Ends Marian's Season in NAIA FCS First Round | Marian University - Indianapolis Athletics
The Cougars came back strong after spotting undefeated and favored Marian a 0-14 lead. It began with a 94 yard kick-off return. The Knights out-rushed SXU 293-104 while St. Francis out-passed them 261-84. But that kick-off return and three Marian turnovers, one a pick six, decided the day. Charles Salary ran for 277 yards and 2 scores in vain. Justi Hunniford passed for 261 and one score- for 68 yards.

Baker 44 Bethel 41
Baker University - Wildcats Knock-off #3 Bethel in Overtime to Advance in FCS Playoffs
How is this for a ballgame: 0-7, 6-7, 13-7, 13-14, 16-14,16-21, 23-21, 23-28, 31-28, 34-28, 41-28, 41-35, 44-35,44-42? Undefeated Bethel won the stat war with 561-441 yards, 259-190 rushing and 304-251 passing. They intercepted two passes but lost four fumbles. Sam Castronova passed for 276 yards and De’Ontay Tate rushed for 118 for Bethel but produced only one score between them. Marco Acquinaga passed for 251 yards and 3 scores from Baker and J. D. Woods ran for 181 yards and a score. San Huckabee caught 8 passes for 145 yards and all three touchdown passes.

Concordia 31 Reinhardt 21
Football Upset by Concordia in NAIA FCS
The Cardinals dominated the first half with four drives totaling 37 plays that built up a 24-3 lead. Then they held off a comeback by their favored hosts. After the score closed to 24-15, they clinched it with a 75 yard run on the first play of a drive by Joe Connor who ran for 124 yards and 2 scores. Roger Engle passed for 266 yards and another score.

Dickinson 14 Northwestern 6
Miscues Haunt Red Raiders In Playoff Loss To Dickinson State - Northwestern College Athletics
Five Northwestern turnovers decided this defensive duel, played under blustery conditions. The winners had 310 yards to 286 for the losers. Jacob Kalogonis ran for 107 yards and a score for the losers but his quarterback threw for only 127 yards and had 4 interceptions. Hayden Gibson passed for 22 yard under difficult conditions for the winners.

Kansas Wesleyan 15 Langston 9
Kansas Wesleyan University - Football notches first NAIA Playoff win with 15-9 over No. 9 Langston
Kansas Wesleyan won their first ever post season game in another defensive duel, holding Langston, a team averaging 549 yards per game, to 256. But Langston held KWU to 272 yards and they average 531 per game. Both teams scored second quarter touchdowns. Langston got a safety on a bad snap in the third for a 9-7 that held up until Johnny Feauto passed 8 yards to Charlie Simmons with 5:27 and then passed to Richard McCauley for a two point conversion. The game was played in a “howling wind”, which played pretty good defense itself. Demarco Prewitt, the NAIA’s leading rusher ran for 123 yards on 34 tough carries for the winners.

Benedictine 48 Cumberlands 41
Football advances to NAIA FCS Quarterfinals with double OT win - Benedictine College
Nothing held the offensives back in this battle, decided in double overtime. “The Patriots moved inside the Ravens five yard line. But, on fourth-and-3 at the Ravens five yard line, Patriots quarterback Eric Forrest rolled right then threw back left to Adam Smith who pushed forward for what would have been a first down. However, Isaiah Flowers forced Smith to fumble and then recovered the ball to seal the win.” Shaefer Schuetz passed for 277 yards and 5TDs for the winners.

St. Francis 34 Grand View 3
#8 Cougars elude upset flu, wins 34-3, hosts Baker (KS) Thanksgiving weekend
The Cougars had no problem with the Vikings, running for 260 yards on the nation’s best rushing defense (92ypg) and outgaining them 438-145. Matt Crable threw three TD passes, two to Rocky James, who caught 3 passes for 103 yards and was named the game’s MVP. Justin green ran for 97 yards and PJ Dean added 92 more.


Quarterfinals

St. Francis 33 Baker 23
#8 Cougars ends #12 Baker bid, set sights on #1 Morningside
A 20 point second period and a 75 yard fourth quarter ‘pick six’, (at first thought to be a rumble with a fumble) by defensive end Mitchell Thornbury carried the Cougars to victory. Dan Ricksy caught two TD passes from quarterback Dan Crable.

Morningside 51 Saint Xavier 14
Ticket Punched - Morningside back to playoffs' Final Four
The Mustangs made short work of the Cougars, taking a 21-0 lead and scoring 14 points in each of the first three quarters before adding 9 more in the fourth. They were probably aware that SXU had overcome a 0-14 lead against Marian to win in the first round. Quarterback Trent Solsma completed 31 of 39 passes for 374 yards and 5TDs, two to Connor Niles who had 13 catches for 181 yards. Solsma set an NAIA career record with 157 TD passes while Nile set a season record with 2,314 receiving yards. They pass the ball at Morningside.

Benedictine 54 Concordia 38
Strong first half pushes Football into NAIA FCS Semifinals - Benedictine College
A blow-out became a shoot-out as Benedictine rolled to a 37-0 halftime lead and then held on through a 17-38 second half. The Ravens were glad to see the clock reach zero. They had pushed the lead to 54-14, only to give up the last 24 points of the game. Quarterback Shaefer Schuetz was looking deep, completing 13 of only 15 passes for 273 yards (21 yards a pop) and 3 scores. The Ravens gained 499 yards and were +3 in turnovers. But the Cardinals came back with back up QB Peter Morrison hitting three different receivers for fourth quarter scores.

Kansas Wesleyan 43 Dickinson 40
Kansas Wesleyan University - Bissell Magic! (6) Football rallies in final minute to beat Dickinson State 43-40, reach NAIA Semifinals
The Coyotes rallied from four deficits, two in the fourth quarter to catch and beat Dickinson and win their second ever post season game. “Kansas Wesleyan wide receiver Trenton Poe-Evans had two crucial catches during the Coyotes' last two drives of the game but he couldn't explain what happened on either play. "I honestly couldn't tell you a thing that happened," he said, "I couldn't recall for even a second. It was so surreal and the crowd was so pumped up." It still took a game ending interception by Takota Anderson, (gotta love the names), to clinch it. Hayden Gibson passed for 380 yards and 4 touchdowns for Dickinson but Johnny Feauto countered with 241 yards and 2 score while DeMarco Prewitt rushed for 185 yards and 3 scores.

Semi-Finals

Morningside 34 St. Francis 28
Daytona Date - Overtime thriller sends Mustangs to championship game
St. Francis had needed Morningside’s season the previous two years but the Mustangs finally overcame them in a snowstorm. The weather didn’t prevent the incredible combination of Trent Solsma and Connor Niles from continuing to set records. In this game they combined for 11 receptions for 161yards and 3 scores. They have now connected on 328 passes in their combined careers. The Mustangs took a 21-7 first quarter lead and were up 28-14 at the half. St. Francis tied it up at 28 all with a score with 4:41 left and send the game into overtime. The bad memories came back but Morningside responded with a defensive stop and a fade from Solsma to Niles for the win.

Benedictine 43 Kansas Wesleyan 21
(7) Football powers past (6) Kansas Wesleyan in NAIA FCS Semifinal, 43-21 - Benedictine College
Marquis Stewart pounded out 286 yards in 31 carries to carry the Ravens to the finals. They took a 14-0 lead, saw the game close to 20-14 at the half and then dominated the second half behind Stewart’s running. Stewart scored twice as did the Coyote’s DeMarco Prewitt who had 116 yards on 30 carries. But Pruitt’s fumble on the first play of the second half set up a Ravens touchdown and Stewart’s yards enabled Benedictine to control the ball through much of the second half.


Champion

Morningside 35 Benedictine 28
CHAMPIONSHIP CONNECTION - Morningside reaches NAIA pinnacle
After years of running up huge offensive numbers and knocking on the door of an NAIA championship, the Mustangs finally broke through behind their legendary combination of Trent Solsma to Connor Niles. Solma passed for 292 yards and 4TDs to bring his career total to a record 164 touchdown passes and 13,739 yards, another record. For the season he completed 366 of 504 passes for 5,097 yards and 68 touchdowns. Niles had 146 catches for 2,475 yards, a record, and 31 scores. Their final connection came with the score tied 28-28 with 1:29 left. Morningside had gotten the ball after a bad snap on a punt gave them the ball in the red zone. It was a 16 yarder. "I just remember catching it and then going to my knees", said Niles after the game. Marquis Stewart tried his best, rumbling for 170 yards on 31 carries and scoring once, part of 13 straight points that turned a 7-14 deficit into a 20-14 halftime lead for Benedictine. But Morningside’s Arnijae Ponder matched that with 137 yards on 30 carries and three scores. That’s the ticket: pass the ball so you can run the ball and run the ball so you can pass the ball.

A 5 minute highlight film, sans narration:

Morningside’s final line: 15-0 (789-245) ranked #1 post season: 23-14 (1)
 
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