FORT WAYNE – The final step of the 2012 regular season will be a lengthy one for Saint Francis, because it travels to Belleville, Ill., on Saturday to face Lindenwood-Belleville.
And if the Cougars (7-2) depart with a win, which would be their fourth straight, they will have to wait for the next step.
Against who and where, Saint Francis won’t know until Sunday. That’s when the 16 playoff teams and pairings will be announced by the NAIA.
But before the business of the playoffs is discussed, there is the business at hand against the Lynx (4-5), who are in their first season of varsity football.
You’ve got to be disciplined attacking the playoffs and the last regular-season game, because if we don’t win the last regular-season game, there’s still no playoffs, senior defensive tackle Matt Smith said. Everybody on this team knows what we’re here for and how we’re going to do it, and we have to do it one step at a time.
Twice this season, Saint Francis has had a misstep: It lost at home 15-14 to Saint Ambrose in the third week then lost 45-38 at then-No. 1 Marian in Week 6. Since then, the Cougars have three consecutive wins.
Obviously I didn’t plan on stubbing our toe against Saint Ambrose, Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said. I thought we would get Marian, and fell short. Those are the shortcomings.
In terms of the total development, we went through a period where we went through the injury bug, like we did at midseason. We got through our injuries at Saint (Xavier) because they throw it all the time, so you could play pass defense. We got into a physical game the next round with Marian, and we weren’t healed up yet. Since then, we’re starting to heal up.
While Smith is cautious and insists the Cougars can’t overlook Lindenwood-Belleville, the idea of the next step is still tempting.
I know people are snoozin’ on us, Smith said. Everybody thinks like a dynasty, always, for us.
A dynasty always falls, and they know Saint Francis has always been a dynasty. People are starting to think it’s time to fall; it’s our time to fall. I don’t think so. We’re going to be on top. I know we’re going to be on top.
Added Donley: I think, as we get through Week 10 and as we get into postseason – barring that we get away this weekend without any major injuries – I think we’re going to be pretty healthy, and we’re coming together.