FORT WAYNE – Last Saturday, Saint Francis had to play an entirely unknown opponent in the first round of the NAIA playoffs. This time, it’s an old rival that lies ahead.
The No. 6 Cougars (9-2) will play at No. 5 Marian (9-1) on Saturday in the quarterfinal round of the NAIA playoffs, and it will be Saint Francis’ second trip to Indianapolis in seven weeks.
In a game which the offenses dominated, Marian outslugged the Cougars 45-38 on Oct. 13. At the time, Marian was ranked No. 1, and Saint Francis was No. 7.
The two teams combined for 55 first downs and nearly 1,000 total yards of offense. Saint Francis quarterback David Yoder, playing in place of starter Josh Miller, completed 27 of 45 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns. And Marian was led by tailback Tevin Lake’s 180 yards and three 1-yard touchdown runs.
Since then, Saint Francis has won five consecutive games, and three weeks after beating the Cougars, Marian lost its No. 1 status with a 23-6 loss to Saint Xavier.
They’re excited about it, I know that, Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said of his team’s rematch with the Knights. All I know is ever since we left there back in October, we wanted to see them in the playoffs.
While Donley credited Marian with a great tailback in Lake and a good offensive line, he said the Cougars’ defense was hampered with injuries.
If you don’t have a linebacker that’s 100 percent, and we had none, Donley said. (Brody) Kalbaugh might have been 60 percent coming off of a fractured leg. (Justin) Juarez had to go out early. We didn’t have any lane fill on the running game. They’ve got a pretty good back, a pretty good offensive line, so it was a big factor.
I think we’ll be much better on the defensive side.
Saint Francis advanced into the quarterfinal round with a 22-17 victory over Baker (Kan.) on Saturday at home. Because it was the first time the Cougars had met the Wildcats from Baldwin City, Kan., Saint Francis had to uncover as much information as possible.
The Cougars won’t have that trouble with Marian.
We’re excited about a short trip and somebody familiar, Donley said. It kind of helps the preparation time.
Donley said Miller re-injured a sprained ankle against Baker, but said he hopes his starter will be available against Marian. If not, Yoder will play.
Miller completed 10 of 16 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown Saturday, and Yoder completed 3 of 7 for 66 yards.