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Local colleges

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Saint Francis
vs. Saint Xavier
When: 7 p.m. today
Radio: 1450 AM

Depth crucial to Saint Francis’ success

– Saint Francis football coach Kevin Donley had seen this movie before, and it hadn’t been all that long ago. Seven days, to be precise.

Against Grand View on Sept. 28, standout running back Antoin Campbell went out with a torn ACL and quarterback Josh Miller soon joined him, having aggravated a bum ankle that has nagged at him for more than a year.

Seven days later, the Cougars in a fight with No. 25 Siena Heights in Albion, Mich., and here came Miller out of the game again on the Cougars’ second possession of the second quarter.

In went backup David Yoder. Up went a “W” on the Cougars’ ledger as Yoder proceeded to throw for 350 yards and three touchdowns, completing 29 of 42 passes, in a 28-17 Saint Francis win.

A couple of days later, Yoder was named Midwest States Football Association Mideast League Offensive Player of the Week, a nod to the depth that has served the Cougars (3-1, 1-0) well this year.

There was Yoder getting the win in relief of Miller, who took a hard shot to the jaw but was back at practice this week. There was Garrett Harvey, Campbell’s backup, who ran for 79 yards and a touchdown in Campbell’s absence. And there was the Cougars’ receiving corps, which might be the deepest unit on the team.

“We had nine guys catch balls last week,” Donley said Thursday.

A not unusual occurrence, as it turns out.

Through four games, four Saint Francis receivers have caught 10 or more passes, led by Aaron Knight with 17 receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown.

Six receivers have caught at least one touchdown pass.

“It’s hard for opponents to keep track of what’s going on, and who we are distributing it to,” Knight says. “It’s a huge advantage just knowing you can rely on your backups and your third-strings and just knowing that we have backups in place all throughout the whole receiving corps. It will help us ultimately all season.

“And it’s not just the receivers that are deep.”

No. There is, for instance, Harvey, who had 96 yards on 27 carries coming into last week, but helped the Cougars rush for 117 yards against Siena Heights.

“Antoin Campbell, it’s hard to replace a guy like that,” Donley says. “He sees (a different colored jersey) and moves away from it. But Harvey did a very nice job, and the youngsters have come along.

“And (Wes) Hunsucker and Yoder are two pretty good quarterbacks. We put Yoder in and he’s player of the week,” Donley said.

Something along those lines will likely help tonight, when the Cougars play their fifth straight ranked opponent – No. 10 Saint Xavier (3-2, 0-1 MSFA Midwest).

The Cougars from Chicago had much the same experience against Grand View last week the Cougars from Indiana did, losing their starting tailback and quarterback in a 48-21 loss.

The Cougars from Indiana, meanwhile, will have to depend on another backup – redshirt freshman Na’Shawn Lewis – after losing senior defensive back Tracy Hathaway. So it comes down to whichever team can best compensate for those losses.

Knight’s betting on Saint Francis.

“We have spread out through the whole offense backups that we can rely on and that really keep us on the right track,” he says.

Notes: Former Saint Francis athletes Cory Jacquay (football), Josh Widman (baseball), Casey Shafer (cross country, track and field) and Andy Martin (golf) were inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame on Friday.

bensmith@jg.net

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