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Abbey Cherry | Special to The Journal Gazette
Saint Francis running back Jalen Campbell looks to exploit a hole in Cumberlands’ defense Saturday.

Cougars get run over in NAIA quarterfinal

– Blue skies, a light breeze, and 43-degree temperatures made for a picturesque day for football as No. 6 Saint Francis went head to head in a battle against No. 1 Cumberlands. But by the end of the game, it was a gloomy scene for the Cougars as they came up short 28-14 in an NAIA quarterfinal playoff game.

Entering the game, Saint Francis locked in on slowing down Cumberlands’ NAIA-leading running game. Early in the game, the Cougars’ defense looked strong as they stuck to the scouting report. In the second quarter, the Patriots began to quickly wear down the defense. The Patriots went for 399 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

D’Angelo Jordan gained 270 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown. Quarterback Adam Craig gained 117 on 28 carries and ran for a score. He also passed for another score.

“They cut blocked very well on the perimeter and they chopped us down. We worked all week on trying to defeat those blocks, but we just didn’t get it done,” said Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley. “We knew they had great speed and a great offense, but there’s nothing we would have changed in terms of the game plan.”

Cumberlands (12-0) struck first late in the opening quarter as Craig hit Bradley Ramsey for a 14-yard touchdowns pass before Saint Francis (9-3) tied the game at 7 with 6:19 to go before the half. Senior quarterback Josh Miller hit sophomore Cody Appenzeller with a 50-yard touchdown pass. Opening the fourth quarter, Appenzeller found the end zone once again, on a 40-yard connection from senior quarterback David Yoder.

“This year gave me a lot of experience,” Appenzeller said. “The game speed is really fast coming out of high school and you really just adapt as you play. I know coach Donley will get us ready this offseason, though, and we will take those steps forward.”

Hunter Lewis and Craig later scored to give the Patriots a 21-7 halftime lead. Jordan scored on a 64-yard jaunt in the third quarter as Cumberlands pulled away to a 28-7 lead.

The passing game kept the Cougars in the game. Miller and Yoder combined for 308 yards, but it was costly mistakes in the red zone that made the difference. Miller had two interceptions.

“Between the 20s we were pretty effective and we moved the ball up and down the field,” Yoder said.

“We got in the red zone, but I had a costly turnover and then we got stopped short of the goal line. We really stumbled at the end when it mattered the most in putting points on the board.”

Missed chances would be the Achilles’ heel of the Cougars as their season ends.

“We had our opportunities to get it done but you have to give them credit, they are No. 1 for a reason,” Donley said. “They are an outstanding team.”