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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, December 02, 2017 4:10 pm

Saint Francis 43, Morningside 36

Saint Francis returning to championship game

GREG JONES | The Journal Gazette

Saint Francis is returning to Daytona Beach. 

The No. 1 and defending national champion Cougars stayed steady through an up-and-down battle in the NAIA semifinals for a 43-36 win over No. 3 Morningside to return to the NAIA championship game Dec. 16 in Florida.

Saint Francis (13-0) led Morningside (13-1) 19-3 in the first quarter, but trailed 28-25 early in the fourth before outscoring the Mustangs 18-8 from that point.

Justin Green ran for 234 yards and three touchdowns, two in the fourth. In a 42-35 quarterfinal win at home against Morningside last year, Green set the school record with 296 rushing yards.

"I just wanted to put these guys away," Green said of his fourth-quarter scores. "I was kinda scared there. I saw Daytona flash by my eyes, and I just had to work hard. We are really excited to go back-to-back and we just can't wait."

Nick Ferrer threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns, two to Sean Boswell and one to Zach Gegner.

"We still have one more to play, but in my opinion I think those are the two best teams," Ferrer said. "That is a great Morningside team. We knew we had a tough one today, and we knew it would be a heavyweight bout. We just kinda took there punches and kept rolling with it. It was like last year.

"We still have to finish it, but it is just a huge, huge thing to get back there. This was the plan all along, and it is not easy to go back like this ... even to get back to the championship game."

The Cougars will play against either Reinhardt (Ga.) or Southern Oregon in the NAIA title game.

Last year, Saint Francis won its first national championship in a 38-17 win over Baker (Kansas). Now, the Cougars are going for a repeat.