St. Xavier wins NAIA title, beating Carroll 24-20

Carroll College had lost just once in seven previous title game

appearances and it looked as if the Saints were going to pull out

another NAIA championship.

St. Xavier, though, had other ideas.

After Carroll drove from its own 18, Dane Broadhead couldn’t

connect on four passes after a first down at the St. Xavier 9,

dashing the Saints’ hopes of a record-tying seventh NAIA title.

”It hurts to lose when we had a chance like that at the end of

the game,” said senior receiver Lat Wipplinger, the target on two

of the passes. ”It’s definitely disappointing.”

Jimmy Coy accounted for 294 yards and two touchdowns, Mark

Williams knocked down a fourth-down pass in the end zone with 2

minutes left and St. Xavier held off Carroll 24-20 Saturday.

St. Xavier (14-1) had to withstand a late pass into the end zone

in its 30-27 victory over Marian in the semifinals. Against Carroll

(13-2), the Cougars escaped again.

”I don’t have any fingernails left,” St. Xavier coach Mike

Feminis said.

Jared Mayernik returned the second-half kickoff 94 yards to give

Carroll its only lead. But the Saints missed the extra point and

St. Xavier drove 67 yards to go back ahead on K.J. Franklin’s

4-yard run early in the third quarter.

St. Xavier couldn’t take advantage of a bad punt snap, with Tom

Lynch missing a 20-yard field goal attempt midway in the third

quarter and it looked as if that might be costly when Carroll drove

from its 18 to the St. Xavier 9 late in the fourth quarter. But

Broadhead couldn’t connect on four pass attempts, the last one

batted down by freshman Williams just before it got to Anthony

Hogan.

”I was able to reach around and get one hand on it,” Williams

said. ”It was close to pass interference, but I didn’t hit

him.”

Broadhead, who had just missed on the first three passes, had to

scramble on fourth down and try to pick out a secondary

receiver.

”Their D-line got good pressure and I didn’t get to see the

play like I’d have liked to,” Broadhead said. ”I just had to try

to find someone the best that I could.”

”The best pass defense is a good pass rush,” Carroll coach

Mike Van Diest said.

Coy, a transfer from NCAA Division II Valdosta State, completed

28 of 43 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 78 yards

and a score on 16 carries. He was selected the offensive player of

the game.

”It’s special to bring this home to Chicago,” said Coy. ”This

means so much to the players who have been here four or five years.

I’m just glad that I could be a part of it.”

The loss kept Carroll from a seventh title, which would have

tied the NAIA record held by Texas A&I (now Texas A&M

Kingsville). The Montana school was playing in the championship

game for the eighth time in 10 years.

St. Xavier linebacker Patrick Appino was selected the defensive

player of the game as the Cougars held Carroll’s Chance Demarais,

the NAIA player of the year, to 57 yards on 21 carries.

”We played with more heart than they did,” Appino said. ”We

wanted it more.”

”There defense said that they were going to stop the run and

they were able to do that,” Demarais said. ”They were fast and

played very hard.”

St. Xavier’s defense was very fast as well, the no-huddle spread

attack directed by Coy jumping on Carroll in the first quarter to

go up by 10 points early.

Once Carroll went to a four-man front, the Saints were better

able to slow St. Xavier down.

”I should have done it early,” Carroll coach Van Diest said.

”My mistake for that.”

Carroll came in having given up just 17 points in three playoffs

victories, but St. Xavier matched that it the first half while

amassing 224 yards and taking a three-point lead.

Coy, who completed his first nine throws, was 18 of 26 passing

for 113 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and also had 62

yards rushing and a score.

After settling for a 20-yard field goal from Lynch to cap an

81-yard march following the opening kickoff, St. Xavier marched 95

yards the next time it got the ball and went up 10-0 on Coy’s

8-yard run.

Tom Yaremko missed on 42-yard field-goal attempt for Carroll

early in the second quarter, but the Saints drove 62 yards the next

time they had the ball and cut into the lead on Broadhead’s 20-yard

TD pass to Matt Ritter with 5:17 left in the half.

After a 43-yard kickoff return by Wes Gastel, St. Xavier pushed

its lead back to 10 points on Coy’s 11-yard TD pass to Shane

Zackery with 1:22 left in the second quarter. But Carroll quickly

struck back, making it 17-14 on Broadhead’s 26-yard throw to

Anthony Clarke with 43 seconds left in the half. The Saints went 57

yards in just four plays.

But Broadhead, who finished 20 of 31 for 223 yards, couldn’t

connect when it counted in the closing minutes. Ritter, who had 11

catches for 117 yards, was the target on the first throw and

Wipplinger on the next two.

St. Xavier, which didn’t begin football until 1993, had lost in

the NAIA semifinals three of the past four years. Once the Chicago

school made the title game, the Cougars were determined not to let

a chance for their first championship slip away.

”This is the greatest feeling in the world,” Feminis said.

”We worked awfully hard for this.”