INDIANAPOLIS – To eliminate a player in the basketball game of H-O-R-S-E, the same shooter who first made the basket must remake the identical shot. It’s called proving it.
Saturday, fifth-ranked Marian proved it against No. 6 Saint Francis.
For the second time in seven weeks, the Knights (10-1) dropped a 45-point bomb on the Cougars, and in the process, eliminated Saint Francis (9-3) from the NAIA playoffs.
The 45-34 final was nearly a duplicate of the 45-38 score Oct. 13 on the same St. Vincent Health Field.
Counting last year’s 40-13 Marian victory at Bishop D’Arcy Stadium, it was the third consecutive win over Saint Francis by the Indianapolis school, and Saturday marked the first time in Saint Francis football history that one opponent has scored 40 or more points in three successive games.
Even though the final yardage numbers were close – 393 for Marian, 362 for Saint Francis – the overwhelming disparity was in time of possession. By converting 11 of 17 third downs against a defense that was pushed backward on scoring drives of 90, 89 and 65 yards, Marian’s offense possessed the football for nearly 37 minutes, compared with the 23:04 for Saint Francis.
It was in the second and fourth quarters when Marian especially hogged the football.
Although the Cougars took a quick lead when Seth Stuart scored from the 1 on their initial series, Marian held the ball for almost 11 minutes in the second quarter and led 17-7 at halftime.
The fourth quarter, when the Cougars got a 100-yard, NAIA record-setting kickoff return from Austin Coleman sandwiched between touchdown receptions of 11 and 24 yards by Aaron Knight, the time of possession was even more lopsided. Despite the three touchdowns, Saint Francis had the ball for 2 minutes, 59 seconds. The rest belonged to the Marian offense, which was led by running back Tevin Lake’s 141 yards and three touchdowns.
For Coleman, it was his eighth career kickoff return. But it wasn’t enough.
They’ve got a good offensive line, Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said. Their offensive line was the difference in the ballgame.
Marian’s starting offensive line, which included former Bishop Dwenger standout Steve Seculoff and East Noble graduate Brody Dixon, was the subject of pregame controversy.
Because Dixon was ejected from Marian’s first-round playoff game with Northwestern, Iowa, NAIA rules stipulate that the 6-foot-5, 300-pound senior should have been suspended Saturday. But Marian won an appeal, so Dixon played.
We just didn’t execute, Saint Francis senior linebacker Brody Kalbaugh said. We knew what they were doing. We made mistakes here and there, but it was basically coming down to X’s and O’s. We didn’t stop them when we needed to.
With dirt on his face and blood on his elbow, Kalbaugh gave a heavy sigh.
It was a good football team, he said of his own. Personally, I thought we were going to get it done. It’s been one hell of a year for us, and I love our team.