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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Saint Francis running back Justin Green scores a second-quarter touchdown Saturday against Taylor, one of his four touchdowns. Green had three rushing TDs and also returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.  

Sunday, November 05, 2017 1:00 am

Saint Francis 40, Taylor 20

Cougars pass latest challenge

Earn Mideast League title, No. 1 seed, unbeaten season

GREG JONES | The Journal Gazette

Saint Francis finished in style.

The Cougars concluded an undefeated regular season with a 40-20 win over Taylor at Bishop D'Arcy Stadium on Saturday, earning some important benefits along the way. 

The defending national champion Cougars (10-0, 6-0) picked up a 13th Mid-States Football Association Mideast League title and more importantly secured the No. 1 ranking and home-field advantage throughout the NAIA playoffs. 

“It was just another game, that's the only thing I am thinking about,” senior tackle Alex Woods said. “The title, yeah. Senior Day, yeah. We won, yeah. I am just ready to keep on pushing.”

It marks the eighth time since the program began in 1998 that the Cougars have finished undefeated in the regular season, the last time being in 2015 when they fell in the NAIA semifinals to Marian.

“It's the normal,” Woods said about the undefeated regular season. “It's what we came here to do. Coach (Kevin) Donley has built a great program, and we are here to continue that tradition.”

Saint Francis junior running back Justin Green scored four touchdowns, three rushing and one when he returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a score.

It's the second straight week the Cougars began the game with a kickoff return for a touchdown. 

Also, senior quarterback Nick Ferrer threw a touchdown pass to Dan Ricksy in the first half. It was Ferrer's 127th career touchdown pass, extending his MSFA record.

The Cougars improved to 15-2 all time against Taylor (3-6, 1-4), which led 7-6 in the first quarter despite Green's kickoff return to begin the game. Eventually, Saint Francis scored 34 consecutive points to take a 40-7 lead.

“Playing with last year's team was a lot of motivation for us in coming out this season in trying to do what they did,” said senior running back Ryan Cinadr, who ran for a touchdown on Senior Day.

“Coach (Kevin) Donley does such a great job of keeping our heads in the right spots, especially when it comes to getting into these tougher games because we know teams are going to play like they are from Krypton especially against No. 1 with us. Coach Donley does a great job of keeping our head in the game and keeping us playing hard.”

The Cougars had an uncharacteristic three lost fumbles, an interception and missed a extra point kick.

“It was a strange game,” Donley said. “We have more turnovers than we've had the rest of the season, and we still got 40 points. It was kind of a sloppy game, but we probably needed one like this to learn from. Undefeated seasons aren't easy to come by with our schedule. That's quite an accomplishment for these guys, but now we start a new season.”

It was Saint Francis' 19th straight win. The Cougars have an open week next Saturday and will begin the NAIA playoffs Nov. 18.

“We have a couple of days off, and we are just trying to get healthy,” said Ferrer, who threw for 279 yards. “This is why you play, this is why you play the regular season; ... you try to win a conference title to get home-field advantage.”

gjones@jg.net