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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – No. 2-ranked Carroll (Mont.) earned its sixth National Championship, all since 2002, with a 10-7 victory over No. 1 Sioux Falls (S.D.) in the Russell Athletic-NAIA Football National Championship on Dec. 18. In a game televised live nationally on CBS College Sports under the lights of newly-renovated Barron Stadium, Carroll placekicker Tom Yaremko connected on a 22-yard field with 7:47 remaining for the game-winner. The contest was the lowest-scoring one since 1986 as both defenses displayed their dominance.
For Carroll, it was a game that brought back a dynasty that won an unprecedented four-straight Championships from 2002-05. The Fighting Saints’ six National Championships brings them one shy of tying the all-time record for most titles. Carroll also snapped the NAIA record-tying 42-game Sioux Falls’ winning streak. Since 2002, either Carroll or Sioux Falls has won the National Championship. In three of the last four years, these two teams have played each other for the title.
Looking at the Football Championship Series, which started on Nov. 20 with eight First-Round contests, six of the 16 teams made their 10th-plus trip to the postseason. Newcomer Marian (Ind.) headlined the First Round with a 35-20 road victory at Ottawa (Kan.). All four hosts won in the Quarterfinals and remained undefeated. As no surprise, all four squads were ranked No. 1 – 4 in the final Coaches’ Top 25 Poll. Semifinal veterans, Sioux Falls and Carroll, both won by large margins on Dec. 4.
In the 55th season of NAIA football, many of the same powerhouses continued to win, while a few surprises occurred. Sioux Falls held the No. 1 ranking for the entire season, while four other schools finished the regular season undefeated. Overall, 45 teams were ranked at some point in the Coaches’ Top 25 poll.
There were numerous individual accomplishments throughout the season. From the quarterback position, there were 27 games that saw 400-yard passers. There were 31 games when a rusher went over 200 yards and on 13 occasions, a receiver went over 200 yards. Sioux Falls’ wide receiver Jon Ryan broke a 10-year old national record as he caught 24 touchdowns this season.
The 2011 National Championship is scheduled for Dec. 17 in Rome, Ga.