KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (FCS Schedule) A pair of traditionally strong programs punched tickets to the 61st annual NAIA Football National Championship, presented by Waste Pro, as Baker (Kan.) and Saint Francis (Ind.) garnered semifinal victories. Baker knocked off Eastern Oregon, 45-41, while Saint Francis claimed a road victory at Reinhardt (Ga.), 42-24.
Saint Francis, which is making its 16th all-time appearances in the FCS, travels to national final for the fourth time in program history and the first since the 2006 season. Baker – in its 15th all-time FCS – reaches the national championship for the second time in program history. The Wildcats’ other title game appearance came in 1986.
Baker’s victory snaps a five-game semifinal host losing streak, including Saint Francis’ road win today. Overall, host schools in the playoffs boast a 213-66 (.763) overall record and a 28-12 (.700) mark in the Fab Four.
The 61st annual NAIA Football National Championship, presented by Waste Pro, is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17 in Daytona Beach, Fla. The City of Daytona Beach hosts the event at Municipal Stadium for the third-straight season. For fan and visitor information, click here. The game will be delivered live on ESPN3 starting at 6 p.m. EST.
2016 NAIA Football Championship Series – Semifinal Game Notes
Game 1 – Baker (Kan.) (14-0) def. Eastern Oregon (10-3), 45-41
• Trailing 41-24 with 5:35 remaining in the fourth quarter, Baker scored 21 unanswered points to down Eastern Oregon, 45-41, in the FCS semifinals.
• Heart of America Athletic Conference South Division Offensive Player of the Year Logan Brettell linked up with All-American wide receiver Clarence Clark on a 77-yard touchdown strike with 38 second remaining to give the Wildcats the lead and the victory.
• Brettell, despite a career-high three interceptions, threw for 406 yards – his third 400-yard performance of the season – and six touchdowns – one score shy of a tying a season-high.
• Clark, who was named Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game, ended the contest with eight catches for 217 yards and two scores.
• Wide receiver Damon Nolan also had more than 100 yards receiving, tallying eight catches for 109 yards and three scores.
• Running back Cornell Brown continued his tremendous play in the FCS. The Baldwin City, Kan., native rushed for 121 yards on 16 carries. Brown has now eclipsed 100 yards rushing in three of his last four games.
• Defensively for Baker, Mikeice Adams led the way with a season-high 12 tackles.
• Baker was appearing in the semifinals for the sixth time in program history – first time since 1993. The victory improves the Wildcats to 14-0 on the season – the lone remaining unbeaten team in NAIA football – and 2-4 all-time in the semifinals. Baker’s only other semifinal win was a 16-14 decision against former member Wisconsin-Lacrosse in 1986.
• Eastern Oregon falls to 10-3 on the season and 2-1 in its first-ever FCS appearance.
• Quarterback Zach Bartlow threw for 202 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Alfred Gross posted 36 carries for 137 yards and one score. The effort was Gross’ fourth 100-yard game this season.
• Linebacker Michal Arenas led Eastern Oregon with 10 tackles.
Game 2 – Saint Francis (Ind.) (12-1) def. Reinhardt (Ga.) (13-1), 42-24
• Saint Francis (Ind.) returns to the national championship for the fourth time in program history, as the Cougars downed semifinal newcomer Reinhardt (Ga.), 42-24.
• Saint Francis’ last championship appearance came in 2006 – the third of a run of three-consecutive trips to the event. The Cougars are 0-3 all-time in title games.
• Cougars’ running back Justin Green keyed a balanced offensive attack for Saint Francis. The Griffith, Ind., native scampered for 176 yards and three touchdowns on 20 attempts. Green is averaging 207.3 yards per game through three games in the FCS, including a career-best 296-yard effort in the quarterfinals against Morningside (Iowa).
• The duo of quarterback Nick Ferrer and wide receiver Seth Coate proved difficult once again for the opposing defense. Ferrer, who entered the game with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in the FCS, logged 288 passing yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon. Coate was his primary target with nine catches for 191 yards and both scores.
• Saint Francis linebacker Spencer Cowherd tallied a game-high 16 tackles.
• Saint Francis, which took control of the game with a 21-point second quarter, outgained Reinhardt, 553-440.
• With the win, Saint Francis improves to 26-15 all-time in the playoffs – 4-4 in the semifinals. The FCS win total ranks third all-time, trailing Carroll (Mont.) (42) and former member Westminster (Pa.) (31).
• Reinhardt, which entered the semifinals as one of two unbeaten teams remaining in NAIA football, drops to 13-1 on the season and 2-2 all-time in the FCS. Prior to 2016, the Eagles had not won in the playoffs.
• The Eagles were led offensively by quarterback Ryan Thompson, who threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns, however he was intercepted three times.
• Reinhardt, which entered Saturday with the NAIA’s top rushing attack, was limited to only 198 rushing yards – 174 yards under its season average.
• Dominique Swope was Reinhardt’s leading rusher with 56 yards on 12 carries.