ROME, Ga. – Carroll College has plenty of championship experience and the NAIA Player of the Year, announced Friday night, in running back Chance Demarais.
This is all new to Saint Xavier University.
Carroll (12-1) will be going for its second straight NAIA football title and seventh in the past decade when it takes on Saint Xavier (13-1) in the championship game today at Rome, Ga.
Saint Xavier coach Mike Feminis joked about the impressive resume put together by the Fighting Saints, who are coached by Mike Van Diest.
“If Coach Van Diest would be nice enough, he’s got enough rings on his fingers and if he’d like to give us one that would be a great thing,” said Feminis, whose Illinois school reached the title game for the first time in its history.
While this will be the biggest meeting between the teams, it isn’t the first time they have faced each other with a lot on the line.
Saint Xavier traveled to Helena last year to meet Carroll in the semifinals. Carroll won 27-5 on the way to another NAIA crown.
“Fortunately we had them out in Helena on our field on the frozen tundra,” Van Diest said.
Carroll comes into the game with their star, Demarais, but Van Diest was quick to point out that his team is not one- dimensional.
“We’ve had some great receivers and quarterbacks but we like to run the football first,” Van Diest said. “You want to put the ball in your best player’s hands and Chance Demarais, right now, along with (wide receiver) Matt Ritter, are our best offensive players. So whether it’s the passing game setting up the run or the running setting up the pass, it makes no difference.”
Quarterback Jimmy Coy, who transferred from NCAA Division II Valdosta State during the offseason, carries the Saint Xavier offense.
“For us to move the ball and get first downs and keep our defense off the field and fresh is going to be really important, especially early in the game,” Coy said.