Fast and Furious was the movie of choice, selected by Athletic Director Mark Pope, to be played as the Excursion Bus full of fans wearing blue attire pulled out of the University of St. Francis parking lot. It was the second time this year that the group traveled to Chicago, but this trip was for the quarter final playoffs, a position that Coach Donley’s team only dreamed of in the beginning of the season.
The sun began to shine as the optimistic fans waving their bright blue USF flag entered the Saint Xavier campus. You would never know it by the huge Cougar crowd cheering in the visitor’s bleachers at Deaton Field but the high today was 32 degrees. This was a cold and windy Saturday on November 27, 2010.
It was a trip that University of St. Francis head football Coach Kevin Donley had made numerous times over his 13 years of leading the Cougar football program. On this day, 10th-ranked St. Francis (10-1) was returning to play No. 3-ranked Saint Xavier (12-0) in the second round of the playoffs.
Saturday’s game ending score 40-21 did not reflect how hard these Cougars actually played.
With a lot more confidence than three weeks ago when they met, St. Francis started the game leading 7-0 on a nine-yard touchdown run by #14 Koby Frye at 11:29 in the first quarter. Then it was Xavier that struck and tied the game at 7 with 8:36 remaining in the first quarter.
And by halftime Xavier was on top 17-14.
St. Francis tied the game with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by sophomore Austin Coleman with 11:54 to play in the third quarter. Freshman Kolin Carman kicked the extra point and USF was once again (21-20) in the lead. (This was the first time St. X had trailed in the second half, all season!) But USF couldn’t hold it. With 10 minutes left in the third quarter it was St. Xavier 27 USF 21.
And that’s what it was Fast and Furious – the name of the game – the entire game.
“The big thing about their football team is speed. They’ve got great speed on defense, and they’ve got skilled seasoned athletes on the perimeter, and they can take a perimeter screen that you hope to get 7, 8, 10, 12, 15 yards on it and take it 93. Yards after catch, with great speed, makes them unique,” said Donley about the Xavier Cougars.
It certainly wasn’t the coaching—there just seemed to be a lot of misfortunes that started plaguing the USF Cougars nearing the end of the game. Not only officiating, but also mishappenings like fumbles, interceptions, penalties and sacks.
USF’s Senior QB Shaine Tierney to #17 Jared Clodfelter for 5 started the fourth quarter. Tierney to Peabody for 3 put USF at the SXU 9-yard line for third and 2.
Then, came the screen pass—the big play of the game. SXU QB Anthony Kropp checked down and threw a screen pass to Torres who exploded and streaked 93 yards for the touchdown.
With 11:23 remaining in the 4th quarter Xavier kicked the PAT, scored, taking the lead 34-21.
The St. Francis Cougars continued to fight but Xavier fought back harder and won, 40-21.
Coach Kevin Donley, after their NAIA Football Championship Series ended, “I couldn’t be prouder, you guys played your tail off, heckuva job!”
“This has been an unbelievable year, it really has,” Donley continued. “First of all, I want everybody to thank this senior class. Nobody thought we were gonna be here today. Nobody thought we were gonna get to post-season, but we did.
“It’s because of the great senior leadership and character of this football team, and I couldn’t be prouder. We gave them all they wanted and you have nothing to hang your head about. I guarantee you that we’re gonna get better and we have to thank you seniors who directed us in the right direction in this tradition. We’ll grow and we will continue to get better!”
“I will miss practice because of you and the character you have…Hold your head high and be proud to wear that blue!”