ROME, Ga. (AP) — Carroll College had lost just once in seven previous title game appearances and it looked as if the Saints were going to pull out another NAIA championship.
St. Xavier and Michael Prosser, though, had other ideas.
After Carroll drove from its own 18, Dane Broadhead couldn’t connect on four passes after a first down at the St. Xavier 9, dashing the Saints’ hopes of a record-tying seventh NAIA title.
Jimmy Coy accounted for 294 yards and two touchdowns, Mark Williams knocked down a fourth-down pass in the end zone with 2 minutes left and St. Xavier held off Carroll 24-20 Saturday.
St. Xavier (14-1) had to withstand a late pass into the end zone in its 30-27 victory over Marian in the semifinals. Against Carroll (13-2), the Cougars escaped again.
“I don’t have any fingernails left,” St. Xavier coach Mike Feminis said.
Linebacker Prosser, a senior who prepped at Hononegah High School, finished with eight tackles as the Cougars held national player of the year Chance Demarais of Carroll to just 57 yards rushing on 21 carries.
SXU linebacker Patrick Appino, who played against Prosser in high school at Rockford Boylan, earned the Outstanding Defensive Player of the Game award with five tackles, a sack and two tackles. The SXU defense tallied nine tackles for losses and two sacks.
Jared Mayernik returned the second-half kickoff 94 yards to give Carroll its only lead. But the Saints missed the extra point and St. Xavier drove 67 yards to go back ahead on K.J. Franklin’s 4-yard run early in the third quarter.
St. Xavier couldn’t take advantage of a bad punt snap, with Tom Lynch missing a 20-yard field goal attempt midway in the third quarter and it looked as if that might be costly when Carroll drove from its 18 to the St. Xavier 9 late in the fourth quarter. But Broadhead couldn’t connect on four pass attempts, the last one batted down by freshman Williams just before it got to Anthony Hogan.
Coy, a transfer from NCAA Division II Valdosta State, completed 28 of 43 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 78 yards and a score on 16 carries. He was selected the offensive player of the game.
The loss kept Carroll from a seventh title, which would have tied the NAIA record held by Texas A&I (now Texas A&M Kingsville). The Montana school was playing in the championship game for the eighth time in 10 years.
Carroll came in having given up just 17 points in three playoffs victories, but St. Xavier matched that it the first half while amassing 224 yards and taking a three-point lead.
St. Xavier, which didn’t begin football until 1993, had lost in the NAIA semifinals three of the past four years. Once the Chicago school made the title game, the Cougars were determined not to let a chance for their first championship slip away.