MSFA coaches pick USF to repeat in Mideast League

AVON, Ohio –FINDLAY, OHIO – Back-to-back NAIA National Champion University of Saint Francis of Fort Wayne, Ind., has been voted to repeat as Mid-States Football Association champion in the Mideast League in a poll of coaches.

Saint Xavier University was chosen to win in the Midwest League setting up an NAIA Top 10 showdown on Sept. 23 when No. 1 USF plays at No. 6 SXU in Chicago.

The two Cougars gridiron powers will be joined by 11 other teams in the MSFA’s 25th year of competition this fall.

USF, which completed its first-ever unbeaten season at 14-0 in 2017, drew six of the seven first-place votes and 47 points as the No.1 choice to win its 14th Mideast League crown after going 6-0 a year ago and 17-1 over the last three seasons in league play.

Marian University (4-2, 7-3) received 40 points to 39 for Concordia University (5-1, 9-2) as the No. 2 pick in the MEL.

Concordia, which had its highest finish in seven seasons of MSFA play and made its first-ever post-season appearance in 2017, drew the other first-place vote. Siena Heights University (3-3, 5-5) and Taylor University (2-4, 4-6) tied for the fourth spot with 22 points, followed by Missouri Baptist University (1-5, 3-8) with 19 and Lindenwood-Belleville University (0-6, 0-10) with 7.

Saint Xavier, which went 5-0 in winning its fourth Midwest League title a year ago and finished 10-2 overall, was mentioned No. 1 on five of the six MWL ballots. The Cougars garnered 35 points with the University of St. Francis, Ill. (4-1, 5-5) receiving 27 points as the No. 2 pick, followed by Olivet Nazarene University (2-3, 6-5) with 20 points.

Robert Morris University of Chicago (1-4, 2-9), which drew the other No. 1 vote, and St. Ambrose University (2-3, 4-6) tied for fourth with 18 points each, ahead of Trinity International University (1-4, 2-8) with 7 points.

As league champions in 2017, Saint Francis and Saint Xavier earned the MSFA’s automatic berths to the NAIA Championship Series.

USF dispatched Benedictine, Kan. 26-21, Northwestern, Iowa 30-3 and Morningside 43-36 before beating Reinhardt College, Ga. 24-13 for its second straight NAIA crown, the ninth for MSFA schools and the first back-to-back champions from the MSFA. USF beat Baker, Kan. 38-17 to win the 2016 championship.

USF was the third team to finish unbeaten joining Findlay (Ohio), 14-0 in 1997, and Grand View (Iowa), 14-0 in 2013. USF was the fourth team to win 14 games including 14-1 Saint Xavier in 2011. All four finished as NAIA Champions

This will also be the 21st season at USF for Head Coach Kevin Donley, who is the NAIA record-holder for career wins with 316. Donley, enters his 40th season as the winningest ACTIVE collegiate football head coach with a 316 wins, a 316-129-1 career record. His win total ranks ninth on the all-time list, seven back of Bear Bryant (323).

USF is 202-44 under Donley’s guidance and has produced 19 consecutive winning seasons while winning 13 MSFA MEL titles and playing in 17 NAIA Football Championship Series in 20 seasons.

Saint Xavier beat Grand View, Iowa 39-23 but fell 52-7 to third-ranked Morningside, Iowa in the second round.

Mid-States institutions have claimed six of the last seven NAIA titles.

Seven MSFA schools will open the 2018 campaign on August 25 including the defending NAIA champion USF Cougars. Siena Heights at Missouri Baptist kicks off Mideast League play on September 1.

Mideast League Poll
1.  University of Saint Francis, Ind. (6-0, 14-0), 6 first-place votes, 47 points

2.  Marian University, Ind. (4-2, 7-3), 40 points
3.  Concordia University, Mich. (5-1, 9-2), 1 first-place vote, 39 points
4.  (tie) Siena Heights University, Mich. (3-3, 5-5), 22 points
4.  (tie) Taylor University, Ind. (2-4 4-6), 22 points
6.  Missouri Baptist University (1-5, 3-8), 19 points
7.  Lindenwood-Belleville University, Mo. (0-6, 0-10), 7 points

Midwest League Poll
1.  Saint Xavier University, Ill. (5-0, 10-2), 5 first-place votes, 35 points
2.  University of St. Francis, Ill. (4-1, 5-5), 27 points
3.  Olivet Nazarene University, Ill. (2-3, 6-5), 20 points
4.  (tie) Robert Morris University, Ill. (1-4, 2-9), 1 first-place vote, 18 points
4.  (tie) St. Ambrose University, Iowa (2-3, 4-6), 18 points
6.  Trinity International University, Ill. (1-4, 2-8), 7 points

NAIA National Champions from MSFA
2017 — USF 24, Reinhardt, Ga., 13
2016 — USF 38, Baker, Kan. 17
2015 — Marian 31, Southern Oregon 14
2013 — Grand View 35, Cumberland, Ky. 23
2012 — Marian 30, Morningside, Iowa, 27, OT
2011 — Saint Xavier, Ill. 24, Carroll, Mont. 20
1997 — Findlay, Ohio 14, Williamette, Ore. 7
1995 — Findlay, Ohio 21, Central Washington 21 (tie)
1994 — Westminster, Pa. 27, Pacific Lutheran, Wash. 7