We’ve got not 1, not 2, but THREE Sunflower Slate teams playing in the first round of today’s NAIA playoffs. And I like our chances at a clean sweep.
Here’s a look:
No. 12 McKendree (8-2) at No. 6 McPherson (10-0), 2 p.m. - The Bulldogs host an NAIA playoff football game for the first time and bring a buzzsaw of an offense to the table against McKendree, the co-champion from the Mid-States Football Association. McPherson has averaged 53.8 points over its last seven games and quarterback Shane Mascarenas, the KCAC player of the year, lead the nation in passing with 362 yards per game. Mascarenas set the school single-season records in passing yards (3,419) and touchdowns (35). The truth, that nobody wants to say yet, is that if the Bulldogs lose here this season is a wash. Sad, but true. Although they’re not going to lose. My pick: McPherson 35, McKendree 14
No. 11 Marian (9-2) at No. 8 Ottawa (9-1), 1:30 p.m. – The Braves rallied from 28 points down in the second half of last season’s NAIA playoff opener against Hastings for a 40-34 win, the first playoff victory in school history. Marian, an at-large bid from the Mid-States, is led by its defense, which is 11th in the country in rushing defense (104.5 yards) and 12th in scoring defense (16.8 points). Sophomore wide receiver/punt returner Shane Gimzo is second for Ottawa with 12 touchdowns and has been a great complement to All-American wide receiver Clarence Anderson. My pick: Ottawa 28, Marian 25
No. 17 Georgetown (8-2) at No. 4 MidAmerica Nazarene (10-0) - The Pioneers won the Heart of America Conference by completing their second undefeated regular season in the last three years and are coached by former NFL quarterback Jonathan Quinn. My pick: MANU 14, G’Town 3
That’s all I’ve got for now. TA