The University of Saint Francis has not won a Mid-States Football Association Mideast League football championship since 2008. If the No. 6-ranked Cougars can take care of business on Saturday and get a little help, that drought could come to an end.
Saint Francis concludes its regular season home schedule on Saturday as it hosts Taylor at noon. The Cougars are 3-1 in the Mideast League, the only loss coming to top-ranked Marian last month.
If Saint Francis beats the Trojans and Saint Xavier can knock off Marian on Saturday, the Cougars, Saint Xavier and Marian will share the title with identical 4-1 records.
But Coach Kevin Donley is not worrying too much about what other teams do, but rather how his squad looks heading into Saturday.
“Our confidence level is soaring right now,” Donley said. “Success creates that, but our players feel like we are two plays from being undefeated right now. We have been beat up (injury-wise) and played big games not at full strength. As we get guys back and have continued success, confidence builds.”
The defense has been hit particularly hard with injuries over the course of this season, with senior defensive end Rex Drabenstot and All-American linebacker Brody Kalbaugh among those who have missed games due to various ills.
But with wins in four of their last five games and the inactive list shrinking, the Cougars (6-2) are gaining confidence as the postseason looms.
“So far, we have been treating every game like a playoff game so we need to continue to do that,” senior Austin Coleman said. “Our defense is playing well and we need to capitalize on every offensive possession.”
Saint Francis has not allowed a score with its top defense on the field over the course of the last two games. The Cougars hope to continue that against Taylor, a team coming off a bye week that has been competitive against elite teams this season.
The Trojans (3-5) held a 21-7 lead over Saint Xavier last week before surrendering 34 unanswered points in a 55-31 defeat.
“Taylor always seems to play up to its competition,” Donley said. “Their coaching staff does a great job and the fact that they throw the ball and throw it well … is going to be a big challenge for our defense.”
Taylor senior quarterback Nick Freeman averages 25 passing attempts per game and has thrown for 1,409 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.
“Having two weeks to prepare (for us) is always a concern,” said Donley about Taylor. “They may have some new twists on both sides of the ball.”