In a battle of Saint Francis football teams, the Fort Wayne version held off a fierce rally by its Illinois counterparts to prevail 37-28 Saturday at Joliet (Ill.) Memorial Stadium.
The victory improved the Cougars to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in Mid-States Football Association Mideast League action.
The Cougars held a 21-14 advantage at halftime, and former Churubusco High School star Jason Nicodemus stretched their lead to 28-14 with an early touchdown in the second half.
Former Bishop Dwenger High School kicker Emerson Ueber booted a pair of field goals (29 and 23 yards) to put the Cougars up 34-14, but the Fighting Saints began to fight back.
The hosts Saints (4-3, 2-1 MSFA MEL) scored twice to close their deficit to 34-28, but the Cougars responded defensively to stymie a Fighting Saints drive and Ueber sealed the win with a 20-yard field goal in the final minute.
Cougars backup quarterback David Yoder came off the bench in place of starter Josh Miller, as he has several times this year, and played well again.
Yoder connected on 31 of 51 passing attempts for 262 yards and two touchdowns.
Nicodemus took over for injured running back Garrett Harvey and he totaled 128 yards (112 in the second half) on 24 carries, including a 6-yard score and a nice 32-yard run.
Former Bishop Dwenger High School wide receiver Cam Smith led four Cougar receivers, each of whom had more than 50 or more yards receiving, with seven receptions for 89 yards.
Aaron Knight hauled in seven receptions for 78 yards. Matt Noll had seven catches for 60 yards, and former Snider High School standout Akeim Kelsaw grabbed six receptions for 50 yards.
Kelsaw helped his team with a 7-yard touchdown catch from Yoder, which gave the Cougars a lead they would never relinquish.
Erick Humphrey and Taylor Brown led the Cougars with eight tackles apiece, and Kory Stamps had five solo tackles (six total).
Nicodemus' Churubusco teammate, Kyle Mathewson registered a pair of tackles for a loss, while Brown chipped in a couple of broken-up passes to aid in the victory.
The Cougars finished with 513 yards of total offense on 108 plays, which were two plays short of tying the NAIA record for plays in a game.
Saint Francis will host Robert Morris (IL) on Saturday at noon.
Tragic accident on way home
The Cougars' bus was involved in a crash on Interstates 80/94 late Saturday on the return trip to Fort Wayne. No Saint Francis personnel were injured; however, Indiana State Police reported that the driver of the car involved in the accident was killed.
The Saint Francis contingent was transported back to campus on a different bus afterward.