There’s one more football game left to play by the UWF Argonauts: for all the marbles in NCAA Division II. Here's a preview of the national championship game.
The Argonauts, now 11-3, left Thursday on another charter flight, this one to Kansas City to face Texas A&M Commerce, who comes in at 13-1. The Lions beat Harding University 31-17, while the Argos knocked off top seed Indiana (PA) 27-17.
“We go up there [Indiana, PA] Friday night, and we’ve got guys taking their shirts off in 20-degree weather and I thought ‘alright, this is going to be fun,’” said Argos Head Coach Pete Shinnick. “And sure enough, the game was unbelievable; our guys played as well as I’ve seen them play. Very exciting.”
One of the major challenges on Saturday says Shinnick, is the Lion defense.
“Every time you turn them on and you watch them, you see something different,” said Shinnick. “Mix and matching coverages and blitzes, and different things that they do. We know we’re going to have to be spot-on offensively to get it done.”
UWF this week placed two defenders on the second team Division II All-America squad: lineman John Williamson and cornerback Marvin Conley. Speaking on his weekly cable TV show, host Tommy Thrall asked Shinnick what the Argos may look like, from the Texas A&M Commerce perspective.
“I think you just gotta look at the guys that we have, and the guys that are making plays,” Shinnick said. “You can’t discredit who we’ve played, you can’t discredit what we’ve been able to do. We always look at how we would match up against them – what would that look like.”
Colby Carthel is in his fifth season as head coach at Texas A&M Commerce, which is located about 60 miles northeast of Dallas. He guided the Lions to three straight Lone Star Conference Championships in 2014, ’15 and ’16 – and finished second to Midwestern State this past regular season.
“We talked about taking over the Lone Star Conference and we did that and ran the table on LSC for three straight years,” Carthel said. “So we’ve been talking about taking this program to the national level. We’ve never said we’re going to win a national championship, but we say we’re going to be competing for one year-in and year-out. That’s where we are today.”
Speaking after the win over Harding, Carthel said they’re looking forward to the meeting with West Florida. One thing’s for sure – youth will be served. The Argos have 42 sophomores and two dozen freshman on their roster. The Lions are young as well, but their leader is senior quarterback Luis Perez, who has completed more than 70% of his passes, thrown for almost 4,700 yards, and is a first-team Division II All-America.
“Luis is a special player,” said Carthel. “Every once in a while you get some guys like that, that come though and there’s something about him that’s a little different. He’s able to lead this team and make good decisions and does things the right way.”
West Florida QB Mike Beaudry, the Gulf South Conference’s Offensive Freshman of the Year, has passed for just under 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. Add to the Argo attack running back Chris Schwarz, who rushed for 141 yards and a score against Indiana (Pa.).
“We felt like we could get a body on a body in the run game,” said Argos Coach Pete Shinnick. “And that’s where you saw Chris Schwarz run for the yards that he did.”
Kickoff Saturday is set for 5:00 p.m. Central Time at Children’s Mercy Park – the home of Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City. The game will be televised on ESPN2.