Lindsey Wilson Football to compete for national championship tonight

GRAMBLING, La. – The culmination of a season unlike any other is set as No. 3 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) will face No. 6 Northwestern (Iowa) in the NAIA Football National Championship. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT on Monday, May 10 at historic Eddie R. Robinson Stadium in Grambling, La.

Lindsey Wilson (10-0, 7-0 Mid-South Bluegrass) enters the title game undefeated after playing its season out in its entirety in the spring.

“Obviously everyone knows we played our season in the spring,” said Lindsey Wilson Head Coach Chris Oliver. “It was a very challenging fall; for our guys and for myself mentally. I certainly tried to keep abreast of other scores across the country, scores in the GPAC and the other conferences that were playing, but at the same time it was mentally challenging to see some other teams playing and us not being able to do that.”

After a lopsided victory over Pikeville (Ky.) on February 12, the Blue Raiders settled-in and made a statement each and every week. On the season, the team from Columbia, Ky., is outscoring its opponents by an average of 31.9 points per game. In fact, the closest game they have played came back on March 5 in a 34-14 win over conference rival Georgetown (Ky.).

“We got to game one and almost had it canceled due to an ice storm that just barely missed us,” Oliver explained. “We were fortunate to get to play that Bluegrass Division schedule. We didn’t have any games canceled due to COVID. Once we got into that rhythm with our guys and back into the rhythm of playing, it sort of felt like getting back on the bike. I’m really proud of how our guys have handled all the challenges that have come with this.”

The Blue Raiders have had all the weapons on offense a team could want, and that group is led by one of the top quarterbacks in the nation in Cameron Dukes. The senior has been electric for his team throughout his career. In three less games than a season ago, Dukes has just two less passing touchdowns (33) in 2020-21.

Outside of the skill game, the turnover battle could be where the game is won. Lindsey Wilson is 58-2 all-time in games that it has won the turnover battle.

“One of the biggest keys to the game for us, first and foremost, turnover battle is where it’s at,” mentioned Oliver. “The statistic is really off the charts when we win the turnover battle. We’ve been really fortunate to do a great job of ball security recently, so that will be a big one for us.”

Jaylen Boyd has also been a special player this season for the Blue Raiders. The running back has been a workhorse in a deep, talented backfield and has added eight touchdowns this season.

Northwestern (11-1, 8-1 GPAC) has been a revolving door of storylines, and the championship will be no different. After a year that the team played out its entire schedule in the fall, the team returned to action on April 17 for the first round of the playoffs, a 139 day layoff of competition. The time away, however, didn’t seem to phase the team as the Red Raiders have made it back to the championship game, looking for the third title in team history, first since 1983.

“A big secret to our success as a team, and it might be something you might see more in the baseball world, but we work with a mental performance coach with our football program,” said Northwestern Head Coach Mike McCarty of how his team overcame the rigors of the full fall schedule. “We work with Ethan Miller Performance and he does a great job. He meets with our guys weekly and it’s huge. It is just the mental approach they take to every single day. It has really helped them with all of the changes.”

Once of the unexpected changes happened at the quarterback position, however, leading into the title game. Tyson Kooima was injured on the final play of the semifinal victory against Morningside (Iowa), so the team will turn to junior Blake Fryar to take the snaps. Fryar will not enter Monday night’s game with the experience, but he will enter with some of the biggest weapons that a quarterback could ask for.

“I think every one of the guys really feels for Tyson,” said McCarty of his team’s feelings after Kooima’s injury. “We have a really close-knit group on our team and a lot of these guys were teammates in high school and have known him when they were even younger, before high school. They feel for Tyson. At the same time, Blake has been in our program for three years and our guys see the work that Blake puts in each and every day. Blake is one of the hardest workers on our team and our guys really believe in him and are excited for him to get the opportunity.”

Fryar will have the comfort of one of the most deep and talented wide receiving corps in the nation when he suits-up on Monday night. Shane Solberg leads the team with an average of 130.6 yards per game, but Michael Storey and Cade Moser can hurt any team as well. In fact, while Morningside focused their efforts on Solberg in the semifinal battle, Moser came away with 303 yards receiving on 11 receptions.

“We feel like we’ve got several weapons on the outside,” said McCarty of his wideout group. “Shane leads the nation in receiving yards and is our all-time leading receiver, a record he broke, really, early in his junior year. He is our slot, a great route runner, and has tremendous ball skills. (Cade Moser) had 303 yards for us last week and I was blown away when I saw the stat sheet. Cade has been injured for us off and on for the last couple of years, missed half of this year and half of last year, otherwise Cade may be the be the best receiver in the country. Michael Story is our third guy and Mike gets overlooked sometimes. Mike made an incredible catch last week, the game winning touchdown against Morningside, and had about 100 yards. (He) just gets overshadowed by those other two guys.”

 

Game Quick Facts

Time: 6:05 p.m. CT

Date: Monday, May 10, 2021

Location: Eddie R. Robinson Stadium, Grambling, La.

Game Previews: Lindsey Wilson | Northwestern

Live Coverage: ESPN3 | Live Stats | Lindsey Wilson Radio | Northwestern Radio

About Zac Oakes 5393 Articles
Zac Oakes is the News and Sports Director for LakerCountry.com and Laker Country WJRS 104.9 FM.