A pair of former Warsaw football standouts earned the right Saturday to now be called national champions.
WCHS graduates Keegan Bruner and Brock Riley helped Saint Francis capture the NAIA National Championship with a 38-17 win over Baker (Kansas).
The No. 4 Cougars claimed the first national title in program history with an impressive win over No. 2 ranked Baker in the season finale in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Bruner, a 6-1, 310-pound senior, was a starter on the offensive line for the third season for the Cougars. Bruner was an All-NLC pick in high school for the Tigers.
Freshman Riley was the long snapper for the national champions. Riley played both defensive back and receiver for the Tigers and was also an All-NLC pick as well as a track standout.
Both Bruner and Riley played for coach Phil Jensen at WCHS.
Saint Francis, which had finished as the national runner-up on three occasions, took a 17-3 halftime lead on Saturday in controlling the game.
Senior receiver Seth Coate, who played at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, had nine receptions for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Coate, a 6-3, 215-pound All-American who was named the game’s Offensive MVP, had touchdown receptions of 59 and 36 yards in the second half Saturday. Coate set the NAIA single-season record this year with 25 touchdown catches for the Cougars.
Saint Francis quarterback Nick Ferrer was 18-30 passing for 245 yards with three touchdown passes to Coate. Ferrer finished his junior season with 51 touchdown tosses for the Cougars.
Senior lineman Lucas Sparks was named the Defensive MVP for the Cougars. Sparks had six tackles, including 2.5 for loss to go with 1.5 sacked. He also forced a fumble and recovered a fumble in the win.
Saint Francis beat the No. 11, No. 5, No. 3 and No. 2 ranked teams in the national tournament to win their title. The national championship was the third for the Fort Wayne school, joining the women’s basketball team in 2014 and the men’s basketball program in 2010.
Saint Francis closed out its season at 13-1 with just a 35-21 loss to No. 1 ranked Marian. Baker concluded its season at 14-1.
The national title on Saturday came 25 years to the day that Saint Francis Hall of Fame coach Kevin Donley won his first national championship at Georgetown (Kentucky).