Cumberlands Football to travel to Keiser for opening round of NAIA tournament
After a hard-fought loss on Saturday to finish the year 9-1 overall (6-1 MSC Bluegrass) and the tenth-ranked team in the NAIA, the Patriots would have to wait until Sunday to find out if they would make the NAIA Football Championship Series, who they would draw if they did, and where they would travel if so. With the resume they had this season, it would be very tough to leave the Patriots out of the postseason. On Sunday, we found that the eyes of the NAIA thought the same as the Patriots would earn an at-large bid to the postseason and will travel to West Palm Beach, Florida to take on the MSC Sun Division Champions Keiser University this weekend in the opening round.
Keiser would run the table this season, going 9-0 on the year and 6-0 in Sun Division play. They would have one game canceled due to weather against St. Andrews during their second week of play. During the season, the Seahawks would defeat four teams who were ranked in the NAIA's Top 25 Coaches' Poll at that current time, including #24 Dordt on opening week, #8 Reinhardt in week three, #23 Cumberland University in week four, and #12 Southeastern University in week seven. Two of those teams remain in the NAIA Top 25 to finish the season, both Reinhardt and Southeastern, with the Eagles making the NAIA FCS.
The Seahawks, much like UC, bring a balanced offense to the field with a slight edge leaning more to the rushing aspect of the game. On the season, Keiser rushed for 1,995 yards on 407 carries, averaging nearly five yards per touch. A two-headed machine in the backfield would put together most of that yardage in Asfunso Elam and Marques Burgess. Elam tallied 854 yards on 150 carries with seven scores while Burgess added 718 yards on 135 touches with nine touchdowns.
Quarterback Eli Mathews has been consistent this season for Keiser, going 127-193 through the air for nearly a 6% completion percentage. He's thrown for 1,656 yards on the year with 21 touchdowns but also has thrown seven interceptions. Three receivers have caught at least 20 passes this season for the Seahawks, but nine have registered touchdowns on the year. Caleb Walls has pulled in 25 passes for 410 yards and six touchdowns to lead the team in all categories. Traionn Jones has 24 grabs with 306 yards and a score as well while Jaylen Arnold has 23 receptions for 295 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, the Seahawks' secondary seems to be a bit more active with 16 interceptions on the year, but have nearly half as many tackles for loss and sacks than the Patriots. Ronnie Bennett anchors the defense for Keiser with 75 total tackles (26 solo) with seven tackles for loss, three sacks, three pass breakups, one quarterback hurry, and a fumble recovery. Sage Chen-Young, one of the most talked-about defensive backs in the country, has 42 total tackles (26 solo) with six interceptions, six pass breakups, a forced fumble, a blocked kick, and this past weekend, returned a long field goal attempt over 100 yards for a touchdown.
Saturday's game will be played at the Keiser Multi-Purpose Field on Saturday, November 23rd with kickoff slated for 3:00 PM eastern time. Live video of the game will be available at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/keiser. WEZJ 104.3 in Williamsburg will also cover the contest via radio with Dave King on the call.