With a 28-14 victory over St. Francis (Ind.) last Saturday, the University of the Cumberlands Patriots football program will make its first ever appearance in the NAIA Football Championship Series (FCS) semifinals this week.
Former Moore County High School student/athlete Parker Henshaw is a sophomore on the Patriots’ roster this year. Henshaw played on the Patriots junior varsity team this season.
Henshaw’s family probably won’t to make the 4-hour trip to Williamsburg, Ky., on what promises to be a chilly day this Saturday as UC’s varsity squad tries to keep its historic season going. They did attend the team’s junior varsity games this season, as the Patriots JV finished 5-3 on the year, and they’re hoping the Patriots can win Saturday to earn a trip to Rome, Ga., and the NAIA national championship.
“We went up to all the JV games,” said Henshaw’s mom, Gina. “(Parker) has gotten a little better acquainted with their system this year. The JV still practices with the travel team. I think last year was a little overwhelming.”
For the team’s varsity, 2013 has been an historical year, as the Patriots ran through the regular season with a perfect 10-0 mark and earned the school’s first-ever No. 1 national ranking.
That ranking — and the stellar season — will be on the line this Saturday, Dec. 7, as the Patriots will be at home to host No. 3 Carroll College in the semifinals.
Carroll is advancing to the NAIA FCS Semifinals for the 12th time since 2000 after knocking off Missouri Valley 27-3. The Fighting Saints showcased a dominant defense, holding Missouri Valley to only 177 yards of total offense, including only 37 yards in the first half. Carroll enters the game with a 12-1 overall record on the year with their only loss coming to Eastern Oregon on September 28th by a score of 35-31.
The Fighting Saints enter Saturday’s contest against UC toting the second-ranked scoring defense per game in the NAIA allowing just 14.8 points per contest
.The Patriots will look to change that as they come into the game with the third-ranked offense in the NAIA, scoring 46.6 points per game. Carroll is also ranked No. 4 in the NAIA in rushing defense in the country, allowing just 104.4 yards per game. But again, UC will look to counter that with the nation’s top-ranked rushing attack that averages 365.2 yards per game on the ground.
“We’re excited to be in the semifinals and on top of that, it is great to be at home,” said University of the Cumberlands head coach John Bland. “Carroll has a great tradition and has been in this position before. Our football team is playing good football right now and (we’re) playing with confidence as well.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is set for noon EST at James H. Taylor, II Stadium in Williamsburg.
The Patriots picked up an impressive 56-28 win over St. Ambrose in the opening round of the NAIA FCS.
“Our guys played hard and it’s always so big to win at home,” said Bland of the win. “We’re glad that we will be able to stay here for one more and get one step closer to our ultimate goal, which is Rome (Ga.) and a national championship.”
Henshaw is not the only area player on the Patriots’ roster. Tullahoma natives Chad Bond, a junior receiver, and Cody Morton, a freshman kicker, are also enrolled at the university.
—From school and staff reports