Winning has been contagious on the gridiron at the University of Saint Francis (Fort Wayne).
Let’s just say it’s off to a good start in 2019 after Saturday’s 56-6 season-opening victory over host USF (Joliet).
Griffith’s Justin Green was an integral part of back-to-back NAIA National Championships from 2016 and 2017 for the Cougars.
The former Panthers standout finished his college career with 4,912 rushing yards, 54 touchdowns and averaged 104.5 rushing yards per game — all USF records.
Green will have to be replaced, but there’s plenty of Region roots returning on the roster, including Andrean’s John Daugherty, the team’s starting left guard.
“Our continued success over 21 seasons is due in no small part of the toughness, tenacity and determination of players like John Daugherty,” USF coach Kevin Donley said. “He’s definitely one of our key offensive lineman.”
The defensive side of the ball will feature two former Duneland Athletic Conference rivals in strong safety Sean Roch’e (Merrillville) and linebacker Nick Lucas (Lake Central).
“Nick is not only moving over from safety to linebacker, but taking the place of our career-leading tackler and an All-American in Piercen Harnish,” Donley said. “We really feel Nick’s going to start without missing a beat.”
Lucas had a game-high 10 tackles in Saturday’s victory over USF (Joliet).
The Cougars, who were 10-3 last season, went 27-1 over the 2016 and 2017 campaigns. The team is ranked No. 3 in the NAIA preseason poll.
Other locals on the roster include River Walsh (Andrean), Justin Wozniak (Michigan City), Jackson Long (Lake Central) and Quincy Tribble (Lake Central).
In other college football news:
• Ball State’s Antwan Davis (LC) had three catches for 60 yards in a 34-24 loss to Indiana.
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• IU’s Jared Smolar (Valparaiso) had two kickoffs for 130 yards — both going for touchbacks against Ball State.
Women’s cross country
Toledo’s Jordyn Boyer (Lowell) was 24th overall as the team was second at the 32nd Annual Mel Brodt Collegiate Opening in Bowling Green, Ohio.
USC’s Madison Horin (Munster) stepped right in this past week. The true freshman started the Trojans’ first three matches, getting seven kills and three blocks in a win over Texas State.
Horin followed with one kill in a loss to then-No. 4 Texas.
• Western Michigan’s Rachel Bontrager (Valparaiso) had 31 kills, 24 digs and five service aces in wins over South Alabama and Purdue-Fort Wayne. The Broncos are off to a 3-0 start.
• Northwestern’s Lexi Pitsas (Munster) had 22 digs in a win over Miami (Ohio) and added 17 digs in a win over Virginia Tech.
• Indianapolis’ Julia Kruzan (Lake Central) had six kills in a four-set loss to Division I opponent Toledo.
• Ball State’s Syndee VanBeek (Illiana Christian) had a team-high 11 kills in a victory over UAB. Reece Kral (Crown Point) and Kia Holder (Morgan Twp.) followed with 10 and nine kills, respectively.
• Trinity Christian’s Brianna Figueroa (Whiting) was named the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Defender of the Week. The junior had a career-high 43 digs against Mount Mercy and finished with 112 digs during a weekend tournament.
Men’s cross country
Alec Fleming (Lowell) was fourth overall with a time of 25 minutes, 30.2 seconds to lead Purdue to the team title at the Illini Open on Aug. 30.