Ferris football team advances to third round of NCAA playoffs

Ferris’ Marvin Campbell is off to the races in NCAA playoff action.

BIG RAPIDS — They were without the best player in the conference but Ferris State prevailed 27-21 over Northwest Missouri State in the NCAA Division II football second round playoffs on Saturday.

The Bulldogs (13-0), led the entire game over the Bobcats (10-3), who rallied to take the game down to the final play.

The nationally second-ranked Bulldogs advanced to the Super Region Championship game and the national quarterfinals for the third consecutive year and set a new school record with their 13th win of the season.

They will now advance to take on top-seeded Ouachita Baptist Saturday in Arkadelphia, Ark. The official game time is to be announced.

Ferris had a 608-300 advantage in total yards over their opponents.

“I’m very proud of our guys,” Ferris coach Tony Annese said. “I keep on telling our guys how gritty they are.

“It’s huge win over a great program. I couldn’t be happier.”

The Bulldogs switched around their players with No. 1 quarterback and GLIAC player of the year Jayru Campbell physically not able to play. Annese had indicated after Ferris’ 21-19 win over Harding in the first round last week Campbell was not playing at 100 percent in the second half of the game.

So the Bulldog offense mixed things up offensively and caught the Bearcats off guard.

On the first play from scrimmage, on the option pass, slot receiver Jevon Shaw took the pitch and passed 71 yards to Sy Barnett to the Bearcat 4. Two plays later, Marvin Campbell scored on a 2-yard run.

On the next drive, Travis Russell passed 40 yards to Keyondre Craig to set up an 8-yard touchdown run by another quarterback, Evan Cummins for a 14-0 lead.

Ferris appeared ready to expand its lead on the next drive but Cummins fumbled at the Bearcat 5.

Jackson Dieterle booted field goals of 45 and 44 yards for a 20-0 Bulldog lead.

“We just found out prior to kickoff they weren’t going to have their quarterback,” Bearcat coach Rich Wright said. “That was challenging the first 30 minutes. They had us off balance. They didn’t do things we saw on film. Give credit to them. They lost somebody who is a key member of their football team and they found a way to win.”

“How about that? The GLIAC player of the year can’t play and the GLIAC offensive lineman of the year Devon Johnson) can’t play,” Annese said. “We had two guys missing who are critically important to our offense. It’s a testament of doing the things you need to do to be a championship (team).”

Annese said he was hopeful, as late as Wednesday, of having Campbell available.

“I didn’t know for sure,” he said. “Normally when you lose your quarterback, you might lose some of the mental toughness. We didn’t waver. It’s a credit to our kids and our entire coaching staff. Everyone was ready for the task at hand.”

Braeden Wright passed 19 yards to Shawn Bane Jr. with nine seconds left in the first half to cut Ferris’ lead to 20-7.

The Bearcats cut it to 20-14 when Jack Richards took the ball away from intended receiver Davonte Harrington on a pass from Russell and returned it 32 yards for the touchdown early in the third quarter.

Ferris drove inside the Bearcat 10 but a Dieterle 26-yard field goal attempt was no good.

Later in the quarter, Russell passed 37 yards to Keyondre Craig to the Bearcat 17, to set up a 2-yard scoring run by Russell for a 27-14 lead.

Ferris drove deep inside NW Missouri State territory early in the fourth but a 36-yard Dieterle field goal attempt was wide.

The Bulldogs later drove deep into Bearcat territory but Dieterle missed a 29-yard field goal try.

But on NW Missouri State’s first play with 2:47 to go, Delon Stephenson intercepted Braden Wright’s pass attempt.

With less than a minute to play, a 51-yard pass from Wright to LaTroy Harper to the Ferris 2 kept the Bearcats hopes alive. Two plays later Wright passed to Alec Tatum 2 yards for the score to cut it to 27-21 with 14 seconds to play.

The Bearcats recovered the onside kick at their own 46. Wright had a 9-yard completion and then one for 11 for one last play with five seconds to go at the Bulldogs 34. Ferris’ Austin Simpson, on the pass rush, forced a fumble and the game ended.

Marvin Campbell had 84 yards rushing and Russell 80 for Ferris. Russell had six completions for 147 yards and Mooney had three for 69 yards. Barnett had two catches for 106 yards and Craig three for 99 yards.

Wright had 28 completions for 269 passing yards.

The Bearcats only netted 31 rushing yards.

Cyntel Williams led the Bulldog defense with 11 tackles.

The Bearcats defeated Grand Valley State 43-17 in a first-round game last week.

This was the second ever game between the two teams. The Bearcats beat Ferris in the 2016 national semifinals.

Now it’s off to the third round.

“I’m thrilled,” Annese said. “It’s the final eight for the third straight year, which is just incredible.”



Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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