The Red Zone September 11 2011

By Craig Burroughs

Too New to Rue: The Saints of Siena Heights University came to Arlington Heights, IL, on Saturday to meet another new team in 2011, the Eagles of Robert Morris University. RMU already had two games under its belt, having led into the 4th Quarter against both at Mayville State and at home against Minnesota State-Moorhead before losing 21-18 and 28-17, respectively. SHU, located in Adrian, MI, lured long-time D-III Adrian College coach Jim Lyall back into the saddle, after his surprise firing at the end of the 2009 season despite a 98-91-1 record over 20 years, to start its new NAIA program. Lyall in turn has lured Stan Parrish, former Wabash, Marshall, Kansas State and Ball State head man to be his volunteer QB’s coach. This veteran pair clearly had the Saints prepared for their first-ever college contest, as they scored in every quarter, never trailed and put up a 30-7 win against a team with a two-game head start in their first year of football.

Lyall’s reputation for rock-solid defenses at Adrian has followed him to Siena Heights, as the Saints held the Eagles to just 151 yards total for the game. SHU rushers netted 221 yards while their defense was holding RMU to -3 yards on the ground. Matt King, the Saints’ QB under Parrish’s tutelage, acquitted himself well with 11-of-17 passing for 171 yards and 2 scores without an INT or a sack. As a tee-shirt on the back of one of the many avid SHU fans who made the trip to Illinois said: “Still undefeated since 1919,” the year of Siena Heights’ founding.

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We picked the Wheaton-Albion game that evening as our best story, primarily for one reason…we wanted to see Julian Paksi, the Britons’ Nose Guard, in action. Paksi, recently diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer, was the subject of a preseason column by the AP’s Tim Dahlberg detailing Julian’s choice to play his senior season of football before registering for a liver transplant, his only viable treatment option. The 5′ 11″ 240# Paksi, from St. Johns, MI, chose football over therapeutical expediency because he didn’t want to be robbed of his final days of college competition, as he knows they will be his last. I had hoped to visit with him after the game, but by the time I was able to get help to get down from the pressbox, given my own limitations, the Albion team bus was already loaded and out of the stadium.

Paksi was a mainstay on the Britons defense, regularly clogging the middle and getting 2 solo tackles, as the visitors played very well in the First Half, leading 3-0, 9-7 and 21-20 before giving up a 35-yard Garrett Meador-to-Justin Zeller TD bomb with just 0:27 left before intermission to fall behind 26-21. Meador, a senior in his first start for the Thunder, turned the 2nd Half into an aerial show for the record book…he threw four more TD passes to put his total at 6 for the night, tying Keith Bishop’s 28-year old team record. Meador’s scoring strikes were caught by six different receivers, and he finished the night with 22 completions in 29 attempts for 257 yards without a sack or an interception. His feet were active as well, gaining a net of 45 yards on 7 keepers, including a 22-yard scamper. By the time Albion lined up for the game’s final play at the Wheaton 4 yard line, Meador had turned a close game into a 54-28 rout. Britons WR J. C. Cruse caught a 4-yard pass from QB Spencer Krauss on that game-ending play, but in one last indignity, the Thunder blocked the extra point try to make the final score 54-34. Wheaton is now 6-2 all-time against Albion and has not lost a non-conference regular-season game since 2002, a span covering 27 contests.

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