Southern Nazarene showed mercy on College of Faith on Saturday afternoon at SNU Field, keeping a running clock for all but a few instances. The Crimson Storm coasted to a 42-0 victory against a Tennessee-based football team that showed up for a season finale with only 13 players remaining from an original roster of 38.
“It's been a long season, but we made it through the woods,” College of Faith coach Sherwyn L. Thomas told a small huddle of players. “I love you all for sticking it out today.”
College of Faith is a first-year independent program with a roster of players who come from rough backgrounds.
Players are not offered athletic scholarships. Course work, limited to religion, is online only. Most players work a regular job to pay for classes, and then they take off work on weekends to play football.
Thomas and assistant coach Lenner Rogers claim they are “basically homeless because we don't get paid.” Thomas and Rogers sleep on their office floor with linebacker Vintuan Turley. Keeping the NAIA team together has been brutal, said Thomas, because some players have quit to enter the work force for good or they've simply tired of getting thumped on the field.
“And we were really close to forfeiting this game,” Thomas said. “We only had eight guys at our last practice, and only three of those were here with us today.”
Thomas, Rogers and a few determined-to-play ballers worked phones. They found enough teammates willing to make an eight-hour road trip to Bethany in two white vans often used for teams of lesser numbers, such as basketball or wrestling. Equipment was pulled in a small U-Haul trailer, and most of the gear was donated. Thomas said SNU “has been an angel to us” because it paid for most of Faith's travel expenses, including food and lodging.
“Players have come and gone and come back for a lot of reasons,” said Deterryon Hunt, a sophomore lineman from Millington, Tenn. “I know I've been here from Day 1, and I wouldn't trade this experience for nothing.”
A few Faith kids lacked football fundamentals. Others, such as Hunt, displayed some talent. He was applauded by SNU fans for a celebratory dance that followed a big stick on a Storm punt returner. Hunt also recovered a fumble that gave Faith its only possession of the game in Southern Nazarene territory.
Otherwise, Southern Nazarene dominated. The Crimson Storm totaled 296 yards to The Mighty Believers' minus-1.
SNU tailback Derick Perkins finished with 122 yards and four touchdowns.
This time last season, Southern Nazarene celebrated a Central States Football League championship and NAIA playoff berth. On Saturday, it finished a difficult schedule with a 2-9 record but a year closer to becoming a full-fledged member of the NCAA Division II-affiliated Great American Conference.
College of Faith wrapped up its abbreviated schedule with an 0-5 record but full of promise for the 2013 season.
“We've had a lot of hardships this season, but we're not going to give up,” Thomas said. “This is only the beginning.”
*East Central scored 31 unanswered points to beat Southeastern State 31-17 at Norris Field in Ada. Quarterback Spencer Bond accounted for three touchdowns for East Central.
*Bacone's six-game win streak was snapped with its 47-14 loss to McMurry in Abilene, Texas. Bacone (7-4) had only allowed 26 points during its winning run.
*Southwestern State managed just 217 total yards offense in a 38-7 loss to Harding in Searcy, Ark. Dustin Stenta led Southwestern State (3-7) with 136 yards and a touchdown passing.
*Javari Liggins ran for 221 yards and a TD, and Kyle Jech passed for 169 yards and two touchdowns as Northwestern State trimmed Arkansas-Monticello, 38-35. Northwestern State won its last-four games of the season to finish with a 4-7 record.
*Langston held off Panhandle State 27-20 in Goodwell, finishing 6-4.