Reinhardt coach James Miller has repeated a simple message to his team during preparations for the NAIA national championship game.
Don’t think about the University of Saint Francis (Ind.) and don’t worry about their accolades or their athletes.
He’s continued to stress to his players to instead focus on themselves leading to the final at 6 p.m. Saturday in Daytona Beach, Fla.
“They have a lot of good players. They’re veteran to this whole thing,” Miller said. “They went down to Daytona last year, so they know what to expect. But it’s like I told the kids. We’re not focusing on them. We’re worrying about us. We’re worrying about what we control, and I believe in what we’re doing on both sides of the ball and on special teams. I believe in our kids.”
Reinhardt (12-0), a program in its fifth year, bused to Daytona on Tuesday to continue preparations for its first title game appearance. Saint Francis (13-0), on the other hand, is the defending national champion and has knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs each of the past two years.
The Cougars are built around quarterback Nick Ferrer, who has thrown for 3,925 yards and 38 TDs — with only four interceptions — and running back Justin Green, the No. 2 rusher in the NAIA with 1,887 yards and 27 touchdowns. He averages 145.2 yards per game.
“The running back is a special player,” Miller said. “In my opinion, he and the quarterback are their two best players, but the running back is the guy that can take over a game, in my opinion. He might be the best player in NAIA. I have a lot of respect for him running the football. We have to find a way to slow him down. We have to try to make them one dimensional, like we always do.”
Like Reinhardt, Saint Francis has dominated most of its opponents this season.
“We can’t psyche ourselves out too much,” Reinhardt senior offensive guard Jesse Dyer said. “It’s a big game, but it’s just a game, so we’ve got to treat it like we do every other game.”
Dyer (Dacula) is part of what Miller called a “really good group of seniors.” The 13 listed on Reinhardt’s roster are highlighted by center Xavier Carter (Shiloh), defensive end Javier Dyer (Brookwood), safety Marcus Miller (Marist) and Antoine Ellis (Rome), a “very important” special-teams player.
“I think we’ve come a long way. I don’t think I’d be satisfied with a loss per say,” Dyer said. “I’m excited that we’ve (gotten) this far. As a team, I think we’d be upset if we were to go down there and not perform to the best of our ability. If we do perform to the best of our ability, I think that we’ll be all right. We just have to focus on what we’re doing as a team instead of what they’re doing.”