By: Melanie DaSilva
The Sacred Heart club football team finished their season undefeated as they won the National Club Football Association (NCFA) National Championship, on Saturday, December 2.
The Pioneers traveled to West Liberty University, where they beat the Eagles of the University of Fort Lauderdale with a score of 21-18.
The Pioneers earned their ticket to the NCFA National Championship game for the first time in program history, after upsetting defending champions, Oakland University 28-6.
“This is going to be a good test. If we play our game the way we have practiced, then we have a great chance at achieving our goal,” said head coach, Gregory Jones.
According to the NCFA website, the NCFA is the only Collegiate Club Sports Leagues certified inter-collegiate club tackle football league in the United States. The NCFA is made up of 26 teams across the United States.
Remaining undefeated all season, the players have mentioned previous to the championship game, that the key to their success all season stemmed from their defensive performance each week.
“The key to our success is how well our defense performs under any condition,” said junior, Mark Barranger. “No matter how hard it is, we always work through it, and we have become very solid on the defensive side to the game. That is what has gotten us this far.”
Playing this game really means a lot to the players involved. Even with it being a club sport, each player dedicates their time and effort to perform better every time that they step on the field.
“Everyone has shown up to practice all season.” said senior captain, Brian Moore. “We come together as a team, we focus, and we work hard, because we all have the end goal of reaching the National Championship.”
Playing in the NCFA, gives players a competitive field to play the sport in which they love, without the pressure of the high demands of a Division I atmosphere.
“We can still play the game that we love, but it is not overwhelming,” said senior captain, Chris Criscuolo. “It is not something that we need to focus on all day. Without taking time away from school work, we are still able to dedicate plenty of hours of the day to play, and strive to reach our ultimate goal.”
Jones said that the team chemistry is very strong. He has never been around a team that is as close as this year’s team, in that they go everywhere together.
“This has been the most fun team I have ever played on, and the best team I have ever played for. If we win this, it would mean so much to me,” said Barranger.
For the seniors on the team, this was the last game of their careers, so taking home the championship title meant something even more special.
“I have been playing this game all of my life, so it is definitely a key part of my life. I was fortunate to continue playing through this year,” said Criscuolo.
Jones said that the team was ready for the game after watching a lot of films, which prepared them in practices for a team that is dynamic, like Fort Lauderdale.
“We just have to do what we know works best for us, work hard, and come together as a team, and in return, we should put up a good fight to win this game,” said Moore, and they did just that.