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Montana School Wins Another NAIA Title

December 21, 2003

SAVANNAH, Tenn. (AP) _ Tyler Emmert showed why he won the NAIA Player of the Year. Emmert threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score to help Carroll College of Montana beat Northwestern Oklahoma State 41-28 Saturday to give the Saints their second consecutive NAIA championship.

Emmert completed 26 of 37 passes for 344 yards, adding the offensive MVP award to the season-long honor he received Friday night.

Half of the completions and all three touchdowns went to Mark Gallik, who finished with 250 yards receiving as Carroll (15-0) extended its NAIA-best winning streak to 19 games.

``When you’ve got receivers like Mike running routes like that ... all you have to do is get the ball in their general area,″ Emmert said.

Northwestern Oklahoma State (11-2) held a 7-3 lead after the first on a fourth-and-goal, 2-yard TD run by Wes Scott.

But Carroll, ranked No. 1 all season, took command with 28 consecutive points.

Emmert scored the Saints first touchdown on a 3-yard bootleg to make it 10-7 with 13:42 left in the half.

Patrick Crayton, the Rangers quarterback and kick returner, took Northwestern Oklahoma State back down the field, but Keith Vermillion missed a 27-yard field goal that would have tied the game.

Emmert took advantage, finding Gallik for an 11-yard TD pass to cap an 80-yard drive with 2:43 left before half that gave the Saints a 17-7 lead.

Crayton hurried the Rangers downfield with no timeouts, but Mike Tyson tripped on the turf on a quick draw play with 13 seconds left in the half, and Crayton couldn’t spike the ball for a field goal attempt.

``If he doesn’t fall, there was a big hole there and he just walks it in,″ Crayton said. ``Unfortunately, he just tripped. It was a momentum stopper.″

If that play stopped the momentum, the next drive gave it entirely to Carroll, which scored three times in three minutes.

Northwestern Oklahoma State stopped Carroll on the opening drive of the second half, but Crayton fumbled the punt return and Emmert capitalized.

Emmert found Gallik for a 25-yard touchdown pass five plays later and the Saints were in command, 24-7 with 10:06 left in the third.

``We needed to make Carroll drive the length of the field with us,″ Rangers coach Garin Higgins said.

Crayton, still shaken from the turnover, telegraphed a pass that defensive MVP Brett Bermingham intercepted and returned 33 yards for a touchdown on the next possession.

``It was a huge momentum swing for us,″ said Saints backup quarterback Robb Latrielle, last year’s offensive MVP in a 28-7 win over Georgetown, Ky.

Crayton, who has attracted NFL interest because of his speed and athleticism, returned the next kickoff 94 yards for a score to cut the lead to 31-14.

But Emmert answered, finding his favorite target over the middle and Gallik sprinted past two defenders for a 58-yard touchdown to make it 38-14 with 7:14 left.

``Mark runs tremendous routes, no one can cover him,″ Latrielle said. ``Tyler just puts the ball on the money.″

Rhett Crites kicked a 23-yard field goal with just over a minute left in the third quarter for the Saints’ final points.

Crayton did throw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes but it was too late. He finished 14-for-26 for 167 yards and two interceptions. He also ran for 179 yards on 31 carries, but poor decision making plagued him.

After the game, he said being snubbed for the NAIA’s Player of the Year award hurt.

``I’m not going to sit here and lie to you, it’s a bit of a disappointment,″ Crayton said. ``But the big disappointment was today.″

Regardless of who the NAIA’s best player is, the best team was Carroll.

``I guess you’ve got to say we’re the best team in the country,″ Emmert said. ``We went 15-0 and we won the title.″