Jake Riepma

NCAA Division II National Championship: One for the Ages

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The 2018 season will go down as the most successful season of all-time for Ferris State football, but despite a heroic comeback effort from the Bulldogs on Saturday, the 2018 season will not include a National Championship trophy.

Valdosta State claimed the NCAA Division II National Championship on Saturday (Dec. 15) with a thrilling 49-47 victory at McKinney ISD Stadium in McKinney, Texas. The win completed a perfect 14-0 season for the Blazers.

In a game that featured the 2018 Harlon Hill Trophy winner and the top runner-up, as well as nearly 1,000 yards of combined total offense, the explosive firepower from both teams was on full display throughout the contest. As spectators, the game offered everything you could possibly want in a title game. Sportscenter caliber top plays, trick plays, bone-crushing hits, a record-long field goal, and an “it all comes down to this” two-point conversion attempt. Ultimately, it was the Valdosta State defense that held when it mattered most on the game-tying two-point attempt to secure the dramatic national championship victory for the Blazers.

As I reflected on this game and the season in its entirety, I struggled with how to compile this last column. On one hand, the final game was so memorable and provided the very best of the best. Both teams deserve all the credit in the world, but only Valdosta State leaves with a satisfied feeling of accomplishment and the ultimate prize. Purely speaking as an unbiased writer, the final day of D2 football gave me everything I could have wanted. But of course, on the other hand, following FSU and covering its historic run all season, I inevitably felt the disappointment that I’m sure was significantly more agonizing for those directly tied with Ferris State football.

I found myself thinking this magical run by FSU didn’t end the way it ought to! The storybook ending obviously would have been an epic win in the national championship game. But it wasn’t meant to be.

If you’re a Ferris State fan, you have to think big picture. I know the season didn’t end the way you had hoped, but 2018 will be remembered as an amazing journey full of memorable triumphs until the very end. A school record for wins, the school’s first national championship appearance, a GLIAC Championship, Super Region Three title, a Harlon Hill winner, and Coach Annese’s 300th career win all culminated in one incredible season. As difficult as it is, that’s the 2018 takeaways I’d remember.

As Coach Annese said on twitter, Ferris State will be back.

I think he’s right. But trying to top this season’s accomplishments will be a helluva challenge. But that’s what it’s all about – competitors love and embrace the challenge, and it’ll be fun to follow Ferris State’s quest to do just that in the coming years, especially considering there’s still the most coveted prize left missing in Big Rapids.

With this being my final column for a while, I want to thank everyone that took the time to read each article. I sincerely appreciate all that commented and provided feedback. I’d also like to thank D2football.com and Brandon Misener for allowing me the opportunity to cover the league that I love. When I first agreed to do this, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s been overwhelmingly more rewarding than I anticipated, and that’s thanks to all of you!

I know those comments were as soft as church music and very off-brand, but hey, it's what was on my mind!

One last congratulations to the Ferris State football program for representing our great conference in a first-class manner. Despite the rivalries that we all love, I’m quite certain regardless of who your team is, we can all make a symbolic tip of the cap to the Ferris State Bulldogs on a job well done.

Here’s to the off-season, let the recruiting battles begin!

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Updated 12-17-2018 at 06:36 PM by Jake Riepma

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  1. crixus's Avatar
    Great article Jake, thanks for sharing. I watched that game and agree with you, it really was one for the ages. Lot's of action from start to finish!
  2. champgymusa's Avatar
    Thanks for all your coverage this season, some of it was pretty good, some sucked but ya know with Brandon being so damned cheap I imagine your D2 checks were pretty tiny Hope you will do this column again next season, Best of luck on your radio gig!!
  3. Wide_Right's Avatar
    There are a LOT of young players on Ferris , both sides. I think they could well be back in the NC game next year.