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Original Issue

Moving On Up

An NAIA powerhouse eyes the next level

The bad news for the rest of the NAIA is that many of the players who had key roles in Sioux Falls's 25--22 win over Lindenwood in the NAIA championship game last Saturday will be back next season. Linebacker Dominic Studzinski, who had two sacks, is a junior. Defensive back Adam Lopez, who ran the second-half kickoff back 91 yards for a touchdown and set up another score with a 61-yard return, is a sophomore. And kicker Braden Wieking, who nailed three field goals, including the 42-yard game-winner with 9:50 left, is a freshman with one year of football experience. "I got my chance, and I'm trying to make the most of it," Wieking, who played soccer in high school, said after the South Dakota school clinched its second straight NAIA title.

The good news for the rest of the NAIA is that figuring out how to beat the Cougars will soon be somebody else's headache. The school, which has won its last 29 games, is jumping to the NCAA's Division II; it will play an NAIA schedule next year but start a two-year-candidacy period and will be a full-fledged NCAA member by 2012. On the football field at least, the Cougars have outgrown the NAIA. They finished the decade 120--12, with three national titles and two other appearances in the championship game. Said coach Kalen DeBoer, who is 67--3 in five years at Sioux Falls, "Winning a championship never gets old." No, but soon it will get harder.



LONG DISTANCE Lopez's kick returns helped Sioux Falls win its second straight title.