Flag Football claims NAIA B Bracket Championship with win over Milligan

ATLANTA, Ga. – For the third time in four years, the Kansas Wesleyan Flag Football team has claimed the NAIA Flag Finals B Bracket Championship as the Coyotes dispatched the Milligan Buffs 25-6 on Friday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The victory completed a 2-2 run through the NAIA Flag Finals this season, which returned to pool play and dual brackets this season after using a different format last season.

Wesleyan scored on its first drive of the game as Chihiro Iwata used two long plays, a 16-yard pass to Jazmine Whitfield and a 24-yard pass to Na’Kiya Lloyd to set up a 12-yard pass to Whitfield for the score to make it 6-0 Coyotes with 7:59 left in the first.

Milligan answered right back scoring on its next drive to tie it at 6-6, but after that it was all Coyotes.

An interception by KCAC Defensive Player of the Year Alexa Mansur set up KWU’s next scoring drive. Iwata hit Ciaran DeCuir for a 2-yard touchdown pass and the PAT1 to Ja’Daa Wilson was good making it 13-6 Coyotes with 5:36 left before the half.

Wesleyan got the ball to start the second half and iimmediately cashed in. Iwata ran seven yards for the score, capping the drive with six minutes left in the third to make it 19-6.

After the Coyotes turned Milligan over on downs, the Coyotes only needed three plays to score again, aided by a 35-yard run by DeCuir, and scoring on a 2-yard pass to Vanessa Towne with 8:07 left in the fourth.

The Coyotes stopped Milligan on its next drive and then forced the Buffs to run out the clock on the final drive without scoring.

Iwata was 19 of 34 passing for 196 yards and three touchdowns for the Coyotes. DeCuir had 42 yards rushing on two carries. Whitfield had six catches for 71 yards and a score, Alexis Jimenez had four grabs for 43 yards, DeCuir had four for 25 and a score to lead the KWU receivers.

Lexi Marquez led the KWU defense with 11 flag pulls, while Mansur had seven along with an interception. Leila Casillan had a sack for the Coyotes.

KWU outgained the Buffs 266-220 in the game.

The Road to Mercedes-Benz
The path to the Mercedes-Benz dome wasn’t quite the path the Coyotes wanted. KWU opened Pool Play with a 36-6 win over Reinhardt, but dropped the second Pool game to Thomas 33-7. KWU was then seeded seventh in the overall standings as one of four teams with a 1-1 record, and ended up as the top seed in the B Bracket. The Coyotes dispatched KCAC-foe Midland 14-0 in the bracket semifinal to face Milligan in the final.

KWU concludes its season with a 19-4 overall record and were 11-2 in the KCAC. The Coyotes became the first ever KCAC team to defeat the Ottawa Braves earlier this season. KWU played in its second straight KCAC Championship game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium this season.

Flag Football still remains at Emerging Sport status within the NAIA, just completing its fourth season of existence. The next step is to move to Invitational status, where a more defined set of rules and regulations kicks in, setting the stage for the sport to become the next NAIA Championship sport.