Argos Take Division II Football Crown
In only its fourth year on the field, the West Florida Argonauts sit atop of the Division-II football mountain, with a wild 48-40 win over the Minnesota St. Mavericks in McKinney, Texas on Saturday.
Argos quarterback Austin Reed — a redshirt freshman — broke the NCAA Division II championship game record for yards passing, with 523 yards along with six touchdowns, another record. A third record was receiver Tate Lethio’s 13 catches.
“Praise God; I mean unbelievable,” said UWF Head Coach Pete Shinnick, speaking on ESPN. “A lot of prayer has gone into this program; we got a lot of people supporting us, so praise God. Unbelievable, unbelievable.”
Shinnick said getting the championship was a team effort – and not just those wearing pads and helmets.
“We have a great administration, we’ve got a prenominal hometown; Pensacola loves us, they’ve supported us from the beginning. I’ve got an amazing athletic director and president [Dave Scott and Martha Saunders] who have just put their heart and soul into this thing. Again, I’m a blessed man, I really am.”
A little more history for West Florida – the Argonauts are the first NCAA football team to reach the postseason twice in its first four years of existence. UWF was runner-up to Texas A&M Commerce in 2017.
“Tremendous heart, tremendous brotherhood, tremendous unity on this group,” Shinnick said. “Couldn’t be prouder of them. They don’t doubt, they don’t go, and they just kept fighting. This was an amazing game; Minnesota State played phenomenally. We’re a blessed team, I tell ya.”
The two teams went back and forth with the Argonauts able to hold off Minnesota State’s ferocious comeback inside the red zone late in the fourth quarter.
Maverick QB Ryan Schlichte threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns, the second followed by a 2-point conversion pass that got Minnesota State within eight with 4:03 remaining.
For Argos coach Pete Shinnick, it’s a matter of bringing back the championship trophy to Pensacola and finding a place for it.
“We’ve got a silver [runner-up] one sitting at our place and all year long I was like, ‘I want to get the gold [championship] one back here – I want the gold one in our facility,’” said Shinnick. “
The 2019 season will be remembered as the one that West Florida were both a giant-killer and a road warriors. Four wins against four previously unbeaten teams. The Argonauts ended defending champ Valdosta State's 25-game winning streak in the second round, Lenoir-Rhyne's 15-game home winning streak in the quarterfinals and 2018 finalist Ferris State's 14-win run at home in the semifinals, and then Minnesota State in the final. UWF is the first D-2 team to do that on the road.
The Argos finish the year 13-2; the Mavericks end at 14-1.