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November 13, 2005
Gary Pine
AZUSA, Calif. –- The NAIA’s No. 9-ranked Azusa Pacific is back in the NAIA Football Championship Series. For the third straight year and the sixth time in the past 8 seasons, the Cougars are postseason bound as 1 of 16 teams in the 2005 NAIA playoffs

In 1 of 8 first-round NAIA playoff games to be played Saturday, Nov. 19, Azusa Pacific (6-3) hosts No. 11 Montana Tech (8-3) at 6 p.m. in Cougar Stadium.

The Orediggers of Butte, Mont., who are making their second straight postseason appearance and their fourth in program history, are meeting Azusa Pacific for the first time ever.

Azusa Pacific, which rallied from a 0-2 start by winning 6 of its final 7 games, is led by All-American LB Stephen Holte, who spearheads a Cougar defense that has allowed just 2 rushing TDs in the past 6 victories while holding the foe to less than 300 yards total offense in that same span.

Montana Tech showcases an outstanding ground game that is paced by junior RB Josh Johnson and sophomore Teague Egan who together are averaging 141 yards a game and have scored 11 TDs.

Azusa Pacific and Montana Tech have 2 common opponents. Both team lost to 3-time defending NAIA champion and No. 1-ranked Carroll College. Azusa Pacific fell 27-7 on the road in the second week of the season, while the Orediggers dropped 45-3 (in Helena) and 21-16 (in Butte) decisions over the past 4 weeks or the regular season. The 2 teams split home verdicts with Eastern Oregon, with Montana Tech falling 24-10 while Azusa Pacific took out EOU, 47-6.

Saturday’s winner advances to the NAIA quarterfinals to be played Nov. 26. The semifinals are slated for Dec. 3 while the national championship game will be played Dec. 17 in Savannah, Tenn.

Last year Azusa Pacific entered the NAIA playoffs as the No. 10-ranked team and proceeded to knock off No. 4 Northwestern Oklahoma (16-0) and top-ranked Sioux Falls (24-3) before being done in by a late TD and falling to eventual national champ Carroll College (14-10) in the semifinals. Montana Tech lost at Dickinson State (30-13) in the first round.

The following is the first-round pairings of the 2005 NAIA Football Championship Series:

Pikeville College (Ky.) (7-2) at University of St. Francis (Ind.) (10-0)
Geneva College (Pa.) (8-3) at Georgetown College (Ky.) (8-2)
University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) (9-1) at St. Xavier University (Ill.) (9-2)
Evangel University (Mo.) (8-2) at McKendree College (Ill.) (8-2)
St. Ambrose University (Iowa) (8-2) at Morningside College (Iowa) (10-0)
Dickinson State University (N.D.) (7-3) at Carroll College (Mont.)
Montana Tech (8-3) at Azusa Pacific (6-3)