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Sam Houston Tops SDSU In National Title Game

Sam Houston Edges Out SDSU in National Championship Game

On Sunday, Sam Houston edged out a victory over South Dakota State University 23-21 to win the 2021 Football Championship Subdivision national title in Frisco, Texas. 

At the end of the third quarter, the Bearkats held a 17-7 lead – but before game’s end the Jacks took a 21-17 lead. A touchdown in the final seconds sealed the game for Sam Houston.

“How should our fans remember this? They should remember a bunch of guys that bonded together and gave everything they had,” explained SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier. “Football is a fickle game, so yeah, we can play better, but I hope the Jackrabbit fans are proud of our program.”

Heavy rain and strong winds played a significant role throughout much of this game for both teams. However, the Jackrabbits were dealt a significant hurdle when star freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski sustained what appeared to be a knee injury on the opening series of the contest. He was unable to play after the first offensive drive.

“Our starting quarterback Mark Gronowski has a pretty serious injury,” said Stiegelmeier. “We’ll evaluate it more, but it’s a serious injury. Disappointed for him.”

Keaton Heide took over in relief of Gronowski but struggled to find consistency. He threw for just 79-yards, went 9 of 20, and had one interception. The statistical darling for the Jacks in the championship game was freshman running back Isaiah Davis, who ran for 178-yards and three touchdowns. With 5:41 to play in the game, Davis broke free for an 85-yard score, which gave SDSU a late lead.

Both Sam Houston and South Dakota State were playing for their first national football championship at the division one level. This time, it was the Bearkats who came out on top.

“You have to rejoice in guys play and compliment them at the end of the game. I’m disappointed in the loss, but that doesn’t take away from being a true sportsman and telling guys how you feel about them,” Stiegelmeier mentioned.

Up next is preparing for a fall season. For SDSU, their first game of the 2021 fall season is September 4th at Colorado State. With it already being mid-May, there won’t be much of an off-season.

“We’re going to give them two and a half weeks off right now. We start lifting on June 7th, organized lifting,” said Stiegelmeier. “I’m going to tell them, which I’ve never done, if they need time off, just to come in and talk to me about why they need time off. We’ve got twelve seniors coming back that are hungry and disappointed. We’ve got a bunch of young guys that had a taste of this. Football is hard work. It doesn’t matter if you’re back-to-back seasons from spring to fall or just the normal season – it’s hard work.”

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.