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David Boyce | | November 13, 2016

What to watch in the Division II NCAA Football Tournament

  Grand Valley State is looking for a return to the semis and hopefully more.

With the field set, here are the players, teams and storylines to watch in the NCAA Division II Football Tournament.


Two teams to watch

  • Shepherd (10-0). A year ago, the Rams surprised a few people when they knocked off playoff power Grand Valley State in the semifinals. With their quarterback returning, they'll get every team’s best shot.
  • California (Pa.) (10-0). The Vulcans won the PSAC title for the first time since 2008 and their first undefeated regular season since 2007. It has been a great season for first-year coach Gary Dunn, who returned to his alma mater.

Five players to watch

  • QB Jeff Ziemba, Shepherd, senior: Ziemba has thrown for 2,623 yards, 20 touchdowns and three interceptions. He led the Rams to the championship game, but played hurt. He wants another shot.
  • LB Luke Hrapchack, California, junior: Hrapchack leads the team with 75 tackles. He is second on the team with 4.5 sacks. He has one interception, recovered a fumble and forced two fumbles.
  • DB Jared Chester, LIU-Post, junior: Chester has six interceptions, which he has returned for 115 yards. He also leads the team in tackles with 64.
  • WR Laurence King, Fairmont State, freshman. King has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. He has 541 return yards in 17 kick returns for a 31.8 average. King is also the leading receiver with 869 yards and five touchdowns.
  • DB Jay Watkins, Indiana (Pa.), junior: Watkins has six interceptions with 30 return yards. He ranks fourth on the team in tackles with 41.

Storyline: The only loss for Shepherd in the last two years was in the Division II championship game. Shepherd is determined to get back to Kansas City.

RELATED: Division II Football Championship Bracket


Two teams to watch

  • North Alabama (8-1). The only two things to slow the Lions down this season was a season-opening loss to FCS Jacksonville State and Hurricane Matthew causing the cancellation of the Florida Tech game in week in week five. North Alabama went 7-0 in the GSC.
  • Newberry (10-1). Newberry is having its best season since 2006. After losing the season-opener to Florida Tech, the Wolves have won 10 straight game. The last time Newberry won an outright SAC title was 2006.

Five players to watch

  • QB Jacob Tucker, North Alabama, senior: Tucker is a dual-threat quarterback, rushing for 666 yards and 12 touchdowns and passing for 1,973 yards and 16 touchdowns.
  • QB Yeldell Raleigh, Newberry, senior: Raleigh has passed for 3,087 yards and 27 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 331 yards and six touchdowns.
  • DL Tyler Hinton, UNC-Pembroke, sophomore: Hinton lead the team with seven sacks accounting for a loss of 55 yards. He has also forced a fumble.
  • RB Antwuan Haynes, Florida Tech, sophomore: Haynes has rushed for nearly 100 yards per game. He has rushed for 982 yards in 149 carries for an average of 6.6 yards per carry. He has rushed for 10 touchdowns and caught two more touchdowns.
  • SS Kenny Moore, Valdosta State, senior: Moore leads the team in tackles with 55, including 4.5 tackles for losses. He also has three interceptions and 55 return yards and one sack.

Storyline: The only region that doesn’t have an undefeated team, which makes Super Region Two perhaps the most wide-open of the four regions. However, it will take a strong performance to knock off North Alabama at Braly Stadium.

DII Football: 2016 Selection Show


Two teams to watch

  • Northwest Missouri State (11-0). The Bearcats are the defending national champions and are currently on a 26-game winning streak. In the last four seasons, Northwest is 51-2.
  • Sioux Falls (11-0). Sioux Falls plays old-school offense and runs the ball. The Cougars rush for an average of 323.2 yards per game while allowing 112.4 yards rushing. If the Cougars continue to run the ball well while stopping the run, they will find success in the playoffs.

Five players to watch

  • QB Kyle Zimmerman, Northwest Missouri, senior: In his only season starting, Zimmerman has completed 231 of 333 passes for 3,056 yards, 34 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
  • RB Max Mickey, Sioux Falls, junior: Mickey is averaging 9.1 yards per carry, rushing for 1,550 yards and 16 touchdowns.
  • DE Trevon Biglow, Harding, senior: Biglow leads the team with six sacks for a loss of 43 yards. Harding’s defense has only allowed an average of 11.2 points per game.
  • QB Drew Bauer, Minnesota Duluth, senior: In last regular season game, Bauer threw for 388 yards, the fourth highest single-game total in school history. On the season, he thrown for 3,081 yards, 28 touchdowns and five interceptions.
  • LB Kole Schankie, Emporia State, senior: Schankie leads the Hornets with six interceptions with a 151 interception return yards, including one for a touchdown. He also leads the team with 71 tackles.

Storyline: As long as Northwest Missouri is in the playoffs, the road to the national championship goes through Maryville, Missouri. The team that beats Northwest Missouri automatically becomes the favorite to win the national title.


Two teams to watch

  • Grand Valley State (11-0). The Lakers completed their eighth undefeated regular season in the program’s history. Grand Valley is a playoff savvy team that has played well all season.
  • Southwest Baptist (10-1). Won its first-ever conference title and making its first appearance in the NCAA playoffs. The Bearcats are in unchartered waters and will face programs who have been there. Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, Southwest Baptist has had its best season in the program’s history.

Five players to watch

  • RB Marty Carter, Grand Valley State, sophomore: Carter 1,590 yards, averaging 7.8 yards per carry. He has rushed for 18 touchdowns and has a touchdown reception.
  • QB TJ Edwards, Southwest Baptist, sophomore: Edwards has thrown for over 3,000 yards, 33 touchdowns and six interceptions. Edwards broke the conference and school record for passing touchdowns.
  • DE Zach Sieler, Ferris State, sophomore: Sieler leads the Bulldogs in sacks with 14 for a loss of 97 yards. He has also forced three fumbles.
  • DB Dustin Rivas, Colorado Mesa, junior: Rivas has five interceptions and he returned one of them for a touchdown. He also ranks fourth on the team in tackles with 59.
  • QB Luis Perez, Texas A&M-Commerce, junior: Perez has passed for 2,802 yards, 27 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Storyline: Grand Valley State, which has played in five national championship games since 2002 and has won four of them, probably has the best home field advantage of any team in Division II. At Lubbers Stadium in Allendale, Mich., the Lakers regularly play in front of crowds ranging from 13,500 to 16,800.

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