ROME, Ga. (AP) — Former Havre Blue Pony Gary Wagner had been waiting for this moment. And when he got it, he ran with it, literally.
Wagner scored Carroll College’s only touchdown of the day, while Tom Yaremko atoned for two earlier missed field goals, one which hit the right upright in the first quarter and the left upright in the second by making a 22-yard field goal with 7:47 left as Carroll snapped Sioux Falls' record-tying 42-game winning streak with a 10-7 victory Saturday in the NAIA national championship game in Rome, Ga.
"I just had to forget it," Yaremko said about his misses from 21 and 38 yards. "My teammates said they still had faith in me."
Sioux Falls had a chance to force overtime, but Braden Wieking's field goal try from 46 yards was wide left with 3.5 seconds remaining.
It was the final game in the NAIA for the South Dakota school, which is moving to NCAA Division II. The Cougars won the previous two championships, beating Carroll 23-7 in 2008.
Wagner, in his sixth year at Carroll, was selected the offensive player of the game. He had the 83-yard TD run in the second quarter and was 12-of-21 passing for 107 yards for the Saints (14-0). He also rushed for a team-high 75 total yards.
"I can't even put into words how great I feel," Wagner said. "I'm just so happy to be a part of this team. These guys are my family."
Sioux Falls (13-1) and Carroll have combined to win nine straight NAIA titles. Carroll won from 2002-2005 and again in 2007, beating Sioux Falls. Sioux Falls won in 1996, 2006 and the past two years.
Wagner broke Jordan Carlson's tackle and outran the Sioux Falls secondary with 8:47 left in the second quarter to put Carroll ahead. Sioux Falls tied it with 3:02 left in the half on Jordan Taylor's 1-yard run that finished off a 63-yard, 11-play drive.
Ted Morigeau recovered Jon Eastman's fumble midway through the third quarter, but Carroll couldn't take advantage of the game's only turnover. The Saints were able to mount a fourth-quarter drive, though, and Yaremko hit the deciding field goal.
Sioux Falls got to the Carroll 31 after the field goal, but Brian Strobel sacked Eastman on second down and two passes were then incomplete.
Eastman completed three passes in the final minute after the Cougars got the ball back, but Wieking missed the potential tying field goal.
"He took it really hard," Stugart said. "But it shouldn't have come down to that."
Sioux Falls was held to 35 yards rushing and Carroll had nearly a 10-minute edge in time of possession.
"The score tells it all," Carroll coach Mike Van Diest said. "We knew it was going to be a great battle."
Sioux Falls' 42-game winning streak tied the NAIA record set by Texas A&I — now Texas A&M-Kingsville — in the 1970s. The Cougars were 55-2 the last four seasons, the only other loss was to Carroll in the 2007 title game.
Sioux Falls linebacker Eric Anderson, who was in on 17 tackles, was the defensive player of the game.
Wagner, the former three-sport standout finishes his high school and college career with a Class A state championship in 2004, and he was part of three different Carroll championship teams. Wagner's younger brother Billy, another former HHS standout, was also part of Saturday's championship team.
Note: Havre Daily News sports editor George Ferguson contributed to this story.