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Demarais runs his way into Carroll record books

Press Photo by Dustin Monke Carroll College running back Chance Demarais runs past Dickinson State junior defensive tackle Heath Hafner on Oct. 8 at the Badlands Activities Center. Demarais, who has rushed for a school-record 1,748 yards, leads Carroll into the NAIA national championship game against St. Xavier (Ill.) on Saturday.

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- When Chance Demarais joined the Carroll College football team, he brought size and strength to the Saints' rushing attack.

What he didn't bring was even more important.

"He checked his ego at the door," said Carroll head coach Mike Van Diest. "He's been unbelievable."

The Saints take on Saint Xavier (Ill.) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the NAIA national championship game, and Demarais will be filling up the TV screen. The former Malta, Mont., superstar enters the game having rushed for a school-record 1,748 yards.

The yardage broke a 15-year-old Carroll record. Demarais has 312 carries this year, which also breaks a Saints' record previously owned by the great Paul Petrino, the University of Arkansas offensive coordinator who carried the football as an option quarterback 307 times in 1987.

Demarais did not start for the Saints a year ago. Instead he deferred to senior John Camino.

"We knew he was a great one," Van Diest said. "And he's every bit what we thought. He was willing to play behind John and that was a great thing for our team."

To be sure, there is no room for selfishness in the Carroll College football program.

"It wasn't difficult," said Demarais. "Camino, he was a great guy and good mentor for me. I really enjoyed playing behind him and with him. He was the kind of player who did everything he could to help the team."

The Saints always have room for two stellar running backs. This season, freshman Dustin Rinker has emerged with Demarais to provide a formidable 1-2 punch. Thus Demarais, who 12 months ago was the protégé, is now a mentor himself.

"Dustin's very talented and he works very hard," Demarais said. "Every yard he gets, he earns."

It goes without saying that having a tremendous athlete in a backup role helps keep the starter motivated.

"I've got to stay on my toes," Demarais said. "Dustin's work ethic and drive are very good and I know I have to push myself."

The Saint Xavier folks know all about the Carroll rushing game in general, and Demarais in particular.

"The running back is an absolute load. I remember him from last year," said Saint Xavier coach Mark Feminis.

Demarais rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown against Saint Xavier last year in Carroll's 27-5 national semifinal victory. The Saints gained 292 of their 427 total yards on the ground in that game, ran 25 more plays from scrimmage and had a huge advantage in time possession.

"I don't know what they list him at (227 pounds), but he's awfully big," Feminis said. "And certainly they have the best offensive line we'll see all year. They're physical, they get after people and they're relentless."

Demarais has 19 touchdowns this season. His career totals are 3,276 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns. With one season left, it's likely he will end his Saints' career holding all the records.

"I don't know if he's a breakaway guy," said Feminis. "But he's just a relentless, physical runner who wears you down in the fourth quarter ... I know our defensive guys will be awfully sore after the game."

In high school, Demarais delivered blows for the Malta Mustangs of coach Scott King. The halfback said King and Van Diest share a similar coaching style.

"They're both very consistent in what they do and they're both obviously very competitive," said Demarais.

King is one of Montana's winningest high school coaches while Van Diest's stunning Carroll record is 157-21, with six national titles, in 13 seasons.

"Coach Van Diest knows what it takes to win and he surrounds himself with a great coaching staff," said Demarais. "They do the little things right, and they strive every day to help you be your best."