Kaine Yates

In this 2016 file photo, Hanceville’s Kaine Yates (15) makes a tackle during a game vs. Vinemont.

Just call Kaine Yates a national champion.

The 2017 Hanceville graduate capped off his redshirt sophomore campaign with Lindsey Wilson College on Monday night, helping the Blue Raiders win their first National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) football championship following a 45-13 win versus Northwestern College at Eddie G. Robinson Stadium in Grambling, Louisiana.

Lindsey Wilson led just 17-7 at halftime but pulled away in the second half.

“The season was a definitely a different experience with COVID and having to play in the spring,” Yates said. “But it was great to experience a national championship. This one really didn’t hit until the end of the fourth quarter. We were expecting it to be a lot closer, but we came out and took care of business. We’re ready to turn the page and do it again next year."

Yates, a tight end, appeared in 10 games for the Kentucky-based program, which finished the season 11-0 following a dominant 4-0 performance — the Blue Raiders also took down Bethel College, Concordia University and Keiser — in the playoffs.

Yates delivered some top-notch performances for the Bulldogs during his prep tenure, earning All-State honors as a sophomore (first-team defensive line) and senior (second-team defensive line).

He finished his final high school campaign with 96 tackles (nine for loss), four sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Yates also had 280 receiving yards and three touchdown catches.

As a 10th-grader, Yates snagged 86 tackles (14 for loss) and 10 sacks. He also blocked two kicks, forced a pair of fumbles and recovered three fumbles.

Yates initially signed with Division II Lake Erie College (Ohio) out of high school. He played as a freshman there but suffered a labrum injury late in that season, which required surgery and sidelined him for the next two years. And although he missed a game this season after re-aggravating the injury, he was able to play in the rest of the games and contribute to his team's success.

"It’s definitely been a long process, but an amazing experience,” Yates said. "I just had to trust the process through this whole thing. And here I am."

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