NEWARK, Del. - You don't have to convince Delaware football coach K.C. Keeler that Chattanooga is a fine place to be in December.

Delaware, which won the national championship in the Tennessee city four years ago, will leave today for a Friday date with two-time defending champion Appalachian State for the Football Championship Subdivision crown.

"One of the great times in my life was being at that stadium," Keeler said of the 40-0 win over Colgate in 2003. "Is there something more than being immortal?"

The game at 20,668-seat Finley Stadium on the campus of Tennessee-Chattanooga is sold out.

'To be the best, you want to beat the best," said Keeler. "If we can beat Appalachian State, that's the way you want to do it to become the national champions."

In each of their last two outings, the 11-3 Blue Hens won on the road after facing 10-point first-quarter deficits against top-10 opponents. The Football Championship Subdivision is the new name for the NCAA's Division I-AA.

Delaware advanced to meet Appalachian State (12-2) by downing No. 4 Southern Illinois, 20-17.

In the quarterfinals, the Blue Hens knocked off top-rated Northern Iowa, 39-27, after scoring 19 straight points in the second quarter.

"I think this is a championship-caliber team," Keeler said. "You can't worry about what's at stake. The last three games, we just played. Northern Iowa was the most hostile environment I've been in. We beat No. 1 and No. 4 on the road. Who are you afraid of?"

Including No. 10 Delaware State, which Delaware defeated, 44-7, at home in the first round, the combined record of the No. 9 Blue Hens' playoff opponents was 34-2.

"The guys don't look at the scoreboard," said Keeler, who was a member of the 1979 Delaware squad team that claimed a national championship.

"I joke that I just show up on game day. These guys have it. It's their team. I'm in charge, and they know that, but they've taken ownership. This team has all of the intangibles. There's nothing like winning two huge games on the road."

Last fall, Delaware finished 5-6 and missed the playoffs for the second straight year. Keeler is 8-1 in the postseason with the Blue Hens.

Appalachian State, which made national news when it opened the season with a 34-32 triumph over Michigan before a crowd of 109,218 in Ann Arbor, claimed its berth against Delaware with a 55-35 victory over Richmond in the semifinals.

The Mountaineers, who also earned playoff wins over James Madison, 28-27, and Eastern Washington, 38-35, are the No. 6-ranked team. All three of Appalachian State's playoff wins came at home.

Delaware's Local Heroes

Delaware, which plays Appalachian State in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Friday in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, has these local players on its roster:

No.    Name     Class    Pos.   Ht.   Wt.   High School

1    Kervin Michaud    Jr.    WR    5-10    175    Pennsbury

3    Scott Bradish      Fr.   QB    6-4    195    Council Rock N.

5    Joe Flacco          Sr.   QB    6-6    230    Audubon, N.J.

7    Sean Scanlon      Fr.   QB    6-1    195    Camden Cath.

9   Anthony Walters    Fr.    DB    6-1   190   Cardinal O'Hara

12 Kirk Harbaugh       Fr.   DB    6-0    166   Clearview

14 Jon Heydt          Jr.   WR    5-10    185    St. Mark's (Del.)

15 Mike Perry          Fr.   K       5-8    180    West Deptford

18 Mick Purzycki      So.WR    5-9    180    Tatnall (Del.)

22 Jerry Butler          So.RB    5-9    185    George Wash.

27 Jared Bradley       So.RB    6-0    225   Strath Haven

36 Ted Shea          Jr.   LS    5-11   205    Tatnall (Del.)

38 Marvin McKinnie    Jr.    DB    5-9    152    Woodbury

43 Jeremy Simkins    Fr.   DB    6-3    170    Schalick

47 Jon Striefsky      So.K       6-1    185    North Penn

54 Scott von Duyke   Fr.    DL    6-3    245    Tatnall (Del.)

58 Chris Daino       Fr.   OL    6-5    295    Neshaminy

60 Kevin Letkiewicz    Fr.   LB    6-0    220    Upper Merion

65 Josh Howley       Fr.   LB    5-11    225    St. Joe's Prep

74 Kevin Uhll          Fr.   OL    6-4    250    North Penn

78 Sam Burrows       Fr.   OL    6-3   295    Concord (Del.)

81 Tommy Crosby    Fr.   WR    6-5    195    Hammonton

86 Mark Schenaur   Fr.   WR    6-3    195    Absegami

93 Demitrius Hester    Fr.   DL    6-3    300    Paulsboro

94 Michael Atunrase    Fr. DL    6-2    235    Yardley

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Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.