SIOUX CITY | The Morningside coaches are treating it just like any other road game during the football season, but this game is anything but normal.
As third-ranked Morningside prepares to take on fifth-ranked Marian (Ind.) in the NAIA Football National Championship game on Thursday in Rome, Ga., there are plenty of things that have to happen before the Mustangs even take the field.
That starts with getting there.
“We are acting like it is just another road game except we are going to fly there instead of take a bus trip,” said running backs coach Collin Prosser, who is also helping get the team and its equipment to Georgia. “The guys are pretty excited because they get to fly down there – some of our guys have never flown before so it is exciting for them – and we are excited they get to enjoy that experience coming to play football at Morningside.”
The team is taking off on a pair of flights from Kansas City today, but Morningside’s football equipment got a head start on the trip with the team’s pads, helmets and other gear having already been loaded onto a U-Haul which began its trek south on Sunday night.
The NAIA limits teams to dressing 57 players for the game – which is a number the Mustangs have used for road games this season – but a total of 60 players will be on the plane with some others responsible for filming the game and other sideline duty.
Among the 60 players is Austin Granatowicz, who is currently battling leukemia and has been an inspiration to his team this season.
Once the team lands in Atlanta, things will get simpler with a pair of buses taking the Mustangs wherever they want to go.
Although the game may not be until Thursday, the Mustangs will be busy doing a variety of things set up by the NAIA.
“We will take part in the Champions of Character event where we go out in the community and go to four different schools, and our guys will get to interact with some elementary school kids,” Prosser said. “We have a couple of luncheons and the champions banquet on Wednesday night where they announce the player of the year.
“Wednesday will be primarily a football day for us meeting in the morning and a walkthrough at the stadium. It will be like what a normal Friday is for us on that Wednesday.”
Morningside advanced to the championship game with a 47-19 win over defending champion St. Xavier. It has sparked excitement all through the campus.
“It has been an outstanding season, the following has been great, we have had great support throughout the season and playoffs from the college, fans and parents,” Morningside athletic director Tim Jager said. “Everyone is very excited as well they should be because it is a great experience.”
While plenty lies ahead for the team, this week was kept as normal as possible with the exception of the players getting last Monday off. Otherwise meeting times and practices have been the same to keep the team in its regular routine. The coaches began breaking down film of Marian the day after the win over St. Xavier.
It has been a trip to remember, but it is just beginning.