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Mustang fans come out to support team
Morningside fans celebrate Mustangs first national title at watch parties in Sioux City

SIOUX CITY -- Bob Roe's Point After was standing room only Saturday night. 

Morningside fans from far and wide packed into the bar and grill to watch Morningside College in the NAIA Football National Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida against Benedictine College, from Kansas. 

The bar's namesake, 80-year-old Bob Roe, was on hand to watch the game with the bar patrons. Like everyone, the longtime Morningside fan (who took classes at the school in 1959 and 1960) was excited about how well the team has done this season. 

"If they're going to get beat, I'll be disappointed, because I think this is the best team they ever had," Roe said. 

As Roe spoke, a bar patron turned to him and asked if the game was playing on every television screen in the bar. 

"Yeah," Roe said. 

"God bless you!" the man replied. 

Roe's daughter, Terri Rexius, said the limited availability of the game broadcast -- it was shown only on ESPN3, which many viewers don't have access to -- worked in the bar's favor. 

"ESPN3, you cannot get it on any cable or DirecTV package, you have to stream it through a computer," she said. While this can make it tough for fans to watch away games, Rexius said "It's great for us!" 

Rexius said she's been a Morningside fan her whole life. 

"When I was a kid, my dad took me up to the basketball games, they were in a different division, they played a great big holiday tournament in Sioux Falls, and we always went there as a family," she said before being interrupted by rapturous cheers throughout the bar. 

Morningside had scored, leveling an early lead held by Benedictine. This also meant dollar shots were available to patrons. 

Waitresses raced this direction and that with beer pitchers and order sheets in their hands, scooting past people who couldn't find a seat. Rexius said Saturday was an all-hands-on-deck operation at the bar, which has long been popular among Morningside people. 

"It's hard to do better than being undefeated!" she said of the team's 14-0 record prior to Saturday's game. 

Nearby, Morningside superfan Tim O'Connor and his wife Jean kept a close eye on the game. Like most everyone in the bar, the O'Connors said they were very impressed by wide receiver Connor Niles. 

"Connor Niles used to come and play in our cellar with my grandson!" Jean O'Connor said. 

Though health troubles make it hard for Tim to make it to some Morningside games, he follows the team "as much as I can" and often goes to the field to watch the team practice. 

"He was sitting there watching them one day, and these people were going to call the cops, they thought he was scouting for the other team," Jean said. "And the players came up and go, 'No, no! He's one of us!'"

Tim wished he could've made it to Florida to watch the game in person. An estimated 400 or 500 Morningside fans made that journey, skipping the hassle of streaming and opting to watch the game live.  

Frank and Darlene Moss and their friends Bill and Linda Prescott were part of the standing crowd. The group had followed Morningside throughout the season.

Frank Moss said the team was heading to a victory. 

"They've got a great defense, and a very fast operating offense," he said. 

Other watch parties were held throughout town, as well as in Des Moines and Kansas City. 


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Southbound I-29 detour through Sioux City to end soon

SIOUX CITY -- By now, area motorists who frequently drive through Sioux City on Interstate 29 are used to the drill.

Traffic patterns through the construction zones are going to switch in the spring and again as winter nears.

Drivers, get ready for another one.

Weather permitting, on Wednesday southbound I-29 traffic from approximately Wesley Parkway to the Floyd River will be switched from its present detour route and onto the northbound lanes in the mainline interstate. The change will result in two lanes of traffic traveling head to head in each direction.

The traffic switch will get vehicles off of the detour while construction continues on new bridges over Perry Creek, Pierce and Virginia streets and Floyd Boulevard during the winter.

"The contractor, if weather permits, will continue doing bridge work," said Dakin Schultz, Iowa Department of Transportation District 3 transportation planner.

Though major construction on the $400 million project to widen I-29 to three lanes in each direction from Sergeant Bluff, through Sioux City, to the South Dakota border remains on schedule for completion by the end of 2019, the traffic switch had been scheduled for Nov. 22. Because that deadline was missed, Schultz said the contractor has been in the penalty phase since then, costing $13,000 per day.

"We had hoped to have this further along than what we expected," Schultz said.

Despite the delay, much was accomplished this year, the 10th year of the project, Schultz said.

Paving and construction of bridges on northbound lanes through downtown from Wesley Parkway to just past Floyd Boulevard were finished. Pavement in the southbound lanes was removed. Southbound bridges over Perry Creek, Pierce Street and Floyd Boulevard were demolished, and construction on the new bridges in those locations began.

Work continues on the new Virginia Street connection.

This year's detour introduced motorists to a new concept to the area, a free-flow traffic pattern that routed vehicles past the construction zone on the southbound frontage road while maintaining an exit and entrance at Floyd Boulevard -- all without forcing traffic to stop.

The design, aimed at minimizing traffic delays in the construction zone, was successful, Schultz said.

"It worked very well. We had very few issues with traffic backups in that area," he said.

Once the southbound detour is ended the month, the Floyd interchange will be restored to its normal traffic configuration, Schultz said.

As activity in the construction zone dips during the winter, business leaders are looking forward to the coming year and completion of much of the construction that local residents have dealt with for a decade.

Though inconvenient, the construction is a sign of progress, and the improved highway system is a selling point when trying to attract new businesses and expansion, said Barbara Sloniker, Siouxland Chamber of Commerce executive vice president. Paired with the recently completed expansion of U.S. Highway 20 east of Sioux City to four lanes, a six-lane I-29 makes it easier for shoppers and customers to get to Sioux City.

"We definitely tell prospects about it," Sloniker said. "We have good infrastructure coming into and going out of Sioux City."

Major construction of I-29 should be done in 2019, Schultz said, with cleanup work and the elevation of Hamilton Boulevard in the area beneath I-29 wrapping up in 2020.


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GALLAGHER: Briar Cliff star refuses to sulk after career-ending break

SIOUX CITY -- Erich Erdman pushes himself into the new Briar Cliff Hall of Fame suite above Ray Nacke Court at the Newman Flanagan Center on campus. He occupies a wheelchair marked, "Briar Cliff" in marker on the back. Erdman wraps a stocking cap on his right foot, offering warmth for toes that emerge from the end of a cast.

It's a Thursday afternoon and Erdman has just completed his fifth final exam. He possesses a 3.82 grade-point average, a winning smile and a sharp sense of humor that, throughout the week, he's used as a bit of a crutch, pun intended.

One needs crutches of the literal and figurative kind after fracturing a right fibula and bones in the right ankle and foot. Erdman, a two-time, first-time All-Great Plains Athletic Conference player, also tears two tendons while making a defensive play one week earlier. It's the kind of play he's made thousands of times in a basketball career that will one day culminate with his name showing in the room in which he sits, this BCU Hall of Fame.

"The Dordt player was going in for a shot from the left side and I jumped up to defend him," he says. "I think I came down on his foot. I maybe bounced once and I think it was that, the second landing, that did it."

I attend the game that night, and, like the select BC games I watch, I follow Erdman as he cuts in, cuts out, dashes across and works his magic on the floor. As a fan, I enjoy his smile as much as I appreciate his shooting, passing and communicating. While there isn't much to him -- he's listed at 5-feet 11-inches and 175 pounds -- his game roars.

The gym falls silent when he falls. Both the Charger and the Dordt faithful politely clap and wish for the best as Erdman drapes his arms around the shoulders of two others and hops off to the training room. While there, trainer Ellen Kluth, performs a squeeze test on his lower leg. Erdman, who says he's suffered multiple sprained ankles through the years, grows apprehensive. This, he says, feels much different. The pain shoots up and down his leg.

"Ellen and I could feel a click in the leg," he remembers. "I knew it wasn't good."

As Jessica Sandbulte, another student trainer, updates Erdman on the score, relaying that the Chargers have won, Kluth places his leg in an air cast for a trip to Unity Point Health-St. Luke's for X-rays. Films show fractures and torn tendons. Again, not good.

A surgeon at Dakota Dunes, South Dakota delivers bad news the next morning. Edrman is joined by his immediate family and BCU  Head Coach Mark Svagera. Surgery is required in a week or so, just after finals. Having played too many games this season, a redshirt option is out of the question. Erich Erdman's playing career at BCU is over.

Erdman remembers getting the news, a finality that's worse than 50 turnovers. "I began to cry," the 22-year-old says. "My parents hugged me. They cried."

Amid the tears, Svagera offers a hug and tells Erdman his role has changed for this team. He'll be another set of eyes and ears, a consumer of game film, a watcher on the court, a constant course of encouragement for his teammates.

"Your role hasn't diminished," Svagera says. "You can do anything you wish to for your team."

It takes several minutes and a trip back to the waiting room for Erdman to offer a punch line. He thinks of his twin brother, Ethan Erdman, who joins Bobby Beach-Pattison as student coaches on the BCU bench, a pair of former Charger players who don Charger sweater vests come game day. "I turned to my dad and said, 'I guess it's time for me to find a sweater vest,'" Erich Erdman says.

Erdman joins his team on the bench two days later as Briar Cliff blows out Dakota State at the Newman Flanagan. He offers moral support and more (emphasis more) as the Chargers fall at Northwestern College on Wednesday.

"I told the guys they're ready for their new roles, to fill my minutes, that's why they've worked so hard," he says. "If anyone isn't ready for their new role, it's me."

He considers the loss on Wednesday at Northwestern, a place he considered attending before landing at Briar Cliff, and promises the team will bounce back. After Friday's surgery, he heads home to recuperate while devouring game film and game plans. He'll be in contact with this teammates, offering points from his new perspective.

And while he's incredibly sorry for himself and his team, he'll do his best to refrain from dwelling on it. A conference MVP candidate still seeks the best for his Chargers. "I try to tell myself that I'm still healthy," says Erdman, who still considers the prospect of basketball on the professional level somewhere at some point. "This injury isn't a terminal disease. I'm still around the guys and the coaches I love. We're a team, like family, and we're around a game we love.

"I can sulk and bring the team down, but that does nobody any good," he says.

As his teammates report for a film session late in the afternoon, the dynamic guard who rates in the top 10 in five basketball categories at Briar Cliff smiles and offers another punchline. "I've been debating two career choices: Either coaching or physical therapy," he says. "And over the next three months, I'm going to get A LOT of both!"

Before closing, Erdman thanks me for the interview, and asks if he could use this forum to pass along his gratitude to his family, the team, the Briar Cliff community, the GPAC and a number of his opponents, guys like Ty Hoglund, of Dakota Wesleyan, and Parker Mulder, of Northwestern College, people who reached out via text, voice, Twitter and more, all of whom offered their support and prayers.

Even guys at Morningside College, the Chargers' crosstown rival, he says, are "good dudes, a couple of them attend church with me at Sunnybrook."

"This has showed me the class we have throughout the GPAC," Erdman says with a nod. "Beyond basketball, I really feel blessed by my opponents, friends and all those in the community who prayed for me and reached out. It means a lot."

A winner we've watched excel on the court the past four years demonstrates his championship form off the court, too.