Morningside (Iowa) looks for redemption in 2018 National Championship
By Pete Scantlebury, NAIA Manager of Athletics Communications
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Morningside (Iowa) is chasing a ghost, and a coy smile by head coach Steve Ryan hints at that journey.
He’s been here before, after all. Daytona Beach. The NAIA Football National Championship. A season that ended in overtime, a short field goal by Marian (Ind.) dashing Morningside’s first chance at a national title.
So when he’s asked about his prior experience in Daytona Beach, Ryan’s slight grin gives a momentary look at six seasons of work to return to the biggest stage in NAIA football to face Benedictine (Kan.) on Saturday.
“For your guys to make it here, they have the qualities of a champion,” Ryan said. “But for the other team to make it here, they have those same qualities, as well. At some
“You’ve got to be prepared for that; you’ve got to be prepared to play it all the way
Six seasons ago, Morningside didn’t land the knockout punch. This Morningside team – record-breaking, high-powered, ruthlessly efficient – this team hasn’t missed with its knockout punch yet this year.
“We try to approach every week the exact same,” senior quarterback Trent Solsma said. “We always view ourselves as the favorite going into each game and we don’t feel any differently this week. But that doesn’t mean we’re taking Benedictine lightly at all. We know how good you have to be to be one of the final two teams in the nation.
“They run the ball extremely well and they’re extremely physical on defense, force a lot of turnovers. Yeah, we might be a favorite on paper but when you get out there on the field, anything can happen.”
Paper favorites may win the game Sunday through Friday, but senior receiver Connor Niles knows that doesn’t do much good on Saturday.
“The game is always won on Saturdays,” Niles said. “The best team that shows up on Saturday is the team that’s going to win. You can do what you want to do all throughout the week, but if you don’t show up on Saturday, you’re going to lose the game.”
Ryan, with his experience in the NAIA Football National Championship, has tried to give his players an idea of what to expect when the game kicks off at 6 p.m. ET Saturday. Six years might seem like a lifetime ago in college coaching – his current crop of seniors would have been in middle school, after all – but the memories of that overtime loss to Marian still linger.
“One is the game’s longer,” Ryan said. “Just from a whole media timeout, just from a funny standpoint, I just remember the game getting cold by the time it’s over. You think you’re going south, so I packed a whole bunch of extra clothes in case the game goes long.
“And then I lost them all in the airport. So that preparation aspect didn’t help me.”
Morningside hopes that’s the only loss it suffers this week in Daytona.