SIOUX CITY, Iowa – One more step.
Sometimes the best thought process along a postseason trail is just that. Not taking anything for granted against a tough St. Xavier University of Illinois program that trekked to Elwood Olsen Stadium Saturday, Nov. 24, head coach Steve Ryan‘s Morningside College Mustang team systematically produced another impressive scoreboard lighting display to the thrill of their home fans. The top-seeded and top-ranked Maroon churned out just south of 500 total yards (489) and opened the national quarterfinals’ match-up with 21 straight points in route to a 51-14 victory.
Mside’s sixth appearance in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ semifinal round in the last seven years came with more reconfiguring of the already well-erased national record book in the case of senior quarterback Trent Solsma (SR/Dakota Dunes, SD) (Dakota Dunes, S.D.) and senior wide receiver Connor Niles (SR/Sioux City, IA) (Sioux City, Iowa). Solsma’s aerial assault didn’t allow many opportunities for the visiting Cougars to stay in step, as he hit on 31 of 39 attempts for 374 yards and five touchdowns, helping him surpass former standout Austin Dodge of the University of Southern Oregon in career touchdown strikes (157-154). Niles was again a favorite selection to the tune of 13 catches for 181 yards and two scores. Along the way, his season receiving yardage total (2314) bypassed former national record holder Chris George of Glenville State University of West Virginia’s 2,221 of 1993.
The record-breaking duo’s marks weren’t the only ones shining brightly. Sophomore running back Arnijae “AP” Ponder (Omaha, Neb.) reeled off his 10th 100-yard-plus effort, rushing 24 times for 143 yards and two touchdowns to earn Offensive Player of the Game honors. Morningside’s defense was also a big part of the equation, sacking St. Xavier quarterbacks five times and turning over the visitors once. Junior defensive back Klayton Nordeen (JR/Alliance, NE) (Alliance, Neb.) turned in nine tackles, three breakups and an interception to be named Defensive Player of the Game, while junior linebackers Jacob Katzer (JR/Wellsville, KS) (Wellsville, Kan.) and Chase Nelson(JR/Beatrice, NE) (Beatrice, Neb.) made themselves familiar with the opposing offense, ending with 13 and 10 tackles, respectively.
Mside continues national playoff action Saturday, Dec. 1. They face off against a common postseason foe in the University of St. Francis of Indiana. Kickoff is 12 p.m. at Elwood Olsen Stadium.