The Morningside football team is a victory away from play for a national title. The Mustangs host defending national St. Xavier of Illinois in the semifinal round of the NAIA playoffs on Saturday. Morningside advanced with a 47-44 overtime victory against Southern Oregon last weekend in a game that feature more than a thousand yards of total offense.

“It’s a much more physical football team, there’s still quite a bit of a spread element to them,” Morningside coach Steve Ryan says. Morningside’s defense posted three shutouts to end the regular season but has given up 79 points in two playoff games.

Ryan does not feel the defense has lost any confidence as he says the guys on the field for Southern Oregon were as good as he has seen and the job his team did was great.

This will be a matchup of outstanding quarterbacks. Jimmy Coy of St. Xavier has 33 touchdown passes and a completion rate of over 60 percent while Morningside’s Joel Nixon has 43 touchdown passes and more than 700 yards of rushing. He says Coy could be the national player of the year, while he says Nixon has been a great leader for his team.

It is the second time Morningside has reached the national semifinals and Ryan says all the teams remaining feel like they have momentum. Ryan says big plays will go a long way toward determining the winner as St. Xavier does a good job of creating big plays and they have to find a way to get some big plays themselves.