Some football rivalries are based on geography and others are built on the importance of the outcome.
The Morningside/Northwestern series has both.
Separated by only 45 miles, the fourth ranked Mustangs visit the 15th rated Red Raiders on Saturday in a key Great Plains Conference game.
Morningside coach Steve Ryan says emotion plays a big part in this series and there is always plenty riding on the outcome.
“Every year I have been at Morningside College the team that wins this game has gone to the playoffs”, said Ryan. “It’s our toughest game every year. Regardless of anything else, it is physically and mentally the biggest challenge for our guys.”
Both teams are coming off losses. Morningside dropped a heartbreaker at home to division three power Wisconsin-Whitewater while Northwestern dropped a GPAC game on the road to 10th ranked Doane.
Northwestern’s strength is on defense but coach Kyle Achterhoff says the offense will need to play well to give them a chance.
“Obviously they are dynamic offensively so we have to play well on the defensive side of the ball but we are probably not going to stop them for an entire game so we have to score some points on the other side”, said Achterhoff. “We just can’t make mistakes. We have to play good, solid, all around football.”
Two years ago when these teams met in Orange City, Northwestern stunned then top ranked Morningside to earn a spot in the NAIA playoffs.