Morningside Head Coach Steve Ryan watches practice at the team's media day on Tuesday.
SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -- -
There are no sure things in life, but it's a pretty good bet Morningside's going to have a good football team this year. The Mustangs are the defending GPAC champions and made the NAIA playoffs for the eighth year in a row. Head Coach Steve Ryan's team is ranked eighth in the country to start the season, with 12 returning starters.
One area where the team is inexperienced is at quarterback. Lehi Tonga started for two years at Briar Cliff, throwing for 27 TD's before transferring. Senior Joel Nixon, has moved from wide receiver to QB, a position he hasn't played since his high school days at Wakefield. Neither one threw a pass last year but Coach Ryan is not worried.
"It's going pretty good. We feel that quarterback is one of the strong spots we've got going on our team," said Ryan. "It's very competitive with all the guys that have come in there and played. Both of them have experience as football players and will do a great job for us."
The defense returns seven players who each had over 50 tackles last season. As a team the Mustangs held their opponents to 17 points or less, seven times.
The offense is led by running back Fred Jones, who had over 1,100 yards rushing with ten TD's.
Morningside has won 81 percent of their games over the last 8 years and the players expect to win.
"Our defense is very veteran this year and we're all guys that are ready to get nasty," said senior linebacker Chris Calvillo. "We're all flying around trying to get to the football. We're all really competitive so we're trying to outdo each other out there."
"Our expectations are that we will have a good team but just like with Nebraska Wesleyan last year, we all came in with our heads really high and we ended up with a loss," said Jones. "We all know that the only way to not let that happen is to just go game by game."
The Mustangs will open the season on Thursday, August 30th with a 7:00 PM home game against #17 Valley City State of North Dakota. Morningside's first conference game is September 8th when the host #10 Northwestern in another 7 o'clock kickoff.
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