Mark Adkins, Sports Information Director
SIOUX CITY – Four takeaways, nine sacks, 12 tackles for losses.
Three pivotal ingredients as top-ranked and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ playoffs’ top-seed Morningside College advanced to the semifinals for a sixth time in the last seven years Saturday, Nov. 30.
A week after limiting North Star Athletic Association standout signal-caller Hayden Combs of Dickinson State University to less than 50 percent accuracy in the first round, defensive coordinator Casey Jacobsen’s Mustangs’ defense was in tip-top form again. This time, their bedrock skills were on display against No. 9-ranked Saint Xavier University of Illinois’ Alex Martinez and the Cougar offense, much to the delight of the Maroon crowd inside Elwood Olsen Stadium, as they ended the Mid-States Football Association’s Midwest League program’s campaign for a fifth time in the postseason.
The senior defensive back duo of Deion Clayborne (SR/Sioux City, IA) (Sioux City, Iowa) and Klayton Nordeen (SR/Alliance, NE) (Alliance, Nebraska) each recorded interceptions to kill potential point-making drives for the visitors; junior defensive lineman Dominick Barrett(JR/Baltimore, MD) (Baltimore, Md.) and junior defensive back Stevan Evans (Sunrise, Fla.) both picked up SXU fumbles, as Evans forced his takeaway; and the defensive line combination of junior David Rios (JR/Sioux Falls, SD) (Sioux Falls, S.D.), senior Alex Paulson (SR/Buffalo Center, IA) (Buffalo Center, Iowa), senior Gage Grinnell (SR/Grand Island, NE) (Grand Island, Neb.) and junior Seth Maitlen (JR/Creston, IA) (Creston, Iowa) made the visiting offensive backfield their home throughout the 60 minutes, posting a single-game school-record-tying nine sacks with Rios’ 4.5, a new single-game postseason standard, leading the way.
With that push leading a group effort that surrendered less than 300 total yards of offense en route to a third shutout of the year and first-ever NAIA playoffs’ blanking, head coach Steve Ryan’s offense was able to be in full gear.
Full gear and more for the Mustangs, as they registered a ninth 2019 50-point-or-more total during a 51-0 quarterfinal round victory, increasing the team’s record to 12-0. Sophomore quarterback Joe Dolincheck (SO/Bellevue, NE) (Bellevue, Neb.) turned in his 12th successive 200-yards-or-more effort, going 25-of-38 for 303 yards and four touchdowns, as senior Bo Els (SR/Erie, CO) (Erie, Colo.) had a huge afternoon with 11 receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns; senior Addison Ross (SR/Carroll, Iowa) (Carroll, Iowa) tallied six catches; and sophomore Austin Johnson (SO/Sioux Falls, SD) (Sioux Falls, S.D.) and junior Arnijae “AP” Ponder (Griffin, Ga.) each corralled a paydirt catch for six points. Ponder’s day didn’t stop there, as he rushed for 115 yards and two scores, part of his 10th 100-plus-yard game of the year and 23rd all-time.
Special teams turned in headlines, too, as freshman place-kicker Chase Carter (FR/Knoxville, IA) (Knoxville, Iowa) hit a field goal, converted six extra-point attempts successfully and averaged over 60 yards per kickoff, and junior Zack Keller (JR/Wilber, NE) (Wilber, Neb.) blocked a Saint Xavier punt attempt.
Morningside is back on its home FieldTurf at the EO Saturday, Dec. 7. Fourth-ranked Grand View College of the Heart of America Conference is the Maroon foe in a 12 p.m. kickoff.