It’s marvelous what adverse weather can do to a game. Snow and ice absolutely played a factor in the first semifinal of the doubleheader. A wonderfully physical game from start to finish, both the Mustangs and Cougars wanted to prove that the finals would be played in Sioux City.
Morningside jumped out to an early lead on a deep pass from the duo of Solsma and Niles, then scored early again to make it a 14-0 lead. But the back-to-back champs would not go down quietly. The Cougars’ defense silenced the Mustang attack for the entire second half and would allow their offense to claw their way back into the game to tie the ballgame at 28-28 late in the 4th quarter.
Morningside’s defense, though, would step up late. After allowing quarterback Matt Crable to throw 3 touchdown passes, the Mustang defense held true, and gave their offense every chance to win the game in regulation. That, however, was not to be for a game that had been so intensely physical.
In the first overtime, the Mustang defense held the Cougars out for long enough to force a field goal attempt, which went wide for the Cougars. On the very next play, Solsma hit his favorite target, Connor Niles for the game-winning touchdown.
By the Numbers
For the Cougars, quarterback Matt Crable was 12/26 for 236 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also added 22 yards rushing. Tailback PJ Dean ran 12 times for 80 yards and a touchdown. Receiving, Rocky James caught 5 balls for 90 yards, and Dylan Hunley added 3 catches for 92 yards and a score.
But for the Mustangs, it was again the connection between Solsma and Niles that ended up being the difference for Morningside. Solsma was 28/52 for 306 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs. Niles caught 11 balls for 161 yards and 3 touchdowns, including the game-winner.
While Solsma and Niles provided the fireworks, it was the consistency of Arnijae Ponder that kept the chains moving for Morningside. He rushed for 136 yards on 28 carries, and added 13 yards on 4 catches. It was also his chip block on the final play of the game that gave Solsma enough time to make the throw to Niles.
Morningside will play the winner of Benedictine and Kansas Wesleyan in Daytona Beach. Congratulations to St. Francis for a great season and another deep run in the playoffs.