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The greatest show on turf
Jason Arens
Antelope Staff
Photo by Garrett Ritonya
The Lopers, winners of six straight games have seen an increase in attendance compared to last season. They sit at No. 16 in the nation, best of any Nebraska D II school.

Fall equals changing leaves, crisper air, shorter days and, of course, football. As the midst of football season is upon us, college football in particular, we begin to see the separation between the contenders and the pretenders.

Fortunately, the Lopers are separating with the better half. They sit up top of the RMAC conference unbeaten at 5-0, with an overall record of 6-1. The Lopers are ranked No. 16 in the nation by the one poll that matters most, the American Football Coaches Association poll.  

The team is sure to climb even higher in the poll after the road victory over New Mexico Highlands. They are sitting in a good position with only four games left on the regular season schedule, most notably Colorado Mines, with an unblemished conference record as well.

The Lopers had a heartbreaking loss in the season opener against current No. 14 Wayne State. If not for that close loss, there’s a good chance the team would be sitting in the top 10 in the nation. But the team won’t let that distract them from their goals and as they continue to push forward. “Our goal always is to win the RMAC. If you do so, then you usually make playoffs, so that’s what we’re focused on,” said head coach Darrell Morris.

Sometimes it’s hard to stay on track and keep going at full steam. “This is the time of year where a lot of injuries occur. It’s a time where small nagging injuries can become problems. We got [Riley] Newcomer back, so that helps us out, but there are a few guys that can’t make the road trips, and we’ve missed Owen Stubbs,” Morris said.

Leaders for the team thus far include Jake Spitzlberger, who has thrown for 185 yards a game and 11 touchdowns. Rustin Dring is the top rusher in the RMAC conference, averaging 111 yards a game and four touchdowns. Kyle Kaiser is nearing 600 receiving yards on the year and has hauled in five touchdown grabs. Jake Mandelko leads the team in interceptions with four and is No. 2 in tackles with 41. UNK as a team leads the RMAC in scoring and total offense, as well as scoring and total defense.

Coach Morris talked about other players who have stepped up. True freshman Zach Horan had his redshirt pulled in week three— due to injury at the running back position— and rushed for over 100 yards in a winning effort over Western State. He also mentioned Ryan Skogg, who is leading the team in rushing touchdowns with five, and kicker Jordan Alegria, who has become a solid boot for the Lopers as the season progresses. Alegria is currently the top scorer in the RMAC.

The team feels confident and is ready to take on any opponent. “Our game plan is week to week. We base off of a package and go from there. Each team presents a different matchup, so we adjust accordingly,” Morris said. That goes for the offense as well as the defense.

As the season comes closer to an end, the excitement will continue to build here in Kearney. Will this explosive team burst into the playoffs? Could this be the year? One thing is for sure—your support won’t hurt the team’s chances.


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