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You can't spell 'playoffs' without 'UNK'
Clayton Kush
Antelope Staff
Photo by Garrett Ritonya
Players hold up an RMAC championship trophy Saturday after defeating the Colorado School of Mines 24-12. The Lopers, now seeded fourth in their region, are in a prime position to make their first postseason game since 2005, a loss to Pittsburg State out of Penn.

With last Saturday’s 24-12 win over Colorado School of Mines, the UNK football team not only clinched a share of the  Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championship, but also climbed one step closer to securing themselves a spot in the Division II college football playoffs.

This could be the first playoff bid the Loper football team has received since the 2005 season, when they were upset by Pittsburg State 49-20 in the first round. Loper fans and players are hoping for a better outcome this time around as the team rolls into their last game of the season before the playoffs begin with a ton of confidence and great support.

The Lopers’ seed in the Division II playoffs is determined by their position in the regional rankings. From four super regions that cover the entire country, the top six teams from each super region advance to the Division II playoffs in less than two weeks.  

The top two seeds from these regions get a first round bye. The Lopers are currently ranked sixth in Super Region 3. It is still possible for UNK to get a home playoff game, but for that to happen, a few teams ahead of them in their Super Region would have to fall next weekend.

If nothing changes in the regional rankings in the final week of the season though, the Lopers would be set to face off against Hillsdale College in Michigan for the first round of the playoffs. A win there would propel the Lopers into a trip to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for a match up with the Bulldogs.

The talk of Division II playoffs is extremely exciting and new to many players and students here on campus. A large majority of the students at UNK were not here for the Lopers’ last postseason appearance in 2005, so the excitement of having a football team that is playoff bound is a new, electrifying feeling.

Loper Legion leader Brent Wheaton has been working to get students out to the games the entire year and is very satisfied with how the season has gone. “We’ve really had some big turnouts for the games, especially the UNO game, and the team hasn’t disappointed,” Wheaton said.

The Loper Legion gave thought to the idea that the team might make postseason play earlier in the season. One of the ideas considered was helping students travel to an away game if the Lopers have to play on the road in the first round. “We’ve been considering different options to help bring a lot of fans to support the Lopers if they have to travel for their first playoff game. It is something that is going to take a lot of planning to set up,” Wheaton said.

This win and RMAC Championship means a great deal to the team as well as the fans. For most of these players a playoff birth is a new experience and one they are glad to get the chance to be a part of, especially for senior defensive end, Mason Brodine. “Clinching the RMAC Championship is a great feeling. It was one of our team’s goals coming into the season, and it’s fulfilling knowing that our hard work as a team propelled us into accomplishing this goal,” Brodine said.

Despite their success, the Loper football team isn’t quite satisfied yet. “It feels awesome to be in this position, but as a team we still have more goals to accomplish and will continue to look ahead to winning the next game, just like we’ve done all season,” Brodine said.

What has been a magical season for the UNK football team gets to go on a little bit longer. The players and fans now gear up for the final regular season game of the year against Mesa State before finding out who and where the Lopers will play their first round playoff game.

For the Loper football team, this season has been all about getting better every week and reaching goals. In just a couple of weeks, the team embarks on a mission to reach their ultimate goal, which is to host the Division II national championship trophy over their heads in Florence, Ala.

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