SIOUX CITY, IOWA – The tried but true adage that defense wins championships was on full display Saturday, Dec. 4.

Head coach Steve Ryan’s Mustangs, seeking a third trip to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ finale in the last four years, turned to a bend-but-don’t break unti for a good share of the 60 minutes at Elwood Olsen Stadium. Number four seeded and Great Plains Athletic Conference rival Northwestern College may have out-gained their hosts 454-405 and had a two first down advantage at game’s end, but the numbers that mattered most belonged to second-seeded Mside 28-19 on the scoreboard as celebration ensued with the final clock’s tick.

Northwestern’s high-flying offense managed just one visit to the end zone in seven red-zone tries. Four other attempts netted field goals with the other three being turned away by a missed field goal, fumble and interception. Meanwhile, the home side crashed paydirt four times, as senior running back Matt Strecker (Columbus, Neb.) recorded Offensive Player of the Game accolades with two touchdowns as part of a 15-carry, 65-yard afternoon. Senior quarterback Joe Dolincheck (Bellevue, Neb.) added up the other two touchdowns, hitting sophomore wide receiver Zach Norton (Sioux Falls, S.D.) who ran wide open down the middle of the field on a 69-yard paydirt connection and senior tight end Sione Tiufua (Barrow, Alaska) on a seven-yard scoring strike.

Senior linebacker Tyler Wingert (Holstein, Iowa), the Defensive Player of the Game, had a day to remember. He posted 19 tackles, his seventh double-digit mark of the year, and also accounted for a pass break-up and tackle for loss. Fellow senior linebacker Jalen Portis (St. Louis, Mo.) was also a thorn in the Red Raiders side with an interception, four tackles for losses and a sack. Sophomore linebacker Isaac Pingel (Spencer, Iowa) (fumble recovery), junior defensive back Jamal Jones (Adelanto, Calif.) (interception), and senior defensive lineman Carter Anderson (Blair, Neb.) (one and a half sacks) also figured in prominently. 

Morningside (13-0) faces off against Heart of America standout and fellow Iowa school Grand View College in the 2021 national championship game. Kickoff is 5 p.m. Central Standard Time at Durham Co. Stadium in Durham, N.C.