Wayne State meets Pittsburg State for D-2 title

First-timer Wayne State and playoff veteran Pittsburg State have

overcome a lot to reach the Division II championship game.

They have just one more hurdle to clear Saturday at Braly

Stadium: Each other.

Wayne State (12-3) has had to win four straight road games in

its first playoff appearance, joining Delta State last year as the

only unranked team to make the title game.

”We’ve played four playoff games against good football teams,”

Warriors coach Paul Winters said. ”I don’t think we’re intimidated

or overwhelmed by the situation.

”It’s been a very, very fun ride.”

Pittsburg State (12-1) trailed 10-0 and 9-0 after the first

quarter in its first two playoff games, then routed Delta State

49-23 last week despite committing five turnovers.

”That just doesn’t happen in the championship game,” Pittsburg

State coach Tim Beck said.

The Gorillas program and Beck are playoff veterans, but the

current players don’t have much more postseason experience than

Wayne State.

This is Pittsburg State’s 17th playoff appearance and fifth trip

to the championship game, but the Gorillas are coming off a

two-year drought. They are 1-3 in the title game with the lone

victory coming over Jacksonville State in 1991.

”The thing you have to do is enjoy it while you’re here and

have fun but every once in awhile step back and refocus and

remember why here and what you’re here for,” said Beck, in his

second year as head coach and 25th with the program.

Based on pedigree, this might seem like a mismatch, especially

since Pittsburg State finished the regular season ranked No. 7

while Wayne State barely made the playoffs as the lowest-seeded

team in its region after a 43-42 loss to Findlay in the finale.

Then again, the past 10 championship games have been decided by

seven points or less. That includes Delta State’s 20-17 loss to

Minnesota-Duluth last season on a field goal as time expired.

Now, Wayne State is trying to join the 1996 Northern Colorado

squad as the only three-loss team to win a Division II title.

”They’re playing with an extreme amount of confidence right

now,” Beck said. ”You can tell that they’re very well coached.

They do some very unique things defensively. They’re playing very

hard and aggressive and fast on defense. You can tell they’re just

an overall very good football team.”

It helped that two of Wayne State’s top defenders – defensive

end Greg Hasse and linebacker Ed Viverette – returned from injuries

in time for the playoffs.

”Once we got our guys back from a health standpoint, we were a

better team,” Winters said.

Wayne State has thrived on balance offensively. Toney Davis has

run for 1,379 yards and 20 touchdowns while Josh Renel has 1,343

yards and 14 TDs on the ground.

Quarterback Mickey Mohner has passed for 25 touchdowns while

receiver Troy Burrell has 86 catches for 1,620 yards and 15


They’ll face a defense led by linebacker Nate Dreiling, who has

124 tackles and seven interceptions.

Pittsburg State’s biggest offensive weapon is dual-threat

quarterback Zac Dickey. Dickey has passed for 2,100 yards and 16

touchdowns while rushing for 1,097 yards and another 10 scores.

He’ll have to be wary of Wayne State safety Jeremy Jones, who

has picked off nine passes.

Pittsburg State has already avenged its only loss of the season

by beating Washburn to open the playoffs. Wayne State stumbled into

the field despite losing three of its last five games.

The Warriors have rebounded quite nicely after making the


”I said, `Hey listen, we’re in the tournament, we’ve got a

chance to compete, let’s go compete,”’ Winters said. ”And our

guys have done that very well.”