HICKORY, N.C. -- Lenoir-Rhyne's dream football season continues with a trip to Florence, Ala. and the Division II Football National Championship game Saturday afternoon. The Bears play perennial powerhouse Northwest Missouri State.
The 13-1 Bears have won thirteen straight games since a season opening loss at home to Concord. Head Coach Mike Houston's team has had a next man up approach all season long. The Bears beat West Chester 42-21 in Saturday's semifinals behind third string quarterback Josh Justice, who helped Lenoir-Rhyne rack up 451 yards on the ground.
"We're a blue collar team," said Houston. "I think those kinds of teams when they have the unity in the locker room and when you have the belief in each other, I think that's where you get the overachieving from because you maximize your ability level."
The Bears have never experienced this type of success at the Division II level, but Lenoir-Rhyne has won an NAIA Title back in 1960. Northwest Missouri State is chalked full of tradition. The Bearcats made five consecutive trips to the National Title game during the 2005 to 2009 seasons and have won three National Championships.
Houston is well aware of the challenges his "so-called" underdog Bears face this weekend. "This team is all in. We'll get up Saturday and be ready to go. It's going to be a good football game. They (Northwest Missouri State) are a great football team and will be a great opponent."
The mayors of Hickory and Maryville have a wager going because of the game. If the LRU Bears defeat the NWMS Bearcats, Mayor Fall will send Mayor Wright five pounds of Kansas City barbeque that he plans to share with his LRU friends. If the situation is reversed, Mayor Wright will send Mayor Fall five pounds of Hickory smoked barbecue.
Kickoff is set for 12:00 Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN 2.