By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
Senior linebacker Ross Jirgl was on the Minnesota State football team in 2009 when it played in the national tournament, but the last two seasons, there have been no playoff games.
“Every year, you expect to get to the playoffs and win a national championships,” Jirgl said. “But as a senior, it’s great to get back to the playoffs. We’re fortunate to have the opportunity.”
On Saturday, the Mavericks celebrated the program’s first undefeated season and a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship. On Sunday, the Mavericks received the reward, as the NCAA national-tournament pairings were released to a large crowd gathered at the downtown Buffalo Wild Wings.
The Mavericks (11-0) were seeded No. 1 in Super Region 3 and will get a bye in next week’s first round. Minnesota State will play the winner of Saturday’s game between fifth-seeded Harding (10-1) and No. 4 Northwest Missouri State (9-2) at Blakeslee Stadium at noon on Nov. 24.
Tickets will go on sale Nov. 19 for the program’s second home playoff game.
“To be a No. 1 seed is very special,” coach Aaron Keen said.”It’s a reward for our players who have worked so hard to be 11-0 and win a (Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) championship. We have taken care of everything we needed to take care of.”
Henderson State (10-0) is the No. 2 seed and will host the winner of Saturday’s game between No. 3 Missouri Western State (10-1) and Minnesota Duluth (10-1).
The region semifinals will be played Nov. 24, with the finals Dec. 1 at the highest seed. The Mavericks will have the homefield as long they continue to win.
“This is a great accomplishment,” Jirgl said. “It’s something that you strive for, and you work hard in the spring and summer to have success. To get back to the playoffs is very exciting.”
The national semifinals will be played Dec. 8 at the highest seed, and the national championship game is scheduled for Dec. 15 at Florence, Ala.