ALLIANCE - One of the observers in the Mount Union press box watched as the minutes ticked away late in the Heidelberg-Mount Union football game.
With the outcome no longer in doubt and HU facing the end of its 11-game winning streak, the man opined that the game was "good for both teams."
I almost grimaced, half-expecting a line about how Heidelberg had played well but couldn't stay with Mount Union.
But the man surprised me.
"It's good," he said, "because it will ready both teams for the playoffs."
It seemed many who came to see Mount Union actually enjoyed seeing a competitive game. Sure, the final was 33-14, but after outscoring opponents by an average of 54 points. Plus, the game was close and intense for much of the day. But Heidelberg fell to 7-1.
By the end of Saturday's game, I was stopped by a number of Mount Union people, all saying the same thing:
"Heidelberg is a really good team. It's going to make the playoffs."
But the reality is, Heidelberg's playoffs start Saturday,when it hosts John Carroll.
HU came into Saturday undefeated and ranked 17th in Division III. But the Student Princes are aware of what happens should they lose in the next two weeks. They were 8-2 last season, and were shut out of the Division III playoffs.
"There's no question, we've got to win out to get in," said Heidelberg coach Mike Hallett. "But I like our chances because I like our team."
"The playoffs," said Heidelberg defensive end Stephen Fejedelem, "start next week."
"We've got to finish off these two next games. They're at home, which we're happy about, and we'll finish them off strong."
Heidelberg closes the season with the Blue Streaks (6-2) and Baldwin Wallace (7-1), two of the better teams in the OAC.
Princes' tight end Brett Wiedemann said Heidelberg has had a playoff attitude since the early going.
"Playoffs are an every week thing, not just at the end of the season," he said. "You've got to win every week to get there, so these next two weeks are definitely critical. We're gonna take them as serious as ever."
Remember six years ago when Heidelberg was winless? Or when the sideline charged the field when the Princes won their first game to end that streak after Hallett arrived in town?
Things sure have changed. That became clear in the postgame comments, especially when Wiedmann talked about Mount Union.
"We've just got to get better," the senior said. "Maybe, we'll see them again."
A few more wins, and they may get their chance.
Zach Baker is the sports editor of The Advertiser-Tribune
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