College Sports

Streaking McKendree looks to end season on a high note

On the wall in one corner of McKendree University football coach Mike Babcock is a picture of the 2013 Bearcats football team.

That team, Babcock’s first at McKendree finished 4-6. But a foundation, built on that first recruiting class was established

On Saturday at what is expected to be a large Senior Day crowd, Babcock will coach the remaining members of his first Bearcats recruiting class for the final time.

Riding a four four game winning streak and looking to keep its slim NCAA Division II playoff hopes alive, McKendree (7-3) will host Great Lakes Valley Conference leading Truman State (8-2) on Saturday at Leemon Field. Kick off is set for 1 p.m.

Emotions will be running high on Saturday in Lebanon for McKendree and especially for a group of seniors who after starting slowing in the ‘14 season have rebounded nicely. A win over Truman State on Saturday would give the Bearcats 20 wins in its last 25 games over the past 2 1/2 years.

“My message to the senior class this week has been to finish what you started. One of the reasons I keep the picture of our first team in 2013 is to remember. Alot of players who were in that first freshman class are longer with the program,’’ Babcock said. “The guys who have stayed with us and put in the time in the off season have done a tremendous job. They have set the standard to where it is no longer good enough to be just a good football program.

“They have set a new standard of excellence here and they can be very proud of what they have accomplished in four years in the McKendree University football program.’’

Much on the line

Led by a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Reece Metcalf, McKendree (7-3, 5-2) won its fourth game in a row and second straight on the road last week, defeating Quincy University 35-17.

On Saturday, the Bearcats will take on a Truman State team with a lot to play for. Currently 7-0 in the GLVC, Truman State can wrap up the GLVC title outright with a win over the Bearcats. Southwest Baptist (9-1, 6-1) has wrapped up a bid into the NCAA Division II playoffs, while a Truman State win over McKendree on Saturday would almost guarantee a second GLVC team making the postseason.

McKendree also isn’t totally out of the playoff hunt. But with three losses and probably a third place finish in the GLVC, McKendree’s postseason hopes are remote at best.

“We would have to have a lot of teams win and even it happens, it would come down to a vote of the selection committee,’’ Babcock said. “But as I told the players this week, we can control what we can control. All we can do is go out on Saturday and play as well as we can.

“There is a lot on the line for Truman State. If they win, they win the GLVC outright and end their conference season. It would also assure them an NCAA Division II playoff berth. Both teams have a lot to play for and you can be assured that emotions will be running high on both ends of the football field.’’