Tale of the Week - Lakeland Football Family Learns Their Assignment Together
Athletics - posted on 11/14/2005
The 2005 history-making Lakeland football team often points to its togetherness, both on and off the field, as a big reason for its success this fall.
So, no surprise, when it came time to see their name on ESPNews Sunday as part of the unveiling of the 32-team NCAA Division III football playoff bracket, the Muskies watched the announcement together.
A cheer rang through Lakeland's Campus Center when the Muskies learned they will head to Augustana on Saturday for the program's first-ever postseason football playoff game.
"I think right now the seniors are trying to be cool about it, but they are going to remember this for the rest of their lives," said third-year Lakeland head coach Jim Zebrowski.
"They will remember sitting around with the rest of the guys, seeing their name on TV, knowing that they are the first class to make the playoffs. And now they have a chance to be the first class to get a playoff victory. This is something you are never going to forget."
"I think this is great," said senior offensive lineman Brian Eder. "I think this just portrays what our whole team is about anyway, just getting together. As close as we are as a team, this is something that we all wanted to do, because we are so close.
"It was great for the college just to have its name come up on the show for the first time ever. As players, to get your name on something big like this when you're out in the cornfield, it's great."
The players let out a second cheer when ESPNews' announcer mentioned that the Muskies were making their first-ever playoff appearance.
"Compared to high school, this is a much cooler surrounding," said senior linebacker Ryan Van De Loo, a veteran of postseason playoff appearances at Sheboygan Falls High School. "We've got a big screen TV - it's like being with family. Just watching on ESPNews in general is just a big thing and increases the hype a little bit.
"It was a great feeling to see Lakeland on national cable television instead of local. It's a good feeling."
For the players, who had a bye this past Saturday, it's back to a normal game week, even if Saturday's date at Augie isn't a normal game.
"It is amazing," said senior linebacker Nick Hunter. "It is something that Lakeland has never done. This is something that we set out to do and now the goal is accomplished. Now we're going to take this step-by-step and see how far we can get."
The bye week was unusual for the Muskies, who are eager to get back to a more normal game-week schedule.
"During our bye week it was a little frustrating not knowing who you are going to play, and being unable to start preparing for them," Eder said.
"We are just going to prepare the same way," Hunter said. "It is just another step for us, another goal for us."
Seeing their name appear on TV helped seal the reality of what this team had accomplished.
"It means everything in the world," senior quarterback Ryan Maiuri said. "This is what we work for. We wanted to win conference outright and make it to the playoffs. This just means everything to us."
Zebrowski had a taste of Division III playoff experience as a player at Mount Union and offensive coordinator at Millikin.
"For me personally, you get kind of teary eyed because the kids bought into what we were preaching," Zebrowski said. "They bought into everything we talked about, thinking that they should win. Sometimes you buy into something and you don't win, and it's tough because the kids will say this stuff isn't working.
"But we've been blessed. They worked hard, they got bigger, stronger and faster, they just kept believing what we were telling them. Our first year we just missed the conference championship, second year we win it, but we don't make the playoffs because we tie, and now this year we do it."
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