Mount Marty University (MMU) saw the start of a new era Saturday, as the Lancer football program kicked off its inaugural season against Dakota Wesleyan at Crane-Youngworth Field in front of more than 3,200 fans.
A part of Mount Marty’s growth as a school has included the expansion of its athletic department to now include a football team, something MMU President Marc Long said is a part of enrollment growth at the school.
“We started football as a part of our drive to increase enrollment and it has certainly done that,” Long said. “But also, it has created a wonderful spirit both on campus and in the Yankton community which I think is just amazing.”
Long said that he asked students in the class he is teaching this semester if they would be attending the game, which all of them said they would be.
“Remember, this is Labor Day weekend, so typically a lot of students go home,” Long said. “All of them (the students) said they’re going to stay here for the game and they’re excited and that’s just part of the spirit that we’re developing.”
Long attended the tailgating event hosted at Memorial Park and led the charge as the fans marched from Memorial Park south to Crane-Youngworth.
“Look at the support we have from the Yankton community, from Mount Marty alumni and the students,” Long said about the crowd at the tailgate. “I mean, there are hundreds of people, we had no idea what to expect, but this has just been fantastic.”
MOUNT MARTY ATHLETES SUPPORT LANCER FOOTBALL
With the addition to a football program, there are now roughly 100 more student-athletes on campus. When the football team took the field Saturday, basketball, soccer, baseball and softball players were just some of the student athletes seen supporting the football team.
Mount Marty’s women’s soccer team was selling merchandise at Crane-Youngworth and ran out of items to sell moments before kick-off. The men’s basketball team was seen at the tailgate event and at Crane-Youngworth selling 50-50 raffle tickets.
“It’s been great,” senior basketball player Jonah Larson said. “Especially being a basketball player here, we’ve been getting more support each year and now seeing the football team — right here at the tailgate, look at how many people are out here supporting. Yankton definitely is a football town and you are seeing it here.”
Students are also seeing a change happening around campus as more students are enrolling.
“Football is here, so enrollment increases a lot,” men’s basketball player Cade Stearns said. “There are a lot of new faces, a lot of new students, so I think everybody’s just excited to get going and see how the season goes. I know I’m excited about it, and all the other students are too.”
While other students have been able to see the support Yankton has for Mount Marty, the football program is only helping that support grow.
“It’s definitely helping build the community and growing the campus,” Larson said. “Just with the football team alone, there’s already been like 100 new additions to campus and enrollment is definitely going up. It’s huge for the community to bring everybody together.”
A LIST OF FIRSTS
With the start of a new program, there is bound to be a list of “firsts” that will go down in the history books. Here are just a few of those firsts from Saturday:
• First MMU Completed Pass: Davian Guajardo to Austin Vigants
On the first offensive possession of the game, Guajardo, the Lancer starting quarterback, found Vigants for a 15-yard gain.
• First Tackle Made: Connor Mulder/Drew Pendleton
On Dakota Wesleyan’s first drive of the game, Mulder and Pendleton combined to bring down Tiger runner Jamin Arend for a three-yard loss.
• First Rush: Ka’ua Nishigaya
Also on Mount Marty’s first possession, Nishigaya took a first down hand-off from Guajardo and rushed for a three-yard gain.
• First Forced and Recovered Fumble: Marcus Jnofinn
With Dakota Wesleyan up 7-0 and knocking on the door of a second touchdown in the first half, Jnofinn punched the ball free from Tiger ball carrier Jamin Arend. Jnofinn recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
• First Interception: Dylan Capps
Late in the second quarter, with Mount Marty trailing DWU 13-3, Lancer safety Capps leapt in front of a receiver and hauled in the pass from the Tiger quarterback Kiel Nelson, recording the first interception in MMU history.
• First Points Scored: Jonathan Cardoz
Early in the second quarter, Mount Marty drove the ball inside the Tiger 20-yard line but were unable to punch the ball into the end zone. Lancer kicker Cardoz trotted out and hit a 34-yard field goal, giving Mount Marty its’ three points of the game.
There are still more firsts to come for the Lancers (first touchdown, first win, etc.), but the first Saturday of Lancer football became a day many will remember for years to come.
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