‘It was so sweet’

A GREAT WIN: Ferris State football players gather for a photo after knocking off Grand Valley State University at Lubbers Stadium in Allendale. The Bulldogs now advance to the national semifinal on Saturday against defending Division II champion Northwest Missouri State. (Pioneer photo/Maxwell Harden)

A GREAT WIN: Ferris State football players gather for a photo after knocking off Grand Valley State University at Lubbers Stadium in Allendale. The Bulldogs now advance to the national semifinal on Saturday against defending Division II champion Northwest Missouri State. (Pioneer photo/Maxwell Harden)

ALLENDALE — The weather conditions were chilly, but there was a warm feeling for nearly 1,000 Bulldog football fans including Ferris State University President David Eisler, who attended Saturday’s NCAA regional game at Grand Valley State.

FSU posted one of the school’s most memorable football wins with a 47-32 topping of the previously undefeated Lakers, Ferris’ long-time archrival.

Now, the Bulldogs (12-2) are on the road to face defending national champion Northwest Missouri State in the national semifinals 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Maryville, Mo.

The semifinal matchups were announced by the NCAA on Saturday night after the four remaining teams were reseeded following the conclusion of quarterfinal-round play.

Ferris State will be taking part in its second-ever NCAA semifinal and first since 1995 when FSU fell on the road at North Alabama. Regardless of the outcome, Bulldog fans will remember the championship win over Grand Valley for a long time.

Rob Bentley, the radio broadcast voice for the Bulldogs and assistant athletic director of communications, has been at the school for 16 years and won’t forget the moment for a long time with dry, but cold weather in the 30-degree range.

“As a radio broadcaster, I was on the Grand Valley side in the pressbox,” Bentley said. “But we could see the Ferris State side was full. It was great support. It was maybe the most fans we’ve ever had down there despite the weather. It was a tremendous crowd and they were into it, especially the second half.

“They really got energized and they got our team fired up. I saw supporters on social media where they thought our fans were louder than Grand Valley fans.”

Bentley estimated around 1,000 FSU fans made the trip, to watch the Bulldogs gain revenge on a team which defeated them during the regular season and also last November at Top Taggart Field in the playoffs.

“I think it’s so much sweeter being a rivalry game and especially after what happened last year,” Bentley said. “We had a tremendous senior class that had a great four-year run and Grand Valley kind of ruined the end of the season in the second-round. We were saying on the radio that was one of toughest losses we had ever been a part of. (Saturday’s) wins was probably one of the best.”

Saturday’s game was a rare December appearance for the Bulldogs who aren’t done yet.

Among the FSU fans at Grand Valley was Bill Taylor, who came to the school in 1974 as Sports Information Director, and has seen many Bulldog-Laker games.

“I hadn’t gone down there for a game since 1999,” he said. “It was amazing, we came out smoking, and got that early safety. In my mind, we were in control 90 percent of the game. (Ferris fans) filled the whole visitors side. We really did a good job. We had a loud crowd.”

The weather was tolerable enough, but beating Grand Valley was special for FSU fans like Taylor

“It was so sweet since (Grand Valley) was undefeated and everyone called them America’s team,” Taylor said. “We turned the tables on them.”

Taylor said it was enjoyable all season watching a team that had graduated two-time Harlon Hill trophy winner Jason VanderLaan, but showed progress with his successor Reggie Bell and stayed steady with backup Trevor Bermingham.

“He was on the bench 4 ½ years and comes off the bench and is now playing like an All-American,” Taylor said.

Another long time fan who watched the game was another former SID Ted Halm, who echoed Taylor’s sentiments.

“You have to hand it to (coach) Tony (Annese) and the program he built here,” Halm said. “We’re thrilled, it’s a tremendous feeling. I don’t care what anybody said, beating Grand Valley in the NCAA football playoffs is as great of a high as you can have as a sports fan of Ferris State. This is a big deal. This is a big win.”

Bill Scheible, local insurance agent, former Ferris football player, and still an avid fan, was not at loss for words after the win.

“That first game we lost, there were seven or eight calls that the officials blew in that game,” Scheible said. “You look at the stats and you see how badly we beat them. But as quite often happens, the officials play a role in a Ferris-Grand /Valley game. All that aside, it was a great win and the program is on a roll.”

Jack Roberts, of the Ferris Foundation Board, has been following Ferris football for 25 years. and also made the trip.

“I think this team today has to be right there with the 1995 moment,” Roberts said. This team has huge talent. The other great thing is David Eisler, the president, and his wife were right in the crowd. They weren’t in the booth. It was an incredible day for Ferris State. A lot of alumni football players were there. Everybody was there. It was a great turnout.”

Northwest Missouri State is the No. 1 seed remaining in the playoff field with FSU seeded fourth overall. Second-seeded Shepherd (W.Va.) will host third-seeded North Alabama in the other semifinal contest.

The two semifinal winners will advance to the NCAA Division II National Championship Game set for Saturday, Dec. 17, in Kansas City, Mo.

Ferris State matched a school-record with its 12th win of the year by beating GVSU for its first-ever NCAA postseason road win. The Bulldogs will enter Saturday’s contest with a 12-2 overall record this year while Northwest Missouri State is unbeaten at 13-0 following a 35-0 home shutout win over Harding in the quarterfinals.


Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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