Seth Stilling | Sports Editor
The No. 7 Gorillas have No. 23 Central Missouri to thank for their first MIAA football title since 2004 after the Gorillas beat the visiting Missouri Southern Lions 51-28 in front of 7,886 fans at Carnie Smith Stadium on Saturday.
Central Missouri defeated the No. 15 Washburn Ichabods 39-21 to give the Gorillas the crown, being the only one-loss team in the conference.
John Brown was the man of the match for the Gorillas. The sophomore wide receiver tied a school record by racking up five touchdowns Saturday, three on the ground and two receiving.
Brown gained 180 yards of total offense on the day and head coach Tim Beck had nothing but praise for the Coffeyville transfer.
“He has the potential to be a really, really special player here at Pitt State,” Beck said. “He has unbelievable field awareness, if he gets out in the open, he has a chance to go, and he did.”
The Gorillas’ got off to a big 20-0 first quarter lead, in part because Southern had to battle a strong southern wind during the first quarter.
Southern did not give up, however, outscoring the Gorillas 22-10 in the second quarter to make the score 30-22 at the half.
The Gorillas defense stepped up big in the second half, nearly holding the potent Lion offense scoreless for the last two quarters.
The defense was led by junior safety Jake Catloth, who recorded eight total tackles. Elijah Olabode racked up seven tackles and an interception for the Gorillas
Junior Gus Toca recorded three sacks and four tackles for loss in the game.
Southern was able to tack on a meaningless touchdown with 14 seconds left in the game, giving the Gorillas a 51-28 Sonic Miners Bowl victory, and extending their winning streak against the Lions to 18 games.
Pitt State found out during halftime from Beck that Washburn had lost, opening the door for the Gorillas to take the outright MIAA championship with a win.
After the victory, the Gorillas (9-1) had to wait until Monday to find out what spot they would receive in the Division II playoff bracket.
With the MIAA championship under their belts, the Gorillas gained a No. 2 seed in Super Regional Four. The seeding means that the Gorillas not only receive a first-round bye, but will also host the second-round game at Carnie Smith Stadium.
Pitt State will play the winner of No. 3 seed Washburn and No. 6 seed Abilene Christian (Tex.) on Saturday, Nov. 26.
The Pitt State players were excited after finding out their No. 2 position. Sophomore linebacker Nate Dreiling made it clear that the team was not sure what position they would fall in, but were happy with the result.
“It was a little in question, whether we were going to get the first-round bye or not,” Dreiling said. “It is definitely nice to get to rest our players, and get that extra week to prepare.”
Senior quarterback Zac Dickey reiterated Dreiling’s feelings, but added how important home field advantage is to the team.
“It’s a huge deal, it’s familiar territory,” Dickey said. “If the fans are here and loud, it’s going to work in our favor.”
Beck talked about how the team is ready for the rigorous road ahead.
“I know our players aren’t going to be just satisfied with this conference championship,” Beck said. “We will put together a heck of a game play and be ready for whoever we play here in two weeks. It’s single elimination tournament, so obviously it’s do or die every single week.”