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High school football players flood to Wabash College for two reasons.
First for the education, and a close second is to have a chance to compete for the Monon Bell. While each fall the Little Giants enter the season with a goal to win the North Coast Athletic Conference and earn a Division III playoff bid, they are both meaningless if they lose to the team from Greencastle.
“The No. 1 goal at this place is to win the Monon Bell game,” fourth-year Wabash coach Don Morel said.
On Saturday the Little Giants will travel to Greencastle to battle DePauw in the 126th Annual Monon Bell Classic. Wabash owns a 9-1 record over the Tigers in the last 10 match-ups, they clinched the NCAC Championship with a 24-0 win over Hiram last Saturday, and are destined for the playoffs. None of which matters.
“It’s great,” Morel said about being on the winning side of a rivalry. “The problem is you get used to having it and there’s a chance you get complacent. I don’t think we have that problem right now. This is a big deal.”
Morel believes Wabash might have been complacent during his first-year at the helm in 2016 when the Little Giants rode a seven-game winning streak within the series into a home date with DePauw, before watching the Tigers win 37-34 with a last second score and take the Bell back to Greencastle.
That didn’t sit well with the freshmen that fall, who are now seniors, and hoping to make it three straight for Wabash.
“As a senior you come into the Bell game with a different feeling than you did as a freshman and sophomore,” Morel said. “Because you don’t want to be the class that messes it up. The pressure is on the seniors here to win it.”
Wabash owns a 62-54-9 advantage overall in the series, and on paper looks to be the favorite on Saturday. The Tigers have been up and down throughout the season and enter Saturday afternoon’s game with a 5-4 overall record, and 5-3 in the NCAC. Starting quarterback Chase Andries was injured in the Tiger’s 28-13 loss to Ohio Wesleyan, but backup and former North Montgomery QB Collin Knecht went 1-1 in his absence with a win over Allegheny and loss to Denison. Andries returned last week for a 34-0 win over Oberlin.
“DePauw has absolutely nothing to lose, and they’re going to play a great game,” Morels said. “For DePauw this is a huge game like it is for us, and you want your best guys playing at their optimal health and Chase Andries is a great quarterback and extremely talented, and is really going to be a chore for our defense.”
No matter the record of either team, both the Little Giants and Tigers have pulled off upsets within the rivalry, but it’s much easier to hang on to when you know what it feels like to lose it. And the seniors showed that Thursday morning at the annual Bell Week Chapel.
The Sphinx Club carried the Monon Bell into the chapel, the senior captains all spoke, and left little doubt that early Saturday evening the Bell will indeed be returning back to Crawfordsville.