It was a long eight days of waiting, but the Husson University football team received the news it had been hoping for on Sunday night.
Coach Gabby Price’s Eagles will close out their final season as an NCAA Division III independent by playing in the ECAC North Atlantic Bowl.
Husson (7-2) plays host to perennial Division III power St. John Fisher of Pittsford, N.Y. (6-4) on Saturday at the Winkin Complex in Bangor. The game time has not been determined.
“We’re certainly elated for the players and the school and the coaches,” Price said Sunday night. “We thought we had a very good chance to get in and we were hoping like heck to host.”
Husson, which wrapped up its regular season Nov. 8 with a 48-13 victory over Becker College — its fifth consecutive win — lost only twice this season, both to Division II opponents. The Eagles kept practicing last week in the hope they might earn a postseason berth.
“We took a very strong stance that we thought we were going to get in and our guys were behind us,” Price said of the decision to continue practicing. The Eagles had workouts Tuesday through Thursday.
The veteran coach is pleased his players’ hard work has been rewarded with an opportunity to play a postseason game for the first time in program history.
“We’re very humbled by this, really,” Price said. “Our players deserve all the credit. They love to play the game and we’re really proud of them.”
St. John Fisher is a member of the Empire 8 Conference, which includes Utica, Norwich and Springfield, three teams Husson defeated this season.
The Cardinals were ranked as high as No. 20 in the D3football.com national poll in October. They also had an impressive 23-4 combined record during 2006 and 2007.
St. John Fisher almost earned the Empire 8’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA Division III playoffs, but dropped a 36-33 overtime decision to Alfred on Saturday in the league title game.
“They’re a terrific team and will be a tremendous opponent,” Price said. “They opened up the season at Mount Union (a 33-3 loss) and anybody who knows anything about Division III football knows they’re the best team in the history of Division III.”
Mount Union (10-0) is the top-ranked team in the country.