Former DAC players savoring national football stage

2013-12-18T17:30:00Z 2013-12-20T15:22:07Z Former DAC players savoring national football stageAl Hamnik, (219) 933-4154
December 18, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

Take a bow, Duneland Athletic Conference.

You play some bad football, and that's a good thing.

Former DAC players Dylan Morang (Lake Central), Keon Jones (Merrillville) and Nick Latchford (LaPorte) are going to national championship games this week with their respective teams.

It's not Florida State and Auburn for the BCS title, but the region trio couldn't care less as they climb onto the biggest stage during their young athletic careers.

Morang is a sophomore cornerback on No. 5 Wisconsin-Whitewater (14-0), which plays No. 1 Mount Union (14-0) for the NCAA Div. III championship in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl on Friday.

Latchford is a junior and one of four tailbacks at 11-time champion Mount Union.

Saturday's NAIA championship features Keon Jones' No. 1 University of the Cumberlands against No. 2 Grand View (Iowa), both 13-0.

"I'll tell you what. Nothing has matched this so far. It's the biggest game of my life," Morang said. "Yeah, I'd say it was expected.

"Back-to-back-toback national championships prior to my freshman year, a 45-0 record, brings in a lot of national recruits."

Morang, also a special teams standout, had two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery he returned for a touchdown earlier this season at LaCrosse.

At cornerback, Morang feels he's most effective in the nickel package. And he's fast, having run a 4.46 40-yard dash last spring in training camp.

"That helps with my ability to make a play on the ball," he said. "That's why I love playing cornerback. That pressure is what you live for."

The Warhawks are making their eighth NCAA Div. III Championship appearance in nine seasons, all against Mount Union, and took home the hardware in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Wisconsin-Whitewater puts teams away early, outscoring them 501-122, including 108-49 in the first quarter and 183-45 in the second.

Mount Union boasts an 82-13 playoff record, and owns a 30-point margin of victory this season.

Latchford will have to watch Friday's action from the stands while still recovering from a broken finger he suffered in camp.

"It just makes my drive stronger for next season," he said. "We have a young team right now and will be ready to make another run next season."

Keon Jones will be on the Cumberlands sideline but not in uniform, after languishing on the Patriots' JV while recovering from a torn quad.

"I'll be rooting for the guys while on the sideline," Jones said. "I've gotten past it (not dressing). I'm not upset. I'm just glad to be part of this team."

University of the Cumberlands is 45 minutes from Knoxville and the 2009 Merrillville grad said NAIA football is all he hoped it would be.

"It's just like any other college here. You've got a lot of guys who could play Division I or II ball," Jones said.

"I've still got a helmet and shoulder pads, I'm still playing, so I'm blessed because a lot of guys who no longer are, wish they could be."

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