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Concordia preps for Canada trip

Concordia wide receiver Brandon Zylstra (6) makes a play during the Cobbers' spring game on Saturday at Jake Christiansen Stadium. Sheldon Green / Concordia Sports Information

MOORHEAD - Less than 12 hours after playing in Concordia's first-ever spring football game Saturday, the Cobber football team will load up busses at 7 a.m. today and drive nearly nine hours to Regina, Saskatchewan.

The Cobbers will have two different practice sessions Monday, including a scrimmage with the Regina Thunder at Leibel Field. The second practice session will end at around 9 p.m. and the Cobbers will drive through the night back to Moorhead.

It sounds exhausting. Concordia quarterback Griffin Neal is excited, even for the bus ride.

"Eight hours on a bus with your best friends and the guys you make a lot of memories with," Neal said. "We're looking forward to it and I think it's going to be a great experience."

Once every three years a Division III school can take an international trip. NCAA rules state the team can have 10 practices in pads to prepare for it. Normally, Concordia only gets seven non-padded practices in a four-week timeframe in the spring with no contact and no equipment. The trip to Regina changed that.

"This has been an incredible spring for us," Concordia coach Terry Horan said. "It gives us 10 extra opportunities to be with your team and prepare our kids and get better. Our young kids get 10 extra padded practices, which we normally don't get, and that most definitely puts us ahead of the game, as far as getting ready for the fall."

The 10 extra padded practices have already paid dividends, according to Neal.

"It's good to see guys in pads," Neal said. "When we have the pads on we can really see the true timing of things. When we don't have them on, we're going on air and guessing where guys are going to be. You don't know if you're going to break that tackle or not. We've realized that we have quite a bit of depth at a lot of positions and guys are battling, so it's fun."

For Horan, the extra practices are nice, but the experience is more than just about getting hits in with the pads.

"It's our team getting together and getting to continue to build our bond and chemistry," Horan said. "Trips seem to do that for most teams. It's a practice and scrimmage where we want to see ourselves get better, but the biggest piece of it is we want to continue to keep building the chemistry of our team and to be together."

Wide receiver Brandon Zylstra feels the entire experience will make for a better Cobber team in the long run.

"It's really brought us together," Zylstra said. "It gives a lot of the younger guys a chance to prove themselves and develop. I feel like we're going to be a little bit ahead of everyone else going into next year."

Now the only thing Concordia's football team needs to worry about is getting too accustomed to having 12 guys on the field in Canada.

"It'll be interesting," Horan said with a laugh. "When we're on offense, they'll have 11 guys on defense. Canadian rules say they can have 12 guys on offense, so we're going to have 12 on defense. Their motions are different and it's a different feel, but we won't be testing the waters of a lot of that stuff. It's a chance to be with your team one more time before the summer. It'll be a fun experience."

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548

Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy is a sports reporter for the Forum. He's covered high school and college sports in Chicago, North Dakota and Minnesota since 2009 and, for some reason, has been given awards for doing so.

(701) 241-5548