Spires football hosts No. 17 Dakota Wesleyan in first-ever, night home game

This is when it gets real for the University of Saint Mary football team.

A 49-0 home win last week against Trinity Bible was a nice appetizer for the Spires, but Saturday is when the blossoming program gets to take a true litmus test as part of the KCAC/GPAC challenge (Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference/Great Plains Athletic Conference).

In Saint Mary’s first game ever under the lights, the Spires kick off at 6 p.m. against the NAIA’s 17th-ranked Dakota Wesleyan.

A win would enhance USM’s potential playoff chances as it would come against a top team from one of the NAIA’s premier leagues.

After DWU’s shocking loss at Dakota State last week, they will ultimately fall in the first NAIA poll that comes out this week, but it won’t change the importance of a potential win for USM.

“DWU defeated our conference champion, Tabor, at this time last year,” USM head coach Jay Osborne said. “They just barely missed the playoffs last year going 8-3. They are strong in every sense of the word. They will be hungry coming off a loss to Dakota State.

“The Spires are very excited to get the season going. We are on our third week of practice now and this will be a great test for the program. This game has implications for more than just our season. This game will play a role in top 25 voting and will be looked at for playoff selection at the end of the year.”

Despite a win against a middling program a week ago, the Spires continue to remain focused and dialed in, knowing bigger fish to fry await.

This fish could be hard to reel in, but the Spires may be ready to take this challenge on full steam ahead.

“We should be nearing full strength this week,” Osborne said. “DWU’s offense scored 39 and lost. DWU features one of the NAIA’s top quarterbacks and the pieces around him are legit. Their wide receiver corps can be as good as anyone in the country. They are also solid defensively and up front. You expect very few weaknesses on a top 25 team. That’s what you get here.”