Marc Osborn can trace the beginning of No. 2 Grand View's successful undefeated season to a note his roommate, linebacker Jason Gladfelder, put on their refrigerator during the summer.
It all rides on game one, the message read, referring to the season opener at NCAA Division I Drake, which plays nonscholarship football in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The Vikings stunned the Bulldogs that Thursday night in late August by hitting on a long pass play in the opening minute. Grand View went on to beat Drake for the first time ever, 21-16.
That was a little more than three months ago. And the Vikings never stopped winning.
No. 2 Grand View takes a perfect 12-0 record into Saturday's 1 p.m. NAIA semifinal game at Williams Stadium in Des Moines, where it plays preseason No. 1 and 2012 runner-up Morningside (11-1).
The winner advances to the championship game at Barron Stadium in Rome, Ga., on Dec. 21.
Osborn, a Council Bluffs Lewis Central graduate and Grand View's starting center, said there was something about the note that Gladfelder stuck to the fridge that has stayed with him through the fall.
“I kind of took that to heart when he said that. And beating Drake, I felt like, kind of set us up for the season,” the senior said. “It really didn't surprise me that we'd make it this far — 12-0 right now. If you believe in something, it'll happen.”
It's been an outstanding season for the Vikings. In addition to the win over Drake, Grand View owns victories over seven teams that were ranked in the NAIA poll at the time of the game.
None of those seven contests was decided by less than two touchdowns.
Junior linebacker Adam Wenck, also a Lewis Central grad, said the approach that Viking coach Mike Woodley has taken with this team has led to a season with no week-to-week letdowns.
“Coach is always telling us it's not about a team's ranking or how they look, it's just the next game,” the team's third-leading tackler said. “That's all I've been focusing on, the next game.”
The Vikings have been looking forward to this one, Wenck said. The No. 5 Mustangs were the preseason NAIA favorites and were ranked No. 1 for most of the fall.
Morningside, an explosive team that leads the nation in scoring (49.3 points per game) and is second in total offense (567.7 yards per game), was seemingly in the small-college spotlight in Iowa while Grand View, almost quietly, put together an unbeaten season and is now the higher ranked of the two teams.
Osborn said that was understandable with the number of starters the Mustangs brought back from a squad that nearly won the national championship last December in Georgia.
“I feel like we were overlooked, but I definitely think they deserved the credit that they got,” he said. “They've got a really solid team. I'm not really big into the whole rankings thing. They're a good team, and we've got to bring our game in order to beat them.”
At this point, Wenck said, it's not about the recognition. He realized all season the two Iowa teams were on a potential collision course, but it's all about winning the game now.
“We're not looking for the media (attention) or anything like that,” he said. “We're just out here playing our game and doing what we're doing. That's what it's all about.
“(Facing Morningside) was always there, but I didn't have a feeling that we'd (meet) each other. Maybe eventually in the playoffs, it would happen. But I knew we'd be here. I knew that all along.”
Woodley and his son, defensive coordinator Joe Woodley, had Wenck convinced long ago that making a run like this was possible at Grand View. And now the Vikings, champions of the Mid-States Football Association's Midwest League, are a home win away from playing for a national title in two weeks.
“I knew it was there in the coaches and players all along,” Wenck said. “That's what Coach Joe and Coach Mike had told us. If we put our effort there, we could be a part of something great.”
Osborn said he's relishing the moment as his playing career winds down.
“It's a great feeling,” he said. “Coming into the program, I knew there were some good coaches here. Throughout the years, I saw the progression of players and athletes getting better. We're kind of bonding together like a family. It's been a great experience.
“I've never been a part of a state- or national-qualifying team, so this is a really surprising treat to me my senior year. I didn't know this would happen, but I'm kind of living it right now and enjoying it.”