The postseason is right around the corner for Morningside, which is riding a 24-game winning streak and has been No. 1 in the NAIA poll all fall.

Saturday’s regular-season finale at No. 5 Northwestern is a good playoff preview.

Both are 9-0 with the winner claiming the GPAC title. Last season, Northwestern led 31-28 early in the fourth quarter before a pair of Bo Els touchdown receptions gave the Mustangs a 42-34 win.

“The playoffs start early for us,” said Morningside running back Arnijae Ponder, who ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns against the Red Raiders last season. “This is just like a playoff game.”

Morningside has been in playoff form all season. The Mustangs have won every game by at least three touchdowns while Ponder, an Omaha Burke graduate, has been a key cog.

Ponder’s streak of 12 straight 100-yard rushing games was halted last week against Concordia — he was shut down at halftime with 70 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-0 first half.

Ponder is second in the NAIA in touchdowns (18) and fourth in rushing yards (1,195). The 6-foot, 190-pound junior is tied for second in program history in career rushing touchdowns (48) and is second is rushing yards (3,476).

In his first season as a starter last year, he ran for 1,683 yards and 23 touchdowns. But last season’s team included All-America seniors Trent Solsma and Connor Niles, who hold nearly every passing and receiving record for the school. They led the Mustangs to their first national title last December.

Coming into this season with some new playmakers, Ponder said he was confident Morningside could pick up where it left off.

“We just had to reload,” he said. “We just want to play the Mustang way and that’s to dominate the day. We’re not playing our best yet, our best is yet to come.”

Triggering this year’s high-scoring offense — Morningside leads the NAIA at 58.8 points per game — has been sophomore quarterback Joe Dolincheck. The Bellevue West graduate is third in the NAIA in passing yards per game (311). Wahoo Neumann’s Reid Jurgensmeier is fourth nationally in receiving yards (1,017) while Els, from Lincoln Southwest, has 840 yards receiving.

“We’re very confident with (Joe),” Ponder said. “He’s a smart guy.”

Morningside has won 42 straight conference games — its last loss was in 2014. But Northwestern is allowing 10.2 points per game and its offense is led by 2,400-yard passer Tyson Kooima.

“We just need to play our ballgame,” Ponder said. “We need to be the tougher team.”

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More games

Washburn (5-5) at UNK (6-4), noon: The Lopers ran over Missouri Western last week with 528 rushing yards and three backs topping 100. UNK, which has its first winning season since 2012, held up well the past four weeks against the MIAA’s top four teams who have a combined 33-7 record — the Lopers went 2-2.

Colorado Mines (10-0) at Chadron State (6-4), noon MST: Chadron, winner of five straight, will test the No. 7 team in Division II. Mines averages 42.8 points a game, but Chadron is averaging 43.8 during its winning streak. Chadron QB Dalton Holst has thrown for 2,860 yards and 30 TDs, while Elijah Myles has rushed for 1,011 yards and 11 TDs.

Midland (6-4) at Dordt (7-3), 1: These have been the third- and fourth-best teams in the GPAC. Midland has won five straight with QB Noah Oswald accounting for 24 TDs during that stretch. Dordt has outscored its last four opponents 209-35.

Sioux Falls (7-3) at Wayne State (4-6), 1: A week after blowing out Upper Iowa 62-0 while rushing for 415 yards, Wayne faces the second-ranked defense in Division II, allowing 241 yards a game. Ralston’s Devin Merkuris leads Wayne in rushing with 627 yards.

Hastings (2-7) at Dakota Wesleyan (2-8), 1: Hastings looks to break a seven-game losing streak. Wesleyan snapped a seven-game skid last week with a 41-14 win over Jamestown.

Dubuque (6-3) at Nebraska Wesleyan (3-6), 1: Wesleyan looks to snap a six-game skid, but Dubuque has won five straight. This is the last game for Wesleyan QB Jonathan Curti, who needs one TD pass to break his single-season record of 30. Dubuque allows 162 yards passing per game.

Graceland (0-10) at Peru State (1-9), 1: Peru looks to win two of its last three games of the season. Graceland, which edged Peru 36-33 last season, allows 53 points per game.

Briar Cliff (5-5) at Jamestown (1-9), 1: A victory would give Briar Cliff a winning GPAC record for the first time in school history. The last time Jamestown won just one game in a season was 1999.

Central Missouri (10-0) at Northwest Missouri (9-1), 1:30: This game will decide the MIAA title — if Northwest wins, it shares the title with Central. Central leads Division II in scoring (51.2) while Northwest is fourth (46.8). Elkhorn South grad Braden Wright has passed for 1,977 yards and rushed for 526 for the Bearcats.

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