East Central head football coach Tim McCarty sees Thursday’s season opener at third-ranked Northwest Missouri State as both a challenge and an opportunity.
Coming off the first eight-win season since their school moved up from the NAIA to NCAA Division II in 1994, McCarty’s Tigers will be solid underdogs against the Bearkats, who represent one of the nation’s most successful DII programs.
“I see a team that’s been in the national playoffs 14 straight times and has won three national championships and played for four others,” McCarty said Monday. “You want a quality opponent? You’ve got one right here.
“I have great respect for Northwest Missouri State and how their program was formed, how it’s taken shape and the execution of that program over the course of time. I don’t see a whole lot of weaknesses in their team.”
On the other hand, McCarty expects a different outcome from the last time one of his ECU teams faced a top-three squad.
“We feel good about our team,” he said. “We feel like we can run, and we feel like we can be physical.
“We have questions,” McCarty added. “We played Abilene Christian two years ago (with ECU on the way to a 5-6 season and a North Division title in the school’s last year in the Lone Star Conference)) when they were ranked No. 2 in the country and they beat us like a stepchild. We’re not the same team we were two years ago.”
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