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Great Midwest: 2021's Top Teams Start Strong

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Great Midwest: 2021's Top Teams Start Strong

The Northern Iowa team after beating Loyola.

The finalists for the 2021 Great Midwest Conference both won in their conference openers this week.

Illinois State had to work for it against Illinois-Chicago 21-5. 

For ISU this was perhaps a bit of a wakeup call in what has been one of the most competitive conferences in the Division 2 game. We say that because a variety of teams within the GMW, including ISU, Northern Iowa, Wisconsin-Whitewater, Marquette, UW-Milwaukee, and more, have done well at the national playoff level.

So could Illinois-Chicago be ones of those GMW upstarts?

Meanwhile, Northern Iowa took on a very tough Loyola-Chicago team and beat them fairly comprehensively, 53-10.

"I think we’ve got a really strong backline," said club president Jentry Staack, who highlighted try-scoring outside center Nick Marker, who continues to be an attacking threat.

"In terms of our forwards, we’ve got a lot of tough dudes ready to run the ball," added Staack. "Our defense came out strong and we played a really strong 80 minutes of defense; everybody did their jobs." 

No. 8 Mike Santoiemma and hooker Cooper Isaacson were outstanding up front. Meanwhile, the link between David Randall and Staack has the attack clicking, allowing all of the UNI players to run with confidence, which they do.

"We have a young team and we did make some mistakes," said Staack. "We were just really excited to play and everybody was ready to go."

Highlights from this game: