By RICK PETERSON
Washburn University's football team is headed to the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time since 2011, earning the No. 7 seed in Super Region 3.
Making the playoffs for the fourth time in program history, the 9-2 Ichabods will face off against Harding in Saturday's first round in Searcy, Ark.
Washburn, which has won six straight games, was No. 9 in last week's Super Region 3 rankings, but used last Saturday's 38-28 win over Missouri Southern and some key results from other games involving playoff contenders to gain the final berth out of Region 3.
Former Hayden standout Brooks Peavler, a senior linebacker, said the Ichabods felt good about their playoff chances after Saturday.
"We knew what we needed to happen as far as the other teams, and it happened, so we had a good feeling, but you never know,'' Peavler said. "There's a lot of good teams out there so we were nervous, but I feel like we deserved it and they threw us in.
"We were sitting there sweating for sure, but it's a cool opportunity.''
Washburn senior linebacker Garett Barnett-Kruger was also cautiously optimistic about the Ichabods' playoff chances.
"Obviously I was a little worried, because you never know how it can shake out with picking the regions, but I believed in Washburn magic,'' Barnett-Kruger said. "We've had some Washburn magic the last couple of years, so I had a feeling we were going to get in.
"I was here in 2017 when we went to our bowl game and that was a great experience, but you always are hungry for more, hungry for the next level, the next step, so getting up to that upper echelon was really a great feeling.''
Washburn assistant coach Zach Watkins said he had a "gut feeling'' the Ichabods were going to get the playoff bid.
"A team like this, they deserve to be in,'' Watkins said. "Going 9-2 in the MIAA is an accomplishment in and of itself and to beat the teams we beat and the close losses we had, we deserved it and I'm excited to be in.''
Harding finished its season 9-2 in the Great American Conference and is the No. 2 ranked team in NCAA Super Region 3. The Ichabods and the Bisons have met only once, with the Ichabods winning 20-17 on Sept. 25, 1976 at Harding.
The Ichabods also went to the 2005, 2007 and 2011 NCAA Playoffs – all under Craig Schurig and have gone 1-3, with the win coming in 2011 against Abilene Christian in Topeka in a 52-49 decision.
Overall, Saturday will be Washburn's 14th postseason game appearance in program history with seven bowl games and the now four NCAA appearances.
In Washburn's last bowl game, in the 2017 CHAMPS Heart of Texas Bowl, the Ichabods defeated Angelo State 41-25.
Super Region 3 NCAA Playoff Seedings
No. 1 Ferris State (10-0)
No. 2 Harding (10-1)
No. 3 Northwest Missouri (10-1)
No. 4 Grand Valley State (9-1)
No. 5 Lindenwood (9-2)
No. 6 Central Washington (9-2)
No. 7 Washburn (9-2)
Washburn Postseason History
(13 games, 6-7 record)
11/30/74 - Boot Hill Bowl - Dodge City, Kan.
Washburn 21, Millikin (Ill.) 7
11/20/76 - Boot Hill Bowl - Dodge City, Kan.
Benedictine 29, Washburn 14
12/6/86 - NAIA Quarterfinals - Pittsburg, Kan.
Pittsburg State 58, Washburn 24
11/27/88 - NAIA Quarterfinals - Monticello, Ark.
Arkansas-Monticello 20, Washburn 13
12/20/86 - Aztec Bowl - Exhibition (record not counting in season records since game was against non-collegiate competition) - Mexico City, Mexico
Washburn 27, Mexican All-Stars 8
12/4/04 - Mineral Water Bowl - Excelsior Springs, Mo.
Washburn 36, Northern State 33
11/19/05 - NCAA Second Round Playoffs - Topeka, Kan.
Northwest Missouri 42, Washburn 32
11/17/07 – NCAA First Round Playoffs - Canyon, Texas
West Texas A&M 40, Washburn 39
12/04/10 - Kanza Bowl - Topeka, Kan.
Washburn 45, Midwestern State 14
11/19/11 - NCAA First Round Playoffs - Topeka, Kan.
Washburn 52, Abilene Christian 49
11/26/11 - NCAA Second Round Playoffs - Pittsburg, Kan.
Pittsburg State 31, Washburn 22
12/03/16 – Mineral Water Bowl – Excelsior Springs, Mo.
Bemidji State 36, Washburn 23
12/02/17 – C.H.A.M.P.S Heart of Texas Bowl – Copperas Cove, Texas
Washburn 41, Angelo State 25