For all the celebration that followed Saturday's 35-34 win over Baldwin-Wallace, Heidelberg's coaching staff and players weren't able truly to relax.
That's because despite going 9-1 and despite having its only loss against No. 1-ranked Mount Union, the Student Princes weren't guaranteed a postseason spot.
As a result, when the players and coaches gathered at Frost Lecture Hall to watch the Division III postseason selection show, there were plenty of worried faces.
PHOTO COURTESY OF HEIDELBERG UNIVERSITY
Heidelberg football players Adam Schwieterman (from left), Quentin Rembert, Chris Saltman and Tyler Johnson celebrate the NCAA playoffs selection.
"There's no guarantees unless you're an automatic qualifier," Heidelberg coach Mike Hallett said. "Our conference, that's been one team (Mount Union) for the better part of a quarter of a century, so it's a waiting game, and we had to wait all day."
But for Heidelberg, it was worth the wait.
The Student Princes celebrated with each other for the second time in as many days after it was announced via television that Heidelberg would host Wittenberg at noon Saturday in the first round of the NCAA playoffs.
The game, which will be played at Frost-Kalnow Stadium, marks Heidelberg's first playoff appearance since 1972, when the program won the Stagg Bowl.
"It's been a long time coming," said Heidelberg defensive back Justin Suddeth.
Has it ever. Forty years, eight U.S. presidents, and a 36-game losing streak all occurred during Heidelberg's playoff drought.
The players were aware of the time between playoff appearances.
"Man, it feels amazing," said linebacker Chadd Williamson, also a senior. "It all started with belief in the coaches. I'm getting emotional, man. It's a privilege, a blessing (to make the playoffs)."
It's new to Heidelberg, but postseason play isn't necessarily new to the players. Fullback Aaron Kapelka, a Hopewell-Loudon graduate, and halfback Cartel Brooks, a Galion grad, each had playoff experience in high school.
"It's a whole 'nother level here in college, though, it's completely different," Kapelka said.
Galion made the playoffs in Brooks' senior year, and went one game and out. That's something Brooks doesn't want to repeat.
"It does feel good to be in the playoffs again," he said. "Hopefully I'll learn from that.
"We're a good team," Brooks said. "If we play to our potential, it should be no problem."
So Heidelberg gets Wittenberg, a program that was a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference until 1989. Heidelberg and Wittenberg met 60 times, with their last meeting coming in 2001. Wittenberg went 42-18 in those games.
As for 2012, Wittenberg is 9-1. Its one loss, to Wabash, came by just three points.
"We've seen them on film," Suddeth said. "We know what they're capable of."
Williamson said Heidelberg already is done congratulating itself.
"That passed when we saw our name (in the bracket)," he said. "It's all to business now."
For sophomore quarterback Mike Mees, it's nice to be able to tackle that business in Tiffin.
"We get to host an NCAA playoff game," Mees said. "That's something very special."
The game will be at noon Saturday. But it isn't a normal home game, or even a home setting. Heidelberg hasn't played a game at Frost-Kalnow Stadium since 2009, when it moved to Mayer Field for its final two home games.
"I think only 10 kids on our roster actually played games down there, so for the majority of the kids this will be a new experience," Hallett said. "Much like a road game, you have to deal with your surroundings. The good news is I'm hopeful we're going to be able to get a couple of days of practice down there and have a higher comfort level than maybe Wittenberg's gonna have, with one Friday practice."
But for offensive lineman Quentin Rembert, where Heidelberg's playing isn't as important as making the postseason, and making a statement.
"Once you've been in a position we were in before, where you know how it feels to lose, you know how it feels for people to schedule you for their homecoming game every year," Rembert said,
"Nobody wants to go back.
"We're only going to get better from this point, and I'm really excited to take things from here."