By MICHAEL BLEACH
For The Daily News
HOUGHTON - On the surface perhaps, there is little special about a 5-4 football team hosting a 3-7 opponent to close out the season.
But with the Michigan Tech football team donning its pads for one last time this season today against Wayne State, there will be plenty to remember for the nine seniors in their collegiate finale.
For one, there is a chance for a slice of Husky history.
A win, and the seniors will finish their career with a 28-13 mark to their name - the most victories for one class since the 1976 graduates - and a winning record in all four seasons.
Add to that a share of the GLIAC North Division title in 2012, four straight wins over Northern Michigan - the first time either team has held the Miners Cup for four consecutive seasons - and you have a pretty special group taking to Sherman Field for one last contest.
Senior fullback Cole Welch of Kingsford believes it is this class' resiliency that stands out most to him.
"For our redshirt freshman year, we went 2-8 and about half of the (freshmen) dropped out of the program," Welch said. "But we stuck around, and that next team turned things around with an 8-2 season just the next year. I think that shows this group's character and we have been winning ever since, and its just a good group of guys, working hard to get better each day."
Both Welch and senior middle linebacker Taylor Ziolkowski of Goodman, Wis., said they are trying to avoid thinking in terms of "last game ever" as they prepare for a physical battle with the Warriors.
The long walk from the locker room to the field, the band, the fans, the national anthem - all of these factors and more will make the swirling emotions hard enough to focus through, so the time for reflection is not quite yet.
"I never thought I would be able to play Division II football, and here I am getting ready for my last game and getting my degree soon," Ziolkowski said. "It has been an awesome five years, a dream come true. It is unreal."
Welch has the distinction of leaving his mark as one of the last of a dying breed, a traditional fullback in spread-option world.
Entering Saturday's game, Welch has a career stat line of 60 rushes, 93 yards and 13 touchdowns.
His career long run is for eight yards.
"That is a very Michigan Tech fullback stat line," Welch said with a grin.
Welch will likely get a chance to add a yard or two to that final total today, as the game promises to be smash mouth affair.
The Warriors rank fifth in the conference in yards allowed, and according to Tech coach Tom Kearly, play with a physicality that belies their 3-7 record.
"You have an opportunity to walk off your home field a winner and that's pretty special," Ziolkowski said.