MORRISON, Ill. — The Morrison High School football team hopes to spend part of its Thanksgiving weekend in Champaign, Ill.

One thing stands between the fourth-ranked Mustangs (11-1) and a date in the Illinois Class 2A state championship at the University of Illinois Nov. 25, the day after Thanksgiving. That one thing is the 12-0 and fifth-ranked Westville Tigers.

Morrison visits Westville, which is near Champaign, in a 1 p.m. state semifinal Saturday.

“To be this close (to the state championship) is hard to imagine,” Mustangs senior offensive and defensive lineman Chris Scott said. “It’s awesome. We had high expectations coming into the season, but maybe not to get this far. I think it’s a testament to how hard we’ve all worked.”

“It’s amazing. State is definitely our goal,” senior lineman/kicker Shaun Vegter said. “If we don’t make it we wouldn’t consider it a successful season. We want to play on the turf (at the University of Illinois).”

Last season the Mustangs had a fine 8-3 campaign and reached the second round of the playoffs. Morrison lost a number of quality players to graduation from that team, but the team still had high hopes.

“This summer I didn’t know if we’d be as good as we were last year because we lost pretty much our whole defense,” senior fullback/linebacker Nick Vandermyde said. “But, we had a lot of seniors go back out and that’s been a big help. The key is that we had three linemen coming back.”

“We knew we were going to have a good team coming in,” Vegter said. “We had three returning starting linemen and we had (senior) Neal (Mahoney) coming back who started most of last year on the line coming back. Then, (offensive lineman/linebacker) Nick Rus moved in from Nebraska.

“So, we knew we had a pretty solid line. And, with a pretty solid line that makes everything else work. And, we had Nick (Vandermyde) and (junior halfback) Nate (McBride) coming back, and (quarterback) Nate Vandermyde’s been excellent this year. On defense our linebackers and our line were solid. The only question coming into the season would have been the secondary, and they’ve done an excellent job all year.”

“We had a good team last year, and we did lose some good people,” McBride said. “But, we always set our goals high, and state is our goal. We’re not done yet.”

Morrison’s season certainly got off on the right foot with a 6-0 win over then top-ranked Sterling Newman.

“Beating Newman right off the bat gave us a lot of momentum,” said Scott, a two-year letter winner. “They’re a huge rival for us, and that was the first time I’ve been on a team that beat them on the varsity. That was a big deal to us.”

Scott also said that Morrison’s only loss, a 21-19 setback to Class 3A defending state champion and current semifinalist Bureau Valley, was a key to the Mustangs’ season.

“It showed us that we could get beat,” he said. “I guess it might have been a blessing. It made us work that much harder. They’re one of the best Class 3A teams in the state and we’ve played them two years in a row within two points. That’s a big confidence booster. It showed we could play with anyone.”

Morrison is brimming with confidence.

“We expect to win every game,” Vegter said. “You have to go into every game with the attitude that you’re going to win. You have to be confident but not cocky.”

The Mustangs, who were a No. 3 seed in the eight-team quadrant they advanced out of, will be seeking their third straight win over a higher seed.

In the second round they trounced No. 2 seed AlWood-ROWVA 49-0 and last week they downed No. 1 seed and second-ranked Lena-Winslow 28-7.

“It’s a good feeling, but the seeds don’t matter much to us,” McBride said. “I don’t think we’re considered an underdog anymore.”

Vandermyde has been nursing a knee injury.

“It’s a sprain,” he said. “The doctor thought it was only a grade one and that it was pretty stable and that I should be able to play Saturday. The way I feel right now I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to play both ways.”