ROSEVILLE, Minn. (AP) – About 2,600 students are enrolled at Northwestern College, a scenic, wooded campus in Minnesota where football players routinely sing in the school choir, participate in another sport and take required Bible classes in addition to their major of choice.

This week, their multitasking skills are getting a real workout.

A scheduling dilemma led to this unique twist on the small-college experience: The Eagles have two games scheduled on Saturday. And they both count.

“We felt like it was something we could do, but it wasn’t certainly going to be easy,” coach Kirk Talley said Wednesday, while his staff hastily prepared a pair of game plans for the weekend.

Northwestern is a nondenominational Christian college in the provisional stage of its NCAA Division III membership. The day is scheduled to start with an Upper Midwest Athletic Conference contest at home against Trinity Bible College – located in Ellendale, N.D. – at noon local time.

Then after a brief break, a bite to eat and a 61/2-mile bus trip down Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, the Eagles will arrive at Macalester College to warm up for a nonconference game at 7 p.m. CST.

“We’re trying to plan for everything we can, but we know that there are going to be some surprises,” said Bryan Johnson, the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.

Northwestern, which has won nine UMAC championships since it started playing the sport in 1973, has fielded a fairly successful program over the years. The Eagles (3-2), with about 75 players on their roster, are aiming for their sixth straight winning season.

So it’s not as if they’re not tough enough to handle it on Saturday. The real test has been in the film room and on the practice field, trying to digest the schemes and tendencies of two different opponents.

“It’s a little confusing sometimes out there,” said Sam Townsend, a junior defensive lineman.

Townsend and his teammates are trying to treat their task like typical cool college kids, but they’re also not afraid to use this as a way to share their faith. Spiritual matters are a significant part of student life here, and many of the school’s graduates go on to careers in the ministry.

“We can’t even begin to comprehend what He can do through us when we’re willing to be used by Him,” said Pete Mades, a junior offensive lineman. “God’s going to give me the strength when I need it, and we’re going to get through this.”

Northwestern’s director of athletics, Matt Hill, wanted to make sure the team played the 10-game maximum, so he called the NCAA to make sure they weren’t breaking any rules by suiting up twice in one day. He found nobody there, or in the College Sports Information Directors of America organization, who had ever heard of such a feat.

So while the Eagles insisted this week they’re not seeking publicity, it’s not a bad way to advertise, either. Especially when Sports Illustrated and ESPN are planning coverage.

“I’m not going to lie,” Hill said. “It’s kind of fun to see somebody big on our campus.”

For Macalester, it’s just been a normal week of practice – preparing for a normal game. Despite Northwestern’s pledge to use most of its regulars in both contests, coach Dennis Czech said he expects the Eagles to mostly play junior varsity players against Trinity and save their best for last.

“It’s going to be business as usual,” Czech said.

The attention sure can’t hurt, for either side. The Scots held the all-division record for consecutive losses (50) for 15 years until Prairie View broke it in 1995, then nearly dropped the sport after the 2001 season because of sagging participation.

“Any coverage is good coverage,” Czech said. “It works for us.”

AP-ES-10-05-05 1938EDT


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