"It's a special feeling to be with all the brothers on the team and coaches especially over Thanksgiving," senior linebacker D.J. Gnader said.
The Bearcats are right at home playing postseason football. Northwest's season is extending beyond Thanksgiving for the tenth year in a row -- the longest active streak in the MIAA.
"It's a special time," wide receivers coach Joel Osborn said. "We always talk about raising our level, and I think our guys do a really good job about raising their level each week."
This season the Bearcats are spending the holiday together as they prepare for Minnesota Duluth in the second round of the Division II playoffs this Saturday in Maryville.
Osborn started a pair of post-Thanksgiving games at quarterback for Northwest, and has served as a graduate assistant or coach for four more. He's felt the team bond on the field, and watched families grow off it.
"When I was playing, Chad Bostwick was a GA. Now he's married and has kids. Coach (Adam) Dorrel, he wasn't married at the time when I was playing, now he's married and has kids. So there's been a lot that's changed, and it's been great. It truly is a family."
But feeding a family of more than 60 players and coaches isn't easy. The Elks Lodge in Maryville provided 200 pieces of chicken, 75 pounds of beef and 75 pounds of potatoes for the team's Thanksgiving dinner. It takes a lot more time to prepare the meal than it does for the players to make it disappear.
"It goes fast when you have a lot of big guys," Osborn joked.
It serves as fuel for a team that's won all 11 games this season by an average of 29.9 points.
While the rest of the Northwest student body has returned home for the holiday, the Bearcats will sacrifice a couple days off for a chance at the next round of the postseason.
"Going home would be nice," Gnader said, "but I'd rather go home in December over Christmas break with a title instead of sitting at home watching football right now."