Ottawa running back Shamar Moreland scored a couple of long touchdowns on Friday, Aug. 25.
Arizona Republic

The Ottawa University Arizona football team charged onto the field Friday for the first time ever, winning an exhibition game against CETYS Universidad from Mexico 51-19.

Dubbed an “international friendly”, the game was scheduled to help the Ottawa prepare for its inaugural football season, which starts on Saturday, Sept. 8.

Friday’s game was played in front of a packed house at Spirit Field in Surprise, the new stadium where Ottawa will play its home games. 

After a year of practicing and waiting, Ottawa played with pent-up intensity, jumping out to a 30-0 lead in the first half. Running back Shamar Moreland contributed, scoring a couple of long touchdowns, once on a screen pass and then a punt return. 

“We’ve been going hard for a year. We came from dirt. This field was literally dirt,” Moreland said. “This win feels amazing… and we’re going to bask in it.”

The man who has been tasked with turning what was pile of dirt into a viable NAIA college football program is Mike Nesbitt, who coached West Texas A&M University before coming to Arizona.

With several community and junior colleges in Maricopa County announcing the discontinuation of their football programs, Nesbit could come to find a strong local recruiting pipeline. Approximately 28 players on Ottawa’s current roster are from Arizona.

“We’ll send each coach to two high school football games in Arizona every Friday night,” Nesbitt said. “But I think ending all those junior college programs here was a big mistake. Junior college can be really beneficial for some of these kids.”

Ottawa will play its first-ever regular season home game on Sept. 17 against Oklahoma Panhandle State but before that, the Spirit will will travel to Oklahoma to take on Langston University.

Ottawa will play eight games in its inaugural season, five of them at home, including Oct. 6 against Arizona Christian, a opponent that is expected to become Ottawa’s chief rival.