Fifth-ranked Wartburg was rewarded for a perfect 10-0 regular season with a first-round Division III playoff matchup against perennial power St. Thomas (8-2) at Noon Saturday.
It’s the first home playoff game for the Knights since losing to Bethel, 28-20, in the 2010 first round.
The 20th-ranked Tommies sneaked into the 32-team playoff field with an at-large berth after tying for second in the Minnesota Conference with a 6-2 mark, one game behind St. John’s.
The Knights-Tommies winner could play St. John’s (9-1), which hosts St. Scholastica (10-0), in the second round.
Top-ranked and defending national champion Wis.-Whitewater (10-0) will host Macalester (9-1) and is the favorite on the top part of the regional bracket, which also features Wabash (9-1) and Franklin (8-2).
St. Thomas lost to Bethel 35-24 Oct. 25, the same Royals team the Knights defeated 31-14 Sept. 13.
The Tommies missed the playoffs last year, when Wartburg advanced to the second round before a one-possession loss to Bethel, but were national runners-up in 2012.
That was the third straight undefeated regular season for St. Thomas, the previous two of which ended in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.