South Dakota State University's Jackrabbits haven't played a meaningful football game since they suffered a first-round playoff loss in 2019. The 2020 Missouri Valley Conference was pushed back to this spring due to COVID-19.
On Friday, the Jackrabbits will begin their season at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, against the University of Northern Iowa at 7 p.m.
Three former Madison players will be suited up for the Jackrabbits -- twin brothers Jadon and Jaxon Janke and Mason Leighton. The Jankes are both red-shirt sophomores; Leighton is a junior transfer from Dakota State University.
All three are wide receivers for the Jackrabbits. Jaxon Janke also returns punts.
"It was terrible news to hear about the season being canceled," Jaxon said. "There was a bad taste in our mouth from the playoff loss the previous year."
It was a different summer for the players who were preparing for a fall season. Instead of being around their teammates and coaches, they were at home.
"The Dakota State lifting coach brought weights out to our home for Riley (their older brother who is a DSU senior football player) and we set up a weight room to lift," Jadon said. The brothers also ran at the track at DSU.
According to Jankes, their coaches sent them workouts to do throughout the summer. They caught passes from their dad and also from some of the DSU quarterbacks.
This was the first time since third grade that the Jankes hadn't played football in the fall.
Even though the 2020 season was canceled, there was a silver lining. The two were able to attend Riley's DSU games.
"That was a cool experience to see Riley play his senior year," Jadon said.
"It was a very special memory to see Riley play at Presentation College in Aberdeen and see him have a pick-6 touchdown return," Jaxon said.
Friday night will begin the spring season with an eight-game schedule for SDSU. The season ends on April 10 in Brookings against the University of South Dakota.