A bus ride of three hours and 15 minutes to Iowa today shouldn't faze the Carmel football team.
Depending on traffic and weather, after-school bus rides to East Suburban Catholic Conference rivals such as Joliet Catholic or Marist, which is on the far south side of Chicago, can be almost as long.
"It's taken us three hours to get to Marist before, and it pretty much always takes two hours to get to Joliet," Carmel coach Andy Bitto said. "We're used to long bus rides."
The Corsairs are also getting used to out-of-state opponents.
Last year, to fill up a Week 9 bye in its schedule, Carmel trekked hundreds of miles to the east to Ohio to play a team from Cincinnati.
"It's hard to find opponents that can play (a nonconference game outside of the first two weeks of the season)," Bitto said. "Plus, not a lot of teams want to play us. So, we have to search around all over the place."
Now, the Corsairs are heading westward to take on a team from Plymouth, Minnesota, which is located just outside Minneapolis.
Players and coaches from perennial powerhouse Wayzata High School will meet up with the Corsairs at the University of Dubuque, a neutral site that is close to being halfway between both campuses.
"It would have taken us 7½ hours to get up to the Twin Cities," Bitto said. "That would have been a long trip.
"We were looking for neutral sites in Wisconsin, like in Madison and Lacrosse, but nothing worked out. Then the Dubuque coach walked into my office one day last spring."
The Dubuque coach was at Carmel recruiting and started telling Bitto all about the school's new football facility. When Bitto asked if Dubuque would like to host a game between two high school football heavyweights, the coach jumped at the chance to showcase his stadium to potential recruits.
According to one recent study, Carmel, which won a state title in 2003 and advanced to the state semifinals in 2007 and the quarterfinals last year, ranks in the top 9 percent nationally for producing college football players. And Wayzata is a hotbed of talent having won three state titles since 2005, including the 2010 championship.
"It's going to be a great game between two really good teams in a really nice facility," Bitto said. "We're even going to have state-championship referees from Iowa. This is going to be like a playoff atmosphere."
The Corsairs won't be spending the night like they did last year in Cincinnati, but they'll still have time for some valuable team-building activities.
"We're actually going to have a walk-thru at Loras College, which is like two miles away from Dubuque," Bitto said. "We're going to get a tour of the facilities there, too. We'll then have chapel there and we'll eat there. We'll play, then we'll go home.
"If this was a longer trip, I'd be fine with staying the night because things went so well last year when we went to Cincinnati. The kids handled it like pros. It made it easier to feel good about scheduling another long trip like this."