More than a thousand fans lined the streets Wednesday afternoon as a procession of 20 county, city and University police vehicles escorted the Sam Houston football team's four buses through downtown Huntsville on their way to the NCAA National Championship game.

When police stopped cars at traffic intersections to allow the buses to pass, Huntsville citizens jumped out of their vehicles to wave and wish the Bearkats success. Area businesses along the route also lined the street.

"It was a really neat send-off by the city of Huntsville and I know City Councilman James Fitch had a lot to do with that," Sam Houston head coach Willie Fritz said Wednesday night. "We appreciate the show of support with all of the different law enforcement personnel and all of the fans and boosters and all of the people that work at Sam Houston."

After a three-hour trip north, the Bearkats also were greeted with a warm reception at their hotel by Frisco city officials including the mayor and NCAA Division I Championship Finals dignitaries headed by Southland Conference Commissioner Tom Burnett.

The team definitely was excited with Wednesday after arriving in town to warm welcomes.

"For me and my brother, this is just like going back home," said Bearkats linebacker Darius Taylor, who grew up in nearby Mesquite. "It feels good to be here and it feels good to be back home.

"We've been waiting and we've all been ready to leave. The mood on the bus was pretty chilled and relaxed. Now that we're here, we're going to enjoy our time over the next few days and continue preparing and be ready come Saturday."

The head coach also appreciated the welcome for his 14-0 football team

"Coming in here tonight, it made us all feel special, having the Team Frisco party here waiting for us," Fritz said. "This is a first class event and we're excited to be a part of it."

Both team's head coaches would prefer to stick to the routines that helped get their respective squads get to the national championship game, especially as the day of the game draws closer, but they acknowledge the players will have plenty of activities through the next two days to keep them busy.

"We need to keep distractions away from us, although there's responsibilities that we have - not only responsibilities but there's really great events," North Dakota State head coach Craig Bohl said.

"One of the ones I'm looking forward to the most is going to the elementary school and talk about the value of education, which is so important, but there's also barbecue and a lot of other neat things for our players, coaches and families."

"Our guys have done a good job of focusing when it's time to focus in," Fritz added. "The main part is having good meetings and practices, more so than anything else. We have a pretty mature ballclub. These guys have done a good of focusing all season. It's getting closer. There's still quite a ways away. We still have a lot of preparation left to do."

Sam Houston and North Dakota State meet in the NCAA Division I national championship game at 12 noon on Saturday, Jan. 7. The game will be televised by ESPN2.