It's hard to know how you'll feel after your final game when so many don't know it's their final game until it's over.

For Tarleton State seniors Jake Fenske, Arthur Buckingham, Matt Knicky, Blair Johnson and Jerell Jones, the plan is to make sure the last scheduled game of their college careers ends in positive fashion.

What happens next - there are whispers on campus of bowl possibilities - will take care of itself, they say.

Tarleton hosts Angelo State at 7 p.m. Saturday on Military Appreciation Day at Tarleton Memorial Stadium. It is also senior day.

"I don't want it to end and hopefully it won't," said Jones, an offensive lineman from Everman. "I've been playing football since I was little and I want to keep it going. I'm looking forward to the game, the special jerseys (for Military Appreciation Day); it'll be fun. But I'm not looking forward to the end."

Whenever that comes, it will be the end of an era for the five seniors who have been with Tarleton throughout their careers since high school. They were part of a Lone Star Conference championship and run to the second round of the NCAA Division II Championship in 2009, then saw head coach Sam McElroy depart for an assistant's job at Texas Tech - he's now the head coach at 5A Garland Naaman Forest High School.

They saw Cary Fowler be promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach and watched as he basically hit the reset button on the program. Many players left the Texans as Fowler began recruiting more four and five-year players out of high school, and the first year was an uphill battle. It ended in a 3-8 mark, and year two began with Tarleton dropping five of its first six games.

But since that time, the Texans are 12-4. They won their final five games last year and are 5-4 this season after last Saturday's landmark road victory at North Alabama.

"Those are five of my most favorite young men on this earth," Fowler said. "They were here when we were on top in 2009, then we started over and they saw a lot of their best friends move on. But they stuck it out with me and have helped to build this young team so that they know when they walk out of here that their football program is on solid ground. They have sacrificed so much for this program, and I am forever appreciative of them."

And the group couldn't be more tight-knit.

"This group right here is so tight," said Knicky, a linebacker from Cedar Park. "We've seen so many guys come and go, but we've stuck it out through thick and thin. We've just been through so much together."

Blair Johnson had to make the biggest on-field transition of the group. Fowler once wasn't sure if he'd be a quarterback or a defensive back.

"When he took me in I came as a quarterback," said the safety from Dallas. "I guess once I was here he saw me as a defensive player, and the transition was fun. I went over there (to defense) and had a lot of fun with it and have no regrets.

"I've had a great time here," Johnson continued. "I cant wait to see what this program has in store for the future."

And they all believe that future is bright.

"I've been telling the young guys all year I might be more excited to come back next year and watch them and see what we've created here," said Buckingham, a wide receiver from Pilot Point. "It's exciting to think about where this program can go with Coach Fowler and the young guys and what we've tried to instill in them. They're going to be great."

Knicky believes last week's win in Florence, Ala. at Braly Municipal Stadium - the annual site of the Division II championship game - was just what the team needed, especially the youth they will leave behind.

"It's definitely something that should springboard this program forward. I mean, you have to rank that right up there with a lot of the good conference wins and even the playoff win we had. The magnitude was the same," said Knicky. "It's notable any time you beat North Alabama because that's an established program that's been all the way to the top."

Jake Fenske was a surprising hero at North Alabama and at Incarnate Word the week before. The fifth-year senior had never made a career start when junior quarterback Aaron Doyle stayed on the turf after being sacked by Texas A&M-Kingsville on homecoming night, Oct. 20.

In came Fenske, completing 21of 35 passes for 234 yards the rest of the way, and following it up with a 26-38 performance for 280 yards and five touchdowns - plus another rushing - at Incarnate Word in the first start of his career. He tossed two touchdowns at North Alabama - including hitting Buckingham for the 22-yard game winner with 1:23 left - and finished 31-41 for 311 yards.

"It just goes to show you never know when your time will come, so you have to buy into the program and be ready," Fenske said. "Just because you're not putting up big numbers or big stats doesn't mean you're not contributing. Even when I wasn't a big playmaker in the past, I felt like I was contributing to the team in my role."

I could probably write a book on all my memories of the last five years," Fenske continued. When you leave high school, you think those are going to be your best friends the rest of your life, but this is more of a brotherhood and such a family to the point I know if we bump into each other 10 years from now we'll start talking about football right away. I have so many memories; been through so much."

That sentiment, obviously was shared by all the seniors, and all are hoping a win Saturday leads to one final contest, this time one they know would be their last.

They know it's a task easier said than done.

"(Angelo) is a solid team," said Knicky. "We don't really know whose going to play quarterback (starter Blake Hamblin is injured and out), but they're solid. They run the ball well with about four running backs who can all just get it, and they have really good receivers. It will be a challenge; we just have to play Tarleton football."

Jones showed similar respect to the ASU defense.

"They have a solid 'D' line with a lot of strength and and they have a lot of speed," Jones said.

A victory, and the chance for one more game together just may come true.

"When you're a senior, getting one more game together is like getting to the Super Bowl," Fenske said.