MARYVILLE, Mo. – Northwest Missouri State’s championship pedigree took over when the Bearcats needed it most.
The Bearcats trailed by three points against Central Missouri with 7:09 left in the game on a beautifulSaturday evening that had the rumblings of an ugly night.
Sophomore quarterback Brady Bolles and defensive lineman Brandon Yost made sure everything about the Bearcats and the evening stayed perfect.
Bolles orchestrated an 11-play, 67-yard drive that culminated with a battering nine yard touchdown run by Bolles that gave Northwest a four-point lead.
The Mules still had a chance. Central quarterback Hayden Hawk had already tossed three touchdowns. He had 2:51 left to operate.
Yost put an end to that when he intercepted a pass off a ricochet with a little over a minute left, preserving Northwest’s thrilling 28-24 victory in front of 7,404 fans at Bearcat Stadium.
“I was in such shock that I actually caught the ball,” Yost said. “Our mindset was three and out. We could not allow them to get a first down.
“This game has been highlighted on our schedule since we lost last year. It is anamazing feeling to win this game.”
With the win, Northwest improved to 2-0 and 1-0 in the MIAA.
“I was proud of our effort and the way our kids kept their composure,” Northwest coach Adam Dorrel said. “Tough games like that, we didn’t make a lot of mistakes down the stretch. That is a sign of a mature football team. Nobodypanicked.”
Just as important, the Bearcats proved they are in this together regardless of the adversity that hits them during the game.
Bolles proved that with his postgame comments, crediting the defense and special teams for the victory and adding that the encouragement that senior starting quarterback Trevor Adams gave him and the entire offensive unit meant a lot.
“We had to score, but our defense and special teams won us that game today,” said Bolles, who completed 17 of 23 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown and rushed 19 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns. “They played their butts off all game. They were giving their all the whole game, and we just wanted to return the favor.
“He (Adams) is incredible. He is our senior captain. He is our leader. His attitude tonight was just incredible. For me to come off the sideline and for him tosay, ‘keep playing the game. It’s football, have fun.’
“He was encouraging me and that goes far with me to know he was behind me and behind the coaches no matter what they decide. His attitude was incredible. He is going to have a great game next week.”
Page 2 of 3 - It took togetherness to pull this one out. Although Bolles capped the drive with a touchdown run, Billy Creason and Robert Burton had key runs to keep the chains moving.
“Basically, we were looking to gain 10 yards at a time,” said Creason, who finished with 66 yards in 10 carries. “We made sure we executed, not trying to be perfect, but making sure we were getting positive yards.
“We knew it was going to be a fight. This just shows the kind of team we are and the capabilities we have as a team. We pull together and grew a bond at the end and showed that we could pull out of a hole.”
The Bearcats might not have been in position for a game-winning drive if it were not for the special teams.
Northwest trailed the entire first half and much of the third quarter when redshirt freshman Jacob Vollstedt blocked a punt and Dylan Chadwick scooped it up and raced 25 yards for a touchdown that gave the Bearcats their first lead at 21-17 with2:05 left in the third quarter.
“Coach Ken Gordon puts us in great position every week,” Vollstedt said. “I think he spends more hours in a day on special than I will ever know. I wasn’t supposed to be the one to block it. It was set up for the other side. He has it so detailed he knew exactly what they were going to do and when they were going to do it.
“He said they were going to motion right so I drifted right and came off the edge. I got lucky. Anybody could have blocked it. I just happened to have the one.”
Central, though, was determined. The Mules didn’t want to drop to 0-2 on the season. They quickly responded with a seven-play, 76-yard drive to recapture the lead at 24-21 with 14:15 left in the game.
Northwest defense played strong the rest of the way, allowing the offense to eventually push across the winning points.
A bleak first quarter for Northwest eventually turned for the better even though the Bearcats went into halftime trailing 17-14.
It could have been much worse.
Central jumped to a 17-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game. Touchdown passes of 33 yards and 55 yards by Hawk put the Bearcats in a big hole.
With Adams struggling, Northwest turned to Bolles, who engineered a seven-play, 75 yard touchdown drive that Bolles finished with a five-yard scoring run. Adams showed his character by pumping up his teammates on the sidelines. It’s a lesson that any athlete should learn about putting the team first.
“Trevor is a great leader,” Creason said. “It doesn’t matter if he is in the game or not, we can lean on Trevor. He is going to be there to give us some good words of wisdom.”
Page 3 of 3 - The Bearcats defense toughened up in the second quarter, preventing Central from any serious scoring threats.
Northwest offense started sputtering again until late in the second quarter. The Bearcats started on their own eight with 6:33 left before halftime.
Bolles did a great job mixing the pass with the run. Northwest methodically marched down field and eventually scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Bolles to Korey Jackson with 1:09 remaining in the first half.
The key statistic matched the closeness of the game. The Mules ran 35 plays and gained 198 total yards. Northwest had 36 offensive plays for 192 yards.