After making it to the postseason six times in the past seven seasons, Missouri Western hopes to continue their great football tradition in 2010 and has set their goals high.
Head coach Jerry Partridge mentioned that while winning the MIAA and making the playoffs are bigger goals, Western wants to first aim to win on a weekly basis.
“You always set long term goals, but you always have to keep it at more immediate increments, and that is to win every week,” Partridge said. “That’s the way we go about our business. Our goals are to win every week and to win the league.”
Last season, Western finished up 9-3 and was consistently ranked in the top 25 poll throughout the year. The Griffons started off the season 6-0 until they lost to Northwest Missouri, who was ranked second nationally at the time. Western made it to the Mineral Water Bowl and defeated Augustana College 34-21.
The experience the Griffons have at many positions will be one of the most important elements this fall in creating a winning team.
“We have a lot of starters that are seniors and most, if not all, the starters have either started before or have gotten valuable playing time,” senior offensive lineman, Andy Gilmore, said.
The MIAA has always been a challenging conference, and Partridge mentioned the importance of the Griffons being ready to compete every week. One of Western’s biggest challenges will be beating Northwest, a constant dominator of the MIAA.
“We have a very difficult league,” Partridge said. “Every week is a battle. Northwest is definitely a juggernaut that is very difficult to derail.”
“Every year, we want to win the conference,” Partridge said. “I think we’re capable of doing it. We’ve got to beat Northwest Missouri State, and we need somebody else to beat Northwest Missouri State also.”
At the quarterback position, the Griffons will rely on experienced Senior Drew Newhart (Cameron, Mo.) to lead.
“You have a quarterback in Drew Newhart that very capably can become the all time leading passer in the conference’s history,” Partridge said. “And Drew also has a chance to pass Missouri Western’s all time passing leader.”
Last season, Newhart started in all 12 games and completed 62.7 percent of his passes. He threw for 3,034 yards on 217 completions and 31 touchdown passes. Newhart led the MIAA in several categories throughout the season and was named All-MIAA honorable mention. Sophomore Tyron Crockum (Pasadena, Calif.), freshmen Travis Partridge (Savannah, Mo.) and Nick Anderson (Excelsior Springs, Mo.) will be looked upon as strong backup quarterbacks for the Griffons.
Sophomore Mike Hill (St. Joseph) and Senior Thomas Hodges (Raymore, Mo.) will be the key Griffon running backs this season. Hodges rushed for 925 yards last season, completing nine touchdowns. Hodges was also named All-MIAA honorable mention for his efforts in 2009. Hill rushed for 828 yards and completed eight touchdowns. Sophomore Octavius Thomas (Lee’s Summit, Mo.) will be the third man at the running back position.
“Both running backs have played a bunch,” Partridge said. “Hodges has a chance to pass our school’s all time leading rusher.”
Western also has a strong receiving core that comes with a lot of experience. After missing the 2009 season due to injury, Andrew Mead will return to the team in the fall to lead the receivers. Mead led the 2008 squad with 52 catches for 598 yards and four touchdowns and is hoping to improve those numbers for his final season.
“We have a lot of experience in the receiving core with Andrew Mead,” Partridge said. “You want to see those kinds of kids finish up their careers with a big splash.”
Other receivers that Western will look to will be junior Adam Clausen (Kansas City) and Crockum. Clausen finished up the 2009 campaign with 666 yards and eight touchdowns.
Partridge mentioned that in terms of experience, the offensive line probably has the most new players. After losing All-MIAA first team center Nathan Martin last season, Western has a big hole to fill. Junior Andy Gilmore (St. Joseph) will be the one to take Martin’s place and lead the offensive line.
“O-Line-wise, there’s probably a lack of experience in a couple spots – that would be my concern,” Partridge said. “Andy’s an experienced football player, but he’s never played center.”
Western will also look to younger players such as Brian Chiles (Lee’s Summit), Colt Schulte (Bagnell, Mo.), and Macon Allan (King City) to help out.
“Our O-Line is going to be straight, but the overall experience level is not great.” Partridge said. “But, we have some very talented young men that we think are going to be special football players.”
The defensive line and linebackers also comes with many experienced players. Senior Sean Whiters (Kansas City) will lead the way for the Griffons, as All-MIAA selection Whiters finished last season with 68 total tackles and 38 solo stops to go along with 4.5 tackles for a loss. Matt Glades (Galena, Kan.), Tom Madget (St. Joseph), and Shane Simpson (Blue Springs, Mo.) also finished the 2009 campaign strong and will see plenty of action in 2010.
The special teams, tight ends, and secondary will also come back strong for the Griffons in 2010. Senior Brad Beckwith (Cameron, Mo.) is coming off a strong 2009 season, setting the school record with a 53-yard field goal against Washburn and coming through for the Griffons in clutch situations. Several different tight ends will see action this fall, including Kip Peters (Highland, Kan.), David Fowler (Unionville, Mo.), Justin White (St. Louis), Billy Babcock (Stewartsville, Mo.), and Reggie Jordan (Hazelwood, Mo.). The Griffon secondary also has several strong returners, including Nate Bruto (Kansas City), who finished with two interceptions and a fumble return last year. Ian Thompson (Fullerton, Calif.) and Shane Simpson each finished with four interceptions last season, as well. Jeremy Weston (St. Joseph), Ben Jackson (Chino Hills, Calif.), Chris Sandoval, Isaac Collins (Savannah), and Jack Long (Parkville, Mo.) will also battle for spots this fall.
Overall, the experience and depth of all the positions will be
“We just have experience everywhere,” Partridge said. “I wouldn’t say that there’s anything that concerns me overall. We’re strong everywhere. You can’t list something that we’re not going to be strong at.”
Western’s overall strength and talent should help them have another great year in 2010. Partridge mentioned that if the Griffons take things one week at a time, bigger goals such as a beating Northwest, winning the league, and getting a playoff berth will come.
“We expect to compete at the highest level day in and day out,” Senior wide receiver, Andrew Mead, said. “With the combination of talent and experience, this football team possesses the the ability to play in December.”