Griffons come up short in second playoff appearance

General

Redemption was on the mind of the Griffon football team Saturday as they returned to Bearcat Stadium to take on arch rival Northwest in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.

Western came out of the gates ready to send a message to the third ranked team in the region. The two had met earlier in the regular season on the same field and Northwest easily won 42-0.

The Griffons’ Terrell Downing received the opening kickoff and returned it 28 yards to set the offense up for their first drive of the playoffs. After two running plays and an incomplete pass, the Griffons were forced to punt and to put their defense out on the field against one of the most powerful offenses in Division II football.

Northwest moved the ball on their first possession, but after a couple of penalties, the Bearcats were forced to punt.

Western’s offense took to the field again and had the same result as it looked as if the Bearcat defense would have a repeat of their Oct. 2nd shut out of Western.

After another punt, the defense went back to work against the Bearcat offense and shut them down again.

Some people believe that the third time is the charm, and for Drew Newhart and the rest of the offense, it was.

Newhart caught a break on that same drive when Northwest linebacker Bill Baudler dropped a, would be, interception and gave the Griffons new life. They proceeded to drive 80 yards down the field and would score on a seven yard touchdown pass from Newhart to Adam Clausen to give them a 7-0 lead just 48 seconds into the second quarter.

The defense would hold the Bearcats again on the next possession and Newhart would throw another touchdown pass to Andrew Mead to give the Griffons a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

Brad Beckwith would add a field goal from 28 yards out to put the Griffons up 17-0. Beckwith would attempt a 56 yard field goal with four seconds left in the half but would come up short and the Griffons would go into halftime with a 17-0 lead.

In the half, the Griffons earned 234 yards of total offense to the Bearcats’ 50 yards as Drew Newhart finished the first half with 162 yards passing, completing 10 of 18 passes.

The second half, however, did not start the way the Griffons wanted.

Northwest received the opening kickoff and then would stall on their first possession and would be forced to punt.

However, the Bearcats would fake the punt and snap it to tight end Josh Baker as he would run 46 yards for a touchdown and cut the lead to 17-7.

This proved to be a huge momentum shift in the game as the Bearcats would get the ball back from the Griffons and score another touchdown to cut the lead to three.

“That punt fake really changed everything in the second half,” head coach Jerry Partridge said.

Western’s offense would not give in though. Newhart would connect with Mead on a long third down conversion and then capped off the drive with a 39 yard touchdown pass to Downing to make the lead 24-14 with a little over two minutes to play in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter would be all Northwest as they outscored Western 14-0 in the frame. The Bearcats got a 28-24 lead and the Western defense held Northwest to give their offense one last chance to go for their first playoff win in school history.

“Going into that last drive, we were very confident because we had a two minute drill a couple weeks ago against UNO and we were successful and scored then,” Newhart said.

This two minute drill would not be the same however. Western had the ball on a second and five and were looking as if they would pull of this win. However, Newhart was sacked to make it third and 18 and eventually, the Griffons turned the ball over on downs and the Bearcats were able to run out the clock to continue their season next weekend against Texas A&M Kingsville.

“We did what we needed to do on third down in the first half,” linebacker Deondre Williams said. “In the second half, though, we just couldn’t seem to get off the field on third downs.”

Northwest finished the game 10-17 on third down conversions, going 10-10 in the second half.

“We just didn’t make plays when we needed to in the second half and they were able to and that was the difference in the game,” wide receiver Andrew Mead said.

For 12 seniors, including Mead, Newhart and Williams, this was their last game in a Griffon uniform, but they didn’t go out without a fight.

“We didn’t come up here to earn a moral victory,” Partridge said. “I hate it for these seniors that we couldn’t get the job done and that they have to live with this moral victory.”

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