A huge crowd, two top 25 teams, playoff implications and a fierce rivalry make Saturday’s football game at Spratt Stadium big time as Missouri Western takes on Northwest Missouri State.
“It is our hated rival, and we are always amped up for this game,” safety Jack Long said. “It’s going to be an intense game, no matter what, every year.”
Northwest (8-1) is the No. 3 ranked team in the American Football Coaches Association top 25 and the No. 3 ranked team in the region. Western (7-2) is ranked No. 25 in the AFCA top 25 and No.7 in the region. Only the top six teams in the region will get into the playoffs.
“We realize it’s a contending football team and a team that’s in front of us, and we want to win the game,” Coach Jerry Partridge said. “Our playoff hopes are affected by it, but I don’t think they necessarily hinge on it. Certainly a win helps our chances and a loss hurts.”
Breaking either team’s stadium attendance record is nothing out of the ordinary for the annual game between the Griffons and the Bearcats. The game set the record for attendance at Northwest last year with a crowd of 10,800. In 2009 a crowd of 10,129 showed up Spratt Stadium and set the attendance record, which was broke by the Chiefs training camp with 10,727.
“Our fans sometimes need to create the excitement for us too,” Partridge said. “I want our student section to get here and get wild and crazy and do whatever they can to motivate our players and have a good time.”
This year’s contest between the two teams have the potential to see the Spratt Stadium attendance record broken again. Safety Shane Simpson can picture fans rushing the field following a big victory.
“The home crowd is always going to be good,” safety Shane Simpson said. “We feed off energy from the crowd a lot and we are at Spratt, so it’s going to be a perfect set up for whatever is going to happen.”
Northwest holds a 20-10 all-time advantage in the series, including beating the Griffons two times last season. The second game between the schools last year ended the Griffons’ season as Northwest edged Western 28-24 in the playoffs. The two schools are less than 40 minutes apart and are bitter rivals, competing for state funds off the field and regional supremacy on the field.
“Sometimes we put too much into it, to be honest with you, the community and the school does, which creates extra pressure on the kids,” Partridge said. “I think the kids want to win the game because it’s the next game for them.”
Partridge is more concerned with stopping a potent Northwest offense that averages 56 points and 560 yards per game.
“That’s the biggest concern to me,” Partridge said. “Can we stop them? No. But I hope we can slow them down enough to score more points than they do.”
“We just don’t want to give up the big plays,” Simpson said. “If we can just stay over the top and not let anything over the top of us, it will be a close game.”
Saturday is the last regular season home game for the Griffons, which means it’s senior night for Long, Adam Clausen, Isaac Collins, Greg Zuerlein, Nic Burrell, Jake Buckwalter, Kip Peters, Cody Kremer, Thomas Madget, David Fowler, Oliver Pryor, Jesse Engelken and Matt Speaks.
The game will be televised live by the MIAA television network and starts at 2 p.m.