Missouri Western football wrapped up its spring camp with the annual spring scrimmage on Saturday at Spratt Stadium and has plenty to look forward to in the fall.
“The theme for our spring parallels what our program has been, just a gradual improvement,” coach Jerry Partridge said. “There’s not any spot on our team or any group or individual that didn’t improve.”
The game didn’t offer any live hitting by the defense. That might not be the format that the fans want to see, but coach Partridge is glad that the Griffons made it though the camp without suffering any serious injuries.
“Certainly we have a a team with enough experience that we don’t need to prove anything in the spring,” coach Partridge said. “Michael Hill doesn’t need to be tackled until August 30. I just think you don’t want to lose players at practice.”
Even if the defense was allowed to tackle running back Hill, it’s not clear if they would’ve been able to. Hill broke off a 50-yard run that led to a touchdown and a 40-yard run in for the score.
Hill will be a major part of the Griffons’ plan on offense again this season after rushing for 1384 yards with a 4.9 yards-per-carry average and scoring eight touchdowns on the ground. He showed his versatility out of the backfield by gaining 257 receiving yards including four touchdown catches.
Dual-threat quarterback Travis Partridge will look to build on a successful first season as a starter and has plenty of weapons to work with on the outside as well as tight end Reggie Jordan.
“I think it’s going to be exciting to watch Reggie play,” Partridge said. “I think he’s an all-conference caliber tight-end that you are going to see utilized more often this season.”
Cornerback Jeremy Weston intercepted Partridge in the scrimmage and makes up part of a talented secondary along with Ben Jackson and safety Shane Simpson.
“I don’t know if there’s a better combo of corners in the league, and we are really excited about all those guys on the back end,” defensive coordinator Regi Trotter said.
The defensive line includes pass rushers Ben Pister, Austin Baska and David Bass, who combined for 29 sacks last season.
“It’s good any time you can put pressure on the other team’s quarterback,” Trotter said. “When that 19-, 20- or 21-year-old young man has to think about getting hit, and he’s not used to it.”
The Griffons return most of the starters on both sides of the ball from a 9-3 team that hosted a home playoff game last season.
“We are very deep right now, and this is probably the deepest team I’ve been around since I’ve been back here,” Trotter said. “We’ve had a lot of good football players in the past, but as many good players as we have on the team right now is definitely an advantage.”
The Griffons were beaten badly by eventual national champion Pittsburg State in their first game last season, and coach Partridge has his focus on avoiding a similar start in the fall against Central Missouri.
“We have to be ready, and it’s going to be difficult,” coach Partridge said. “They are interested in throwing about 60 percent of the time, and we hope that trend continues because that’s what we are preparing for.”
Another reason the Griffons must win coming out of the gate is because of the strength of schedule at the end of the season. The last four games will be against Pitt State, Emporia State, Washburn and Northwest Missouri State.
“The schedule closes with a fury, so we have to be ready from the start,” coach Partridge said. “It’s good to have this kind of football team back. It’s good to have that kind of confidence and knowledge of what to expect out of a team more so than last year.”