No. 11 Missouri Western overcame a 20-7 lead in the fourth quarter to defeat rival No. 4 Northwest Missouri State 21-20 in Maryville to win sole possession of the MIAA championship for the first time in school history.
“This is why we signed here, for this exact game, this scenario” said defensive end Ben Pister, who came away with four tackles and a sack on a crucial down in the fourth quarter. “This outcome is amazing. I feel invincible. After what we did today, this is our year.”
The Griffons offense struggled to get anything going in the first half with two punts, an interception thrown by quarterback Travis Partridge and a missed field goal attempt into harsh wind.
Northwest capitalized on the turnover as quarterback Trevor Adams connected with Tyler Shaw to put the Bearcats on the board up 7-0 in the second quarter. Jordan Simmons ran the ball into the endzone from two yards out for a touchdown after a long drive and Todd Adolf hit a 22-yard field goal to give Northwest a 17-0 lead at halftime.
“We just regrouped in the locker room,” Pister said. “We had a lot of pregame jitters and emotion. We had to get rid of it. We had a lot of anger toward this team and we just had to relax and play our game.”
The Griffons came out and gained momentum in the second half as Partridge connected with Tyron Crockom for a 19-yard touchdown to put the Griffons on the scoreboard 17-7.
“There was never a doubt that we were going to make a run,” Partridge said. “In that locker room there was no panic. Everybody was looking in each others’ eyes knowing that we can do this. We had to calm down and play our brand of football and we did that.”
Northwest was able to drive the ball down the field again, but the Griffons defense stood tall forcing them to a field goal, which made the score 20-7 with just over seven minutes to play.
Partridge connected with Tarrell Downing over the middle for a 38-yard touchdown that put the Griffons back in the game. After Taylor Anderson made the extra point, the score was 20-14.
“I was thinking after I caught the ball that it has to be a touchdown. I have to get into the endzone,” Downing said. “This win has been four years in the making really and it feels great.”
The Griffon defense forced a punt on the Bearcats next possession, which gave them a chance to win the game.
Partridge got the ball back with just over three minutes to play and moved it right up the field with a series of short plays until running back Michael Hill busted off a 13-yard run to get it down to the Bearcats two yard line. Partridge then ran it in the endzone for the two yard score. Anderson knocked in the extra point which put the Griffons on top 21-20.
“I couldn’t have done it alone,” Partridge said. “The offensive line was battling and it was a total team effort. If there’s ever a total team effort, today was it.”
Northwest had one final chance with around a minute left, but turned the ball over on downs. Partridge took a knee and the Griffons fans stormed onto Bearcat Field.
Partridge finished 19-for-26 passing with two touchdowns and gained 31 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Hill gained 121 yards on 19 carries and caught one pass for six yards.
The Griffons improved to 10-1 on the season, a new school record for wins.
This victory sealed up a home playoff game for Western. The Griffons will find out who they play tomorrow at 4 p.m. at the watch party in the Fulkerson Center.
“It’s a special thing to host a playoff game and everyone in this program deserves one,” Partridge said. “These fans deserve one. It’s big for the program and big for the city.”