Western wins 57-55 in 3 OT playoff thriller

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Missouri Western football advanced in the playoffs after stopping Minnesota-Duluth’s 2-point conversion attempt to win 57-55 in  triple-overtime at Spratt Stadium. The win marked the first time the Griffons have won a playoff game.

“We were so close to sitting here crying and asking why and now we get to play again,” said Coach Jerry Partridge. “I’m just so proud of what we have done the last two weeks with the pressure when games could go either way against great teams.”

Quarterback Travis Partridge led the Griffons with seven total touchdowns. He threw for 319 yards and 3 touchdowns while running for 24 yards and 4 touchdowns and connected with Reggie Jordan for the game-winning 2-point conversion.

“We’ve been in close games and there’s no panic at all,” Partridge said. “It’s just ‘OK we have to do our jobs’. It’s been crunch time for about four weeks now.”

Mike Hill ran for 194 yards and a touchdown and Tarrell Downing had a break-out game catching the ball for the second straight week. Although he wasn’t one of the Griffons wideouts that got into the endzone, Downing hauled in six catches for 144 yards including some clutch catches in crunch time.

“The wide receivers just try to make plays when our numbers have been called and that’s what we’ve done,” Downing said. “With our depth at receiver it’s pick your poison.”

Duluth quarterback Chase Vogler threw an interception to Marc Harrison on the first play of the game. The Griffon offense capitalized on the turnover when quarterback Travis Partridge connected with Tyron Crockom for a 21-yard touchdown to make the score 7-0.

The Griffon defense allowed Duluth to move the ball down the field, but forced them to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Andrew Brees to make the score 7-3. The Griffons marched down field and Partridge found tight end Reggie Jordan for a spectacular catch in the corner of the endzone to make the score 14-3 Griffons. Duluth added another field goal to make it 14-6.

As it appeared that the Griffons would score again, Partridge threw an interception in the endzone. Duluth got their running game going and Vogler and Austin Sikorski both ran in touchdowns. The Griffons went into halftime trailing 20-14.

“They got momentum going but the next couple of drives, we came out,” Hill said. “After that interception, we came out and got the ball and from then out it was just a stalemate battle between both teams.”

Western came out and took a 21-20 lead after Partridge connected with Kyle Knox from 18-yards out for his third passing touchdown of the day. Duluth’s offense responded with a long drive and a 1-yard touchdown run by Vogler and a successful 2-point conversion to take a 28-21 lead.

Western’s offense did the same thing and Partridge ran in a 9-yard touchdown to tie the game. Duluth scored on a 1-yard run from Sikorski to take a 35-28 lead. The Griffon offense responded with a long drive and a 1-yard touchdown run from Partridge. The defense held tough and the game went to overtime.

Neither team would give an inch as Michael Hill started off the scoring in overtime with a 7-yard touchdown run. Duluth responded two straight Sikorski rushing touchdowns and the Griffons answered with a 1-yard touchdown plunge from Partridge to make the score 49-49 after two overtimes.

In the third overtime, it’s a rule that each team must attempt 2-point conversions after scoring a touchdown. The Griffons scored with another 1-yard dive from Partridge and connected with Reggie Jordan for a successful 2-point conversion to give the Griffons 57-49 lead.

Duluth responded with Sikorski’s fifth rushing touchdown of the afternoon, but could not convert the 2-point conversion after Vogler tripped on a designed bootleg play.

“I don’t think we even had a chance to get fatigued because the game was on the line,” defensive end David Bass said. “For the most part, I think we just wanted to have the best players on the field. Everyone was able to put aside their tiredness to get the job done.”

The Griffons defense gave up 408 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

“So many times on pass plays, I don’t know if they had the intention of throwing, he just scrambled around,” coach Partridge said. “That kid was one of the very best quarterbacks I have ever coached against, that’s why he won a national title a couple years ago.”

Partridge will continue on the quest to try and win his first national championship, taking on No. 2 seed Henderson State in the second round in Arkadelphia, Ark. on Saturday, Nov. 24.

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