There are three magic words guaranteed to melt the heart of any man. Every time we hear these magic words it feels like the first time no matter how many times we have heard them before. They make us feel whole again. They make us feel alive. Football is back.
Yes, it is that time of year again. As the leaves start to change colors and temperatures cool down, training camps are winding down and teams are getting ready to hit someone else for a change.
Missouri Western football is set to open their 49th season this fall and is looking to bring a new look roster back to prominence.
Now, in his second season as head coach here at Western, Coach Matt Williamson heads into this season ready to make progress on the groundwork that was laid during his first season at the helm.
Williamson has also brought in a new offensive coordinator Dave Brown to help establish an identity for an offense that has no shortage of playmakers at its disposal.
“With the new OC, he wants to get out there and put points on the board, but also be able to come together as a unit and progress,” senior running back Derek Gray Jr. said.
Despite losing workhorse running back Josh Caldwell, Western is bringing back many key pieces from an offense that ranked second in the conference with just under 217 rushing yards per game a year ago. The team will look for contributions from a strong committee of backs such as senior Gray, sophomore Shamar Griffith and others to make up the ground game.
Quarterback Dom Marino ranked tenth in rushing yards per game and will look to spearhead the Griffon offensive attack as a dual-threat quarterback.
“Our toughness will be our identity this year. As an offense, we believe, even if teams have us on the ropes, we need to throw haymakers of our own and keep fighting,” Marino said.
Defensively, the Griffons are tasked with building off of a 2017 season that saw Western tying for the conference lead with 14 interceptions and finishing tied for second with 31 total sacks. With three prominent playmakers receiving invites to NFL camps (defensive lineman Darrian Bass and defensive backs Jonathon Owens and Donte Watkins, respectively), the Griffons are looking to find some new guys to step up and make plays.
One of the returning players being looked at to play a major role in the defense this year is senior defensive back Brandin Dandridge. A season ago, Dandridge led the team with four interceptions – good for second most in the MIAA – to go along with 41 total tackles. Dandridge will be looking to be a key playmaker for a Griffon defense that will without a doubt be hungry to force turnovers and get the ball in the hands of their offense.
The Griffons will open their 2018 season on Thursday, Aug. 30, as they travel to Maryville to take on Caldwell and the rival Bearcats of Northwest Missouri State. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 P.M.