National Signing Day brings in two signal callers

Coach Partridge signed 21 student athletes for the upcoming 2013 football season. Among these 21 included two star Quarterbacks with nearly identical stats. These two Quarterbacks will be competing for the4 2014 spot of starting Quarterback. Photo by Evan Roberts
Among the 21 student athletes who signed on to play football for Western were two quarterbacks. Two quarterbacks who will be competing against each other in practice for the next year for the most important position on the team, a position that the winner may hold for the next four years. [caption id="attachment_15676" align="alignleft" width="150"]Coach Partridge signed 21 student athletes for the upcoming 2013 football season. Among these 21 included two star Quarterbacks with nearly identical stats. These two Quarterbacks will be competing for the4 2014 spot of starting Quarterback. Coach Partridge signed 21 student athletes for the upcoming 2013 football season. Among these 21 included two star Quarterbacks with nearly identical stats. These two Quarterbacks will be competing for the4 2014 spot of starting Quarterback.[/caption] Skyler Windmiller of Mill Valley High School, Shawnee, Ks. and TJ LaFaver of Warrenton High School, Warrenton, Mo. both announced their intent to play for Western on National Signing Day. Western’s coach Jerry Partridge made it clear that the two future quarterbacks will both redshirt their first season. “We will not kill a year on mop-up duty,” Partridge said. “If they are playing next year it’s because of worst case scenario; injury.” This means after the current quarterback, Travis Partridge, finishes his senior year this season, there will be a quarterback job opening for the following season. By that time the top two candidates, Windmiller and LaFaver will both have four years of playing time to contribute to the team. “We historically have not had transfer quarterbacks,” Partridge said. “We’ve been able to raise our own and build them. In some cases some of them have had gigantic pedigrees, such as Drew Newhart. Some were considered option quarterbacks that couldn’t throw it and ended up being first team all-conference. So we’ve done a good job at picking kids out and developing them into football players.” Windmiller and LaFaver are two of 15 offensive players Western had signed on National Signing Day. LaFaver is one of 13 signees from Missouri, and Windmiller is one of three signees from Kansas. Partridge also made it known that there is no front runner for the position yet. Prior to signing, both Windmiller and LaFaver were aware of Western’s interest in each other. Both of them showed similar value to Western after they finished their high school careers, as well as other schools. Partridge also makes note as to how much self confidence they have in themselves to understand that a similar player will be competing for the same spot that only one can get. “They were actually trained by the same quarterback instructional guy that Drew Newhart was, so they knew about each other,” Partridge said. “That tells you what kind of character they have and what competitive zeal they have to both say ‘look I’m going to be the guy.”’ It was difficult for recruiters to compare and contrast their physical capabilities because of how similar they are. Their sizes are virtually identical, being within one inch of height and five pounds from each another. Their playing styles are very similar, from their long ball throwing strength to their athletic scrambling abilities. Although both are very athletic, running speed was the only category stated that one had an advantage over the other. Not only is LaFaver faster than Windmiller and Travis Partridge, he was faster than any defensive back or wide receiver they had at a combine-like event during his visit, according to Partridge. Windmiller may be slower, but he has the slight advantage when you compare their high school stats. He had 2231 passing yards and 28 passing touchdowns, with 586 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 92 carries his senior season, while LaFaver had 1829 passing yards and 18 touchdowns, with 466 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 91 carries. There is no quarterback controversy as long as Travis Partridge remains healthy this season, but the following season will have a lot of questions. Those questions will bring answers that will likely decide who will be Western's future field leader.

Sports shorts

Defensive end and sack specialist David Bass will play in the annual East-West Shrine Game on Saturday, January 19, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The game will be played at Tropicana Field home of the Tampa Bay Rays and is considered a way to showcase your talent to NFL scouts before the draft. Bass is the second Griffon to play in the game as kicker Greg Zuerlein was invited last year. Western's all-time leading rusher Michael Hill will play in the Raycom College Football All-Star Classic in Montgomery, Ala. on Saturday, January 19.  His team will be coached by ex-NFL head coach Dan Reeves.  The practices are open to the public. Travis Partridge, Michael Hill, Macon Allen, and David Bass were selected to the first team Don Hanson All Super Region 3 team. Ben Pister and Shane Simpson were honored by being selected to the third-team all defense. Griffons baseball held its first practice of the highly anticipated season.  The Griffons start the season with high expectations as Collegiate Baseball Lineup ranked them No. 25 in their preseason poll.

Football team sets new bar for success

Tarrell Downing runs through Bearcat defenders.
The season ended with a 17-10 loss in the Super Region 3 final at Minnesota State-Mankato, but the 2012 Griffon football team will be remembered for its unprecedented success. “We did things that no other Western team has done and nobody can take that away from us,” senior safety Shane Simpson said.  “We had fun and created a lot of good memories.” [caption id="attachment_13529" align="alignleft" width="150"]Travis Partridge running the ball into the end-zone to score against Washburn. The griffons demolished the Icabods in this contest Travis Partridge running the ball into the end-zone to score against Washburn. The griffons demolished the Icabods in this contest[/caption] Western finished at 12-2, the highest win total in school history.  The Griffons made a run in the playoffs for the first time after defeating Minnesota-Duluth 57-55 in triple overtime at Spratt Stadium in the first round.  The team traveled to Arkadelphia, Ark., and dominated the second round with a 45-21 victory over No. 6 Henderson State. The Griffons went 9-1 in the extremely competitive MIAA, including a 21-20 comeback victory over rival Northwest Missouri State in the championship game in Maryville.  Western gained sole possession of the MIAA championship for the first time. Western looked to expose defenses on the ground with a potent rushing attack.  Senior running back Michael Hill led the way, rushing for 2,168 yards and 16 touchdowns.  Hill ranked No. 2 in the nation in rushing yards per game with 154.  Quarterback Travis Partridge rushed for 451 yards and a school record 18 touchdowns on the ground.  Raphael Spencer spelled Hill and added 608 yards and five touchdowns. “Western in my mind will always be home, this is the place and only place that showed interest in my abilities and has helped me grow as a player and a person,” Hill said. “Knowing that I have accomplished a lot while here is an awesome feeling. I’ve worked my tail off, although I couldn’t have gotten all of the awards or accomplishments with out my teammates, it shows hard work pays off.” Partridge showed vast improvement as a passer in his second season as the starting quarterback.  He threw for 2,706 yards and connected with his receivers for 30 touchdowns, while throwing 12 interceptions.  He set a new career-high for passing in the playoff game against Minnesota-Duluth with 319 yards. The Griffons featured a deep core of receivers.  Kyle Knox led the team in receiving with 602 yards and added 2 touchdowns while Tarrell Downing added 508 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Ty’ron Crockom used his speed and elusiveness to gain 465 yards and scored seven touchdowns, often the result of a screen pass or reverse.  Tight end Reggie Jordan proved to be a valuable red zone weapon, scoring 11 touchdowns on the season while gaining 233 yards. The defensive front proved to be a big strength for the Griffons.  Senior defensive ends David Bass and Ben Pister caused mayhem for opposing offenses all season.  Bass led the team in sacks with 11.5 and set the all-time career sack record with 36 while Pister sacked the quarterback eight times with a record 22.5 tackles for loss.  Austin Baska added 11.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Freshman Michael Jordan starred at cornerback with four interceptions while Simpson, Bass, Ben Jackson and Stephen Juergens came away with two each.  Juergens led the team with 95 tackles including 44 solo. The Griffons only allowed teams to gain 383 yards per game while the offense powered its way to 458 yards per game. Kicker Taylor Anderson made a record 80-straight extra point attempts. After a 6-0 start, Western lost to Missouri Southern 31-30 on homecoming and responded to the adversity in a major way.  Western traveled to Pittsburg, Kan., and handed the defending champions their worst home loss in history, a 63-14 blowout.  Western continued to dominate ranked opponents for the next two weeks to secure their spot in the playoffs, beating No. 15 Emporia State 57-28 and No. 25 Washburn 56-28. Western has some big shoes to fill on both sides of the ball next season after graduating 22 seniors.

Double duece sets his sights on the NFL

Western senior running back Michael Hill is one of eight finalists for the highest honor in Division II football, the Harlon Hill Trophy, and has earned a chance to impress the pros this upcoming semester. The Harlon Hill Trophy is given to the best player in D-II. Many consider it to be the Heisman Trophy of this level. Hill’s historic season at Western has been enough to catch the attention of other schools and coaches of all levels around the country. He continued to produce game changing stats week after week all season, earning himself the honor of being mentioned as one of the top athletes. “Being a finalist means a lot to me just because all of the work that I have put in is presenting itself,” Hill said. “Not only that, but I am representing the entire football team because they are a part of this as well.” The Harlon Hill Trophy was first awarded in 1986 and has been an annual award ever since. Although there have only been three award recipients who have been drafted, there have been winners of the honor who has been signed as a free agent in the NFL -- such as the two-time winner of the award Danny Woodhead out of Chadron State, who currently plays for the New England Patriots. That will be one possibility for Hill as he moves forward. The NFL is always looking to find talent wherever it can get it. With a team as talented as Western, NFL scouts have been eying what players Western has who could possibly make an impact at the next level. “Teams have been around practice to check David Bass out and that helps me having a high caliber guy like that around to help me get my foot in the door,” Hill said. Hill will take part in a pro day sometime this March. He will be dedicating a lot of his time training this winter to make sure his impression this spring will be as good as he can make it. “These next few months will be a piece of the process to determine if I will get a shot or not in my opinion,” Hill said. Hill represents Super Region 3 for the Harlon Hill Trophy, alongside the sophomore quarterback Kevin Rodgers out of Henderson State, whom Western beat out of the playoffs. Super Region 1 is represented by junior running back Franklyn Quiteh of Bloomsburg University and junior quarterback Zach Zulli out of Shippensburg University. Representing Super Region 2 is the lone wide receiver of the group, Chris Bowden from Wingate University and senior running back Derrick Washington out of Tuskegee University. Super Region 4 is being represented by senior quarterback Taylor Housewright out of Ashland University and junior quarterback Dustin Vaughan from West Texas A&M. The list of the remaining candidates is according to the official listing of the Harlon Hill Trophy finalists on Hill racked up 2,168 rushing yards, 16 rushing touchdowns, 202 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns in 14 games this season. Hill has made his mark at Western with 4,969 total rushing yards, 35 rushing touchdowns, 882 receiving yards and nine total receiving touchdowns in 50 games here at Western. Time will tell if Hill gets a chance to represent the St. Joseph community in the pros.

Griffon football set to take on top-seeded Mavericks

No.3 Missouri Western is set to face off against no.1 Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday on the road in the Division II Quarterfinals.

Western is coming off Saturday’s fresh road victory over Henderson State. The game became the first road playoff victory for the Griffons and helped send them to Minnesota to play against the top-seeded Mavericks.

The Griffons are 8th in Division II in rushing offense, scoring 43 rushing touchdowns and collecting over 3,600 rushing yards. Michael Hill places second among fellow rushers averaging 172.08 yards per game to go with his 16 rushing touchdowns on the season. As a finalist for the 2012 Harlon Hill Award, Hill and Western are going to test Mankato’s defense.

In Division II, the Mavericks rank sixth in rushing defense. They’ve only allowed 12 rushing touchdowns on the season and give up just over 83 rushing yards per game. The surprising stat is that Mankato’s opponents only average 2.63 yards per carry.

Western doesn’t hold a high spot in rushing defense, but it has solid stats that will help it against Mankato. Overall, the Griffons only allow 154.77 rushing yards per game on 4.37 yards per carry.

The Mavericks are just a few spots behind Western, ranking 17th in rushing offense. With just under 2,800 rushing yards and 35 rushing touchdowns, Mankato’s offense will suffer slightly due to their lack of an outstanding rusher.

Overall, Western’s scoring offense ranks 14 spots ahead of Mankato’s. The Griffons have collected 572 points to the Mavericks’ 454. However, Mankato outranks Western in scoring defense by 30 spots. They allow just over 17 points per game, while the Griffon give up almost 23.

Whoever wins this game will be playing in the Semifinals against the winner of the Valdosta State and Carson-Newman's game.

The Griffons quarterfinal game is set for this Saturday, Dec. 1. Kickoff will be at noon in Blakeslee Stadium.