Washburn spoils Western’s homecoming

Western quarterback T.J. LaFaver is surrounded by Washburn's defense during Western's 21-7 loss Saturday in Spratt Stadium. Zack Papenberg | Photo Editor
[caption id="attachment_25733" align="alignnone" width="300"]Western quarterback T.J. LaFaver is surrounded by Washburn's defense during Western's 21-7 loss Saturday in Spratt Stadium. Zack Papenberg | Photo Editor Western quarterback T.J. LaFaver is surrounded by Washburn's defense during Western's 21-7 loss Saturday in Spratt Stadium. Zack Papenberg | Photo Editor[/caption] Washburn defeated Missouri Western 21-7 on Saturday at Homecoming at Spratt Stadium. Over 5,000 fans were in attendance for the 2 p.m. kickoff when the Kansas City Royals were getting ready to begin Game 2 of the American League Championship Series 3 p.m. and for much of the afternoon those fans seemed more entertained looking at their phones for baseball updates. The Griffon offense hardly gave the home crowd anything to cheer for. “Just a really disappointing afternoon at Spratt Stadium,” said coach Jerry Partridge. They only managed 245 yards of total offense for the game and only 74 of that came through the air. Quarterback T.J. LaFaver, who had given the offense a spark in his two starts this season with his ability to run and his tendency to deliver the big play, had a very shaky outing. The sophomore, who has been pressed into action with the injury to Skyler Windmiller’s thumb, threw three interceptions while only completing 10 of his 23 passes for 74 yards. LaFaver did not receive much help from his offensive line, however, and the team was lucky he was only sacked twice as he used his legs to elude pressure several times. Star tailback Raphael Spencer also had difficulty finding space during Saturday’s game. He was limited to 73 yards on 17 carries. A pair of fumbles, one of which he lost, seemed to limit the workload Spencer received in the game. The only touchdown the Griffons mustered was on a four-yard misdirection pass from LaFaver to Alek Ferbet in the third quarter, but that drive was made possible by an 84-yard kickoff return by Dijuan Ussery to set the offense up in terrific field position. “We only had one drive,” Partridge said. “And that was set up from a kickoff return that we ended up scoring points on.” Other than that the offense failed to finish a drive all game and lost the time of possession battle by over seven minutes. This eventually wore down the defense which, despite only giving up 14 points to the Washburn offense, was noticeably worn down by the end of the game. “Offense had chances throughout the football game,” Partridge said. “We got to make some plays, but we didn’t make them.” “We as a defense come out to play our best no matter what the scenario is, we have to come out and get a stop and we didn’t today,” senior linebacker Yomi Alli said after the game. This trend will need to end soon, as the Griffons face MIAA leaders Emporia State and Northwest Missouri State the next two weeks. “We need to play our game,” Alli said. “We need to focus in, do all the little things right and play our game.” It is a quick turnaround before the Griffons as they travel to Emporia next Saturday. “We got to put this one behind us,” senior cornerback Mike Jordan said. “Its going to suck (Saturday) night and (Sunday). We going to watch film and get it cleaned up. We got to focus on Emporia now cause if we not they are going to slaughter us. We got to come out with that top-tier focus.”

2015 Hall of Fame class has left its mark on current teams

Griffons Nicole Lindsey-Collier, Eric Walker and Amy Beverly are inducted into Hall of Fame. Zack Papenberg | Photo Editor
[caption id="attachment_25615" align="alignnone" width="300"]Griffons Nicole Lindsey-Collier, Eric Walker and Amy Beverly are inducted into Hall of Fame. Zack Papenberg | Photo Editor Griffons Nicole Lindsey-Collier, Eric Walker and Amy Beverly are inducted into Hall of Fame. Zack Papenberg | Photo Editor[/caption] Missouri Western has inducted three more former student-athletes into their Hall of Fame. Amy Beverly, Nicole Lindsey-Collier and Eric “Ebo” Walker make up the 2015 class. They were inducted on Friday evening, before receiving their Hall of Fame rings at halftime of the Western’s 26-21 win over Fort Hays State. Eric “Ebo” Walker, Football (1999-2002) Walker anchored the Griffon defense early in the Jerry Partridge era of Missouri Western football. After a pair of 5-6 seasons to begin the Partridge era, Walker’s 1999 squad went 7-4 and began a run of Griffon success that resulted in only one losing season in the next 16 season. The linebacker’s personal accomplishments include leading the team in tackles each of his final three season’s in the black and gold. His career tackles record of 416 still stands as a Griffon record. “It takes a lot to make that many tackles,” Walker said. “It was something I was striving for from the time I came in.” It is not his tackling ability that left the biggest mark on the program according to Partridge though. “I give Ebo a lot of credit for ‘The Griffon Way,’ of doing things for football.” Partridge said. “Ebo was one of the very first leaders we had.” According to Partridge, Walker’s attitude and leadership were what made him a Hall of Famer. “He had that great tempo and attitude. He didn’t look like much, wasn’t very fast or very strong,” Partridge said. “One year, we had Griffon Olympics, where we did all the testing for broad jump and vertical, I think Ebo came out 79th out of 85 or something like that. He was that bad of an athlete, but he was just so smart and physical and such a good leader. He exemplified what we wanted out of our program.” Amy Beverly, Softball (2003-2006) As much as Walker was a model for the ‘Griffon Way’ in football. Amy Beverly was that figure for Jen Bagley-Trotter’s softball program. “It means the world to me,” Beverly said on her Hall of Fame selection. “Missouri Western changed my life for the better and I am very honored.” The Ankeny, Iowa native joined the squad in Bagley-Trotter’s second season at the helm of the program. Together they quickly turned the program into the constant winner that it still is today. “She took a gamble on me,” Beverly said. “Her first year there, she saw someone wearing a t-shirt that had Ankeny on it and the girl told her that I was really good. So she had me come down and visit and watch me practice and offer me scholarship.” In Beverly’s junior and senior seasons, the Griffons reached the 40-win mark, including 48 in 2005 which still stands as the programs top mark in the current era. “We were just playing softball,” Beverly said. “And we just started getting better and better and better and becoming more aware of the talent we had on the team and where we could go.” Beverly finds herself solidly in the MWSU record books as well. Her 263 career hits make her the top all-time in program history. She also holds the marks for most doubles, total bases, putouts and double-plays. Beverly says the memory that stands out the most to her was something that didn’t even focus on herself. “My senior season, the umpire got upset,” Beverly said. “We were playing Missouri Southern at Central because of rain. The umpire said in like the fifth inning that the game was over and the other team just won. So Coach Bagley got kicked out of the game and she proceeded to do handstands in centerfield.” The softball program is one of the most successful teams that Western has and the passion from people like Bagley-Trotter and Beverly are major driving forces why that is the case. Nicole Lindsey-Collier, Basketball (2001-2003) Lindsey-Collier has seen the Griffon program from all angles. She was a standout player, before facing the Griffons as a rival coach at Lincoln. “It's exciting and it's difficult to come back (to Western) to play,” Lindsey-Collier said. “There are so many good memories there. You walk in and see the banners and have the good memories.” Now she can add Griffon Hall of Famer to her resume. In just two seasons with the program as a transfer from Jefferson College, where she is also a Hall of Famer, Lindsey-Collier led Western No. 1 rankings in each of her seasons with the team. “We took a lot of pride in the way we played,” Lindsey-Collier said. how we played and how hard we played. So we had a lot of pride in that and we got the acknowledgment from the national rankings.” An unstoppable force inside during her career, Lindsey-Collier is second all-time for Western with 272 single-season rebounds. During her junior year, the Griffons won the MIAA championship. She was also an All-American finalist in each of her seasons at Western. Even though Lindsey-Collier is a rival coach, it is hard for her not to find herself pulling for her alma-mater. At least, when she’s not playing them. “If its outside of the conference, I’m always black and gold. That’s who I am and what I bleed.”

Western sneaks by Fort Hays State with big conference win

Sam Brown, left, and Evan Jennings, right react to incomplete pass to seal Western's 26-21 win over Fort Hays State, Aaturday in Spratt Stadium. A teammate rushes over to celebrate with Brown. Zack Papenberg | Photo Editor
[caption id="attachment_25617" align="alignnone" width="300"]Sam Brown, left, and Evan Jennings, right react to incomplete pass to seal Western's 26-21 win over Fort Hays State, Aaturday in Spratt Stadium. A teammate rushes over to celebrate with Brown. Zack Papenberg | Photo Editor Sam Brown, left, and Evan Jennings, right react to incomplete pass to seal Western's 26-21 win over Fort Hays State, Aaturday in Spratt Stadium. A teammate rushes over to celebrate with Brown. Zack Papenberg | Photo Editor[/caption] Survival. That is what it was all about for the Griffons in their 26-21 victory against Fort Hays State on Saturday in Spratt Stadium. The clock reads 0:01 in the fourth quarter. The Griffons hold a five-point lead. The two teams had run 150 total plays up to this moment and it all comes down to this play. The official places the ball ready for play seven yards away from the end zone. Tigers’ quarterback Treveon Albert looks to his right where Isaiah Maxi is covered by Griffon star corner Mike Jordan. He looks to his left where Evan Jennings is matched up with Sam Brown. Albert calls for the snap. Brown drops into his coverage knowing that the game and possibly the teams’ playoff hopes will likely depend on his ability to force an incomplete pass on this play. “My heart was beating a bit,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, this is what I train for every day.” Albert lofts a pass in Jennings and Brown’s direction as the two players exchange slight shoves in an effort to gain a positioning advantage over their opponent. “(The officials) let them play at the end,” head coach Jerry Partridge said. “Thank heavens.” As the players leap for the ball in the back corner of the end zone, the ball hits Jennings’ hands as Brown knocks it away from behind. Brown and Jennings tumble to the ground, just as the ball does, hitting the turf and ending the game. “It played out in slow-motion,” Brown said. “The only thing I was thinking about was making sure that I won at the end of the day.” Jennings and his teammates immediately begin to call for a flag to no avail, while Brown and his teammates celebrate their survival. The Griffons were able to have the lead to hold on to thanks to a very strong first half. Injuries, again, bit them early though. T.J. LaFaver was pushed into action for the second-straight home game, as starting quarterback Skyler Windmiller injured his thumb in the first quarter. LaFaver started two weeks ago against Lindenwood, as Windmiller recovered from a concussion, and performed well in the only extended action he has seen this season. LaFaver played well again against the Tigers on Saturday. He threw for 163 yards on 13-of-21 passing while also turning in 2-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. “T.J. is such a dynamic threat,” running back Raphael Spencer said. “Seeing him blossom into the player he is today, it does something for me; it does something for everyone.” The biggest play came on a deep bomb from LaFaver to DiJuan Ussery. Ussery ran under the 40-yard pass to give his team a 10-7 lead with 6:22 left in the first half. “That’s all DiJuan,” LaFaver said. “Just getting open and all I got to do is get him the ball.” Spencer padded the lead with an eight-yard touchdown run with just over a minute left in the half. Tanner Pettet missed the extra point to keep the advantage at nine points. Pettet redeemed himself and continued his up and down season with a 51-yard field goal as time expired in the half. “Tanner, leg-strength-wise, is in the category of all but (Greg Zuerlein),” Partridge said when discussing how Pettet stacks up against other kickers he’s had a Western. Spencer finished with 28 carries for 160 yards and helped Western out-rush the MIAA’s top running team by 47 yards. “To out-rush the leading rushing team in the MIAA was big,” Partridge said. The teams exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter and Western maintained their 12-point lead. An early fourth quarter Albert touchdown set the stage for Brown’s heroics and the Griffons survived again. Western has one more week to survive, and keep their playoff hopes alive, before attempting to make a statement on the national-level and get signature wins against Emporia State and Northwest Missouri State. This week, Western welcomes their home opponent 3-3 Washburn to Spratt Stadium. After Washburn, Western faces undefeated Emporia State and Northwest in consecutive weeks. In order to make the playoffs, Western is likely going to have to continue to survive and run the table the rest of the way.

Griffons blow big first half lead against Gorillas

Skyler Windmiller runs away from defenders in Saturday's loss to Pittsburg State in Pittsburg, Kan. John Ellis | MWSU Athletics
[caption id="attachment_25426" align="alignnone" width="300"]Skyler Windmiller runs away from defenders in Saturday's loss to Pittsburg State in Pittsburg, Kan. John Ellis | MWSU Athletics Skyler Windmiller runs away from defenders in Saturday's loss to Pittsburg State in Pittsburg, Kan. John Ellis | MWSU Athletics[/caption] After a 31-27 loss in Pittsburg, Kansas, Western drops to 3-2 on the season and have suffered a huge hit to their playoff chances. Early in the first half, it looked like a replay from the same match-up three years ago. The outcome proved to be different and heartbreaking for the Griffons as they fell 31-27 in Pittsburg. "Very frustrating," Western coach Jerry Partridge said. "Probably the quickest I've ever gotten on a team bus after any game, but now its time to move on." Quarterback Skyler Windmiller started, after missing last week's game with an concussion. Windmiller threw the first of his two touchdowns of the game to wideout Trey Lewis, five minutes into regulation. "That part will be decided (later in the week)." Partridge said regarding who will start at quarterback next week against Fort Hays State between Windmiller and T.J. LaFaver. After another stop by the Griffons defense, Windmiller was able to hook up with wideout Dee Tolliver for a 84-yard touchdown reception. The reception was Tolliver's longest of the season. With the Griffons up 14, the Gorillas responded with a 11-yard touchdown reception to Austin Panko. Almost five minutes into the second quarter, a five-play drive was capped off with a one-yard touchdown run by short-yardage specialist Daylon Harper. The Griffon defense continued to make stops, and those stops resulted in two Tanner Pettet field goals before the half. "That was fun," Partridge said. "We played very well in the first half, but there were some things we left out there. "We didn't finish enough on offense. We could've had that game put away. One more play and we win the game." After going into the half up 27-7, Western could not hold on to the lead. "You are up 20 points in the second half," Partridge said. "You got to find a way to win the game." The game made a complete shift after halftime with the Gorillas scoring on the last four-of-five drives of the ball game. "I think we got tired a little bit," Partridge said. "We don't roll as many kids on defense. We don't substitute a whole lot in the back eight and those kids got a little tired and slopy." After the break, quarterback John Roderique led a 65-yard drive that was capped off with another one-yard run by Gorilla running back Jeff Seybold. "Roderique had played outstanding in the second half," Partridge said. The Gorilla defense made another stop, allowing the offense to put together a six-play drive that went a total of 84 yards. Levi Copelin finished the drive with a eight-yard touchdown grab, making the score 21-27. With the huge momentum swing, the pressure was on the Griffons to put more points on the board. The Griffon offense couldn't replicate what they accomplished in the first half, suffering two three-and-outs, a turnover-on-downs and a crucial interception by Windmiller. "Knew they were blitzing on first down because they were blitzing the run consistently," Partridge said. "Called a tunnel screen, which can be a good call, felt like they got away with pass interference on the interception." The Gorillas took advantage and converted a 27-yard field goal early in the fourth. Down by three, Roderique and Seybold engineered a drive that took 3:27 off the clock. The possession ended with a seven-yard touchdown run by running back Jamal Tyler, making the score 31-27. After a failed last-minute effort by the Griffons, the Gorillas were able to sneak away with a win at home. Running back Raphael Spencer was the leading rusher for the Griffons, with 79 yards on 22 carries. Though they fell short, Spencer felt there were a lot of things they did well collectively. "I learned that we have a really good team," Spencer said. "Even though we improved, we still have to remain focused." As for how the offense finished, Spencer thinks that there is only one solution for that. "We just have to play a full game," Spencer said. "We'll be fine". The Griffons are back in Spratt Stadium for the Hall of Fame Game this Saturday at 1 p.m.

Griffons gear up for Gorillas

Three years ago, Missouri Western went up to Pittsburg, Kansas and gave the Gorillas their worst loss of the season. With three players from that game currently in the NFL, no one knows what to expect this time around. Both teams are 3-1 headed into this meeting, with both having won their previous game. A few questions still need to be answered for the Griffons as they head into this week's match up. The most important question being, who will be taking the snaps Saturday afternoon? "Skyler was not feeling too good over the weekend. He was slated to come back, but something happened," Partridge said. Windmiller suffered a concussion the previous week against Northeastern State. Windmiller had been the starter for the Griffons in their first three meetings. LaFaver played well in last week's Lindenwood game, throwing for nearly 300 yards, one touchdown and committing no turnovers. It is unclear who will be the starter against the Gorillas. "I hope Skyler is back, and can play," LaFaver said. "I would not wish that injury on anybody because I know how that feels first hand." Headed into last season, LaFaver was the starter for the first game, but suffered two concussions in a two-week span. John Roderique will be taking the snaps for the Gorillas on Saturday. Roderique has already thrown for over 800 yards and has four touchdowns. Wideout Marquise Cushon has been one of Roderique favorite targets early. He leads the team with 14 receptions, but is still looking for his first receiving score of the season. For the Griffon defense, linebacker Yomi Alli scored his first touchdown of his college career. Alli scored a touchdown on a 44-yard fumble recovery. Griffons defense hopes to replicate bigs plays like that one, when they visit the Gorillas. That may start with the defensive line for the Griffons. Alli thinks that their play lately has made his job easier each week. "I wouldn't trade that D-line for anyone," Alli said. "Great bunch of guys, hardworking leaders. They do what we ask for and more. It's a blessing to have those guys in front of me." See both teams in action Saturday at 2 p.m. at Carnie Smith Stadium.