Washburn

Washburn players Kyle Hinton and Josh Wright flank head coach Craig Schurig at MIAA Media Day last week in Kansas City.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Every team wants its head coach-quarterback relationship to be tight and it is hard to get much closer than blood. 

Contrary to reports out of now-departed MIAA school Lindenwood, Northwest Missouri State doesn’t have a father-son duo at head coach and quarterback, but MIAA rival Washburn does, as it enters the 2019 season. Coach Craig Schurig says quarterback Mitch Schurig doesn’t let their relationship interfere with his preparation for his first season-opening start. 

“The toughest part of it is when I get home for dinner and meet the real boss,” Craig Schurig said. “No, Mitchell makes it pretty easy. He approaches things the right way. I think he has a really strong relationship with the players. At the quarterback position especially, you want that position to make smart decisions, quick decisions. 

“He has a good mind for the game and he communicates well. … It is special when you coach your son.”

The Ichabod starting quarterback should enjoy strong protection in 2019 with Washburn returning three seniors from last year’s starting offensive line. 

“I just want to step up more as a leader and not just lead the O-line, but the team as a whole,” senior left tackle Kyle Hinton said.

Hinton says the group is also excited to block for an experienced group of running backs led by Zach Willis and Curtis Whitten. 

“As an offensive line, we take pride in being physical, getting off the ball, hitting people and making holes for the running backs.” Hinton said. 

The receiver group won’t be led by standout James Brania-Hopp for the first time in several years, but Craig Schurig is excited to see the group work together to replace its star wideout. 

“I think this year we will have guys that will distribute that wealth a little bit,” Craig Schurig said.

While the offense returns such a large chunk of its talent, the defense will have a very new look this year. Washburn will replace seven starters including its whole linebacking corps and New York Giants draft pick Corey Ballentine at cornerback. 

“Obviously Corey Ballentine was a great player for us and Josh (Wright) we hope can fill those shoes,” Craig Schurg said. “He is a similar-style athlete to Corey. … We look for him to make a significant jump in his production.”

One player looking forward to the challenges of replacing such a skilled group is senior cornerback Josh Wright, who has run track and played across from Ballentine the last couple years. 

“Corey is one of my boys and one of my good friends,” Wright said. “Corey is a great athlete and it is pretty nice to be compared to him because he is different.”

A fast start to the season is key for the Ichabods as they have a near must-win game against MIAA-newcomer Lincoln Week One before drawing league favorites Northwest Missouri State, Fort Hays State and Central Missouri the following three weeks. 

“We play some of the best teams and highest-ranking teams in the country right off the bat,” Craig Schurig said.