MARYVILLE, Mo. — Following a performance where Northwest Missouri State football scored 66 points, the team is searching for yet another quality — consistency.

The Bearcats (3-0, 3-0 MIAA) traveled to Joplin, Missouri, to take on Missouri Southern (1-2, 1-2 MIAA) with the goal of starting fast in mind. After they were able to do so, coach Rich Wright said the team’s focus will be shifted to playing a consistent game.

“I don’t feel like we’ve hit that yet,” Rich Wright said. “The emphasis at practice is going to be to work on our consistency throughout practice and then try and put a complete game together on Saturday.”

Northwest takes on Central Oklahoma (2-1, 2-1 MIAA), who stunningly beat the Bearcats in Edmond, Oklahoma, 31-21 a season ago.

The Bronchos are led by junior running back T.J. Roberts who has rushed for 273 yards and three touchdowns on 43 carries. The Bearcats defense has allowed 110 team rushing yards per game on 94 carries.

Senior Dustin Basks is the leading receiver for Central Oklahoma hauling in 168 yards on nine catches, finding the endzone once. Northwest is still recovering from injuries in Week 1 to senior safety Jake Gassman and senior cornerback Chama Pierre.

Senior running back Justin Rankin has collected 373 yards for the Cats this year on 60 carries, averaging 6.21 yards per carry and 124.3 yards per game. Sophomore quarterback Braden Wright is following up his freshman campaign with 697 passing yards and nine total touchdowns.

To honor late coach Scott Bostwick, Northwest will take the field against Central Oklahoma wearing black uniform tops and red paw print decals on its helmets, a tradition known around northwest Missouri.

Bostwick was an advocate for black jerseys but despite administrative push back, Bostwick, who Rich Wright described as “stubborn as the day is long,” was able to get black jerseys for the 2011 season.

Before the season started, Bostwick passed away from a heart attack. The coaching staff got together and decided Family Weekend would be the day the Bearcats wear black.

“It was kind of his last gift to our football team,” Rich Wright said.

Hessler wasn’t around when Bostwick was in the early part of the decade, in fact not many on the team were, but Hessler interacts Bostwick’s brother, Chad, every day in practice as the linebackers coach. The senior said being around the Bostwick family has impacted him in his career.

“Just hearing the little things that he would say and the little things he would do,” junior linebacker Andy Hessler said. “It just shows the stamp he made on this program.”

Rich Wright encouraged his players in the Monday morning team meeting to “find their why.” He said they all had someone who helped them get to the meeting that morning and they should honor them on the field Saturday.

“My dad actually gave up coaching so he could come to watch me play every single Saturday,” Hessler said. “It means the world to me having them there every single week. To me, they got me here and they’re still supporting me, so that’s what I’m playing for.”


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