MARYVILLE, Mo. — After a rain delay that lasted three hours and 17 minutes, the Northwest Missouri State football team accomplished its goal set at the beginning of the week — consistency.
The No. 7 ranked Bearcats (4-0,4-0 MIAA) handled visiting Central Oklahoma (2-2, 2-2 MIAA) with ease, beating the Bronchos 59-10, as the game concluded six hours and eight minutes after the opening kickoff on a windy, overcast 61-degree day in Maryville.
“Every time I present them with a challenge they respond,” Rich Wright said. “I just felt like we were really locked in and ready to play today. … I was just pleased with the way our kids came out and set the tempo. We had a mentality all week in practice we were going to attack and that is exactly what we did.”
After an emotionally charged pregame from the Bearcat’s, the tempo was set by junior wide receiver Imoni Donadelle taking the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.
The defense quickly forced a Central Oklahoma three-and-out and less than two minutes later, sophomore quarterback Braden Wright found senior running back Justin Rankin streaking down the Bearcats sideline for a 48-yard touchdown pass.
Then, junior kicker Parker Sampson would add three more points to Northwest’s score with a 45-yard field goal to give the Bearcats a 17-0 lead before the Bronchos would score.
“We just shell-shocked them,” said Rich Wright. “We got up and then the rain came and I was actually mad because I didn’t want to take the momentum away from our kids. The nice thing is we’ve had some experience with that … and I think they knew how motivated I was and wanted to make sure they were when I went back down to the locker room.”
Northwest would answer back a Central Oklahoma touchdown with a 13-yard Braden Wright touchdown run to inflate the Bearcats’ lead to 24-7 before the rain would come.
“It didn’t matter if we were going to wait four hours, eight hours, 10 hours or kickoff the next day,” Rich Wright said. “We were going to come back out and we were going to finish this.”
The rain delay wouldn’t slow down the Cats or Braden Wright as on the first play of the second quarter resulted in a 64-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver LaTroy Harper.
Harper wasn’t done there as on the next drive the sophomore hauled in another touchdown on a long ball from Braden Wright to burry the Bronchos deeper.
“I felt like he had a much better week of practice this week and I think it showed up in his play,” Rich Wright said. “Braden was dropping dimes all over the place. … I was impressed.”
Harper ended the game with a career-high 143 yards on three catches, two of which were touchdowns.
Braden Wright also had himself a career day after setting career highs after the last three games. The Elkhorn, Nebraska, native threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns on 11-of-20 passing.
The sophomore quarterback had his offense working efficient scoring on its first eight drives and ending the game averaging nine yards per play.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Mike Hohensee led the Northwest offense in rushing with 66 yards and a touchdown on five carries. Senior running back Justin Rankin contributed more through the air than on the ground as he caught two passes for 22 yards and two touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, the Bearcats’ defense held Central Oklahoma to 111 rushing yards and restricted the Bronchos average yards per play to 4.7, a season-low. Northwest’s defense also recorded seven sacks and junior Jackson Barnes lead the Bearcats in tackles with seven.
“I think we can attribute that to our practice this week,” sophomore linebacker Sam Phillips said. “We had a pretty good week of practice and I think when it came down to it, all 11 guys did their job. That’s what our coaches preach all the time and it’s Family Day. We always play great on Family Day.”
Northwest redeems itself from last year’s shocking 31-21 loss to the Bronchos in Edmond, Oklahoma. Rich Wright said there were a lot of young guys that realized what it took to win in the MIAA that day.
“I hadn’t lost a game in a long time at any level,” Braden Wright said. “That game kind of shocked me (and I thought) ‘Wow, this is real?’ … You don’t want to take it for granted. When you walk into a program like Northwest but that was the first game where I was hit with it, like, ‘Wow, every week you have to prepare the best possible way to can prepare.’”
The Bearcats will travel to Emporia, Kansas, next week for a 2 p.m. kickoff to play the Hornets (2-2, 2-2 MIAA), who are coming off of a 50-7 win over Lincoln.
“This day and this game is very special to me,” Rich Wright said. “I always want to play well on this day and I was somewhat emphatic that it didn’t matter how long it would take, we were going to go back out and finished what we’ve started.”
“I was just so proud of these guys because they did that,” Rich Wright said.