Northwest Missouri State quarterback Blake Bolles led the Bearcats to a playoff win over Missouri Western in Maryville on Nov. 10, 2010. 

Editor’s Note: Week 5 of the Bearcats’ 2020 schedule would have been Saturday with a game against Missouri Western. In a continuation of The Forum’s series going through the best games all-time against what would have been the 2020 schedule, we go back to Nov. 20, 2010, and Northwest’s 28-24 win over Missouri Western.

The Bearcat schedule is certainly loaded with ‘rivalry’ games every season. A byproduct of the success Northwest Missouri State has had over the years is that most of the MIAA considers Northwest a rival.

Over the years, Pittsburg State and Central Missouri have provided the most exciting games and classic ‘rivalry’ endings against Northwest, but there is something special about Missouri Western and the Bearcats’ natural geographic rival.

With the Griffons just 40 minutes down the road, St. Joseph is a town divided with Bearcat fans and Griffon fans as next-door neighbors. That is a dynamic that simply doesn’t exist in a place like Pittsburg or even Warrensburg.

It is the old familiarity breeds contempt philosophy.

For the majority of the rivalry, Northwest has owned its little brothers to the south. For a few seasons early in the decade though, Jerry Partridge had his Griffons to the point where they could challenge big brother.

The 2010 season was one of those seasons with the Griffons being led by future NFL running back Michael Hill and future NFL defensive end David Bass.

In Week 4 of the 2010 season, Northwest rolled to 42-0 win over Western. Both teams continued to win and the rivals met again in the first round of the playoffs.

“Our mindset was pretty much like it been every year I was at Northwest — alright, second season is about to start, playoff time, win or go home,” Northwest quarterback Blake Bolles said.

The Griffons came out fired up and behind two Drew Newhart touchdown passes, took a 17-0 halftime lead in front of a shocked Bearcat Stadium.

“Definitely got hit in the mouth a little bit in the first half — down 17-0 was not the start we were looking for, for sure,” Bolles said.

While Newhart had a great first half, Northwest had its own star quarterback and Bolles — fresh off a national championship in 2009 — made his presence known in the second half.

“It was one of those where obviously everybody was not expecting to be in the position we were in at halftime,” Bolles said. “But there wasn’t any kind of panic in the locker room. It was a pretty steady calm.

“… We knew that somehow, some way we were going to find a way to get it done, just as we had all year.”

Northwest opened the second half with six-straight passes to move down the field and then got the ball to one of their new weapons in 2010 with tight end Josh Baker. Baker took off on a 46-yard run to get the Bearcats on the board.

That season, Baker caught 59 passes for 780 yards and nine touchdowns. He ran the ball nine times for 128 yards and three touchdowns.

“It was pretty special,” Bolles said. “We had weapons everywhere. Josh was a huge addition to the offense. His numbers speak for themselves with what he did that season and the dynamic he added to the offense.”

The Northwest defense forced consecutive 3-and-outs to keep the Bearcats in the game.

Bolles led another touchdown drive midway through the third quarter with an 18-yard run followed by a 30-yard pass to Taylor Pierce which set up a 2-yard Jordan Simmons touchdown run.

“Once you get a score under your belt, defense gets a stop and you score again; now all of a sudden, its a 3-point ballgame instead of 17,” Bolles said. “Now you feel a lot better about it.”

Western responded to end the quarter with a 93-yard touchdown drive capped by Newhart’s third touchdown of the day, a 39-yard pass to Terrell Downing for a 24-14 lead.

Northwest’s offense was fueled up and rolling though. Bolles responded with a 12-play drive capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass to Baker with just under 13 minutes to go. The score pulled Northwest within 24-21.

Marciele Surrell intercepted a Newhart pass on the ensuing drive and Northwest’s offense went back to work.

Bolles converted two third-and-longs with passes to Baker. The second got Northwest down to the Griffon 9-yard line and Kelvin Austin took it into the end zone on the next play with 8:10 to go. The run put Northwest in front 28-24.

The Bearcats stifled the last two Western drives of the game to preserve the victory and avoid the upset.

“It was a pretty special group of guys to be around and a lot of fun to play with,” Bolles said.

Bolles finished the game as Northwest’s leading passer and rusher. He completed 25-of-39 passes for 242 yards while rushing nine times for 48 yards.

Even though that was Blake Bolles last season in a Bearcat uniform, the MIAA was far from done with the Bolles family as Brady Bolles would join the Bearcats the following season.

“It was really cool to see Brady go to Northwest,” Blake Bolles said. “And not just go there, but to have a similar experience. The only thing I wanted for any of my younger brothers or younger sister is to have a similar college experience to the one I had at Northwest, because it truly was some of the best times of my life.

“… It was very special to watch his time at Northwest.”

After Brady’s career at Northwest, Brook Bolles became one of the best quarterbacks in Central Missouri history.

“It was very fun to watch my younger brothers play in the MIAA and he very similar success and experiences that I did,” Blake Bolles said. “… This would have been the first year that I didn’t have a brother playing in the MIAA, or I wasn’t playing in the MIAA since 2006.”

Blake Bolles says he has enjoyed the continued ties to the MIAA, even if Brook’s games against Northwest were difficult.

“I can’t ever say that rooting for him during the Northwest games were very easy,” Blake Bolles said. “I’m glad for the career and the success he had, but now that he is gone, I can get back to what I love, which is Bearcat football.”

Blake Bolles football career continued after his time at Northwest with stints in Germany and with indoor football, as well as a mini camp with the Minnesota Vikings. Bolles has since retired and married his college girlfriend, Natalie. Last year, they had their first child, Sutton.

“She will be one in November,” Blake Bolles said. “She is walking around, running around and doing all kinds of stuff already. It has been a lot of fun.”