Story and photo courtesy of Missouri Western Athletics
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Missouri Western went up to Maryville, Mo. with one goal in mind: Defeating the Bearcats and taking home the MIAA Championship outright for the first time in program history.
Saturday afternoon, the Griffons came back from 17 down at halftime to defeat rival Northwest Missouri State 21-20 with Travis Partridge's 2-yard touchdown run with 1:07 left in the game to come out with the victory. Michael Hill's 10-yard yard not only set up the go-ahead score, but also broke the season record for most rushing yards.
The victory clinches the Griffons' first ever conference title outright, their second conference title and 10 wins for the first time in a season.
In the first quarter, neither team put points up on the board. After Northwest caused a turnover, the Bearcats jumped out to a 7-0 lead with Tyler Shaw's 6-yard touchdown reception. The Bearcats continued to carry the momentum throughout the quarter, scoring on a Jordan Simmons 2-yard touchdown and a 22-yard field goal from Todd Adolf to give Northwest a 17-0 lead at the half.
MWSU needed to take advantage of open plays across the middle, and after halftime, that's what the Griffons did.
After both teams swapped possessions, Missouri Western finally moved down field. Partridge nailed Tyron Crockom across the middle, and Crockom did the rest, running over 10 yards to the right side and into the end zone to give the Griffons their first score of the day.
Northwest threatened the next two possessions, but stalled on a punt and botched a snap on a field goal which gave the Griffons more momentum heading into the fourth quarter, trailing just 17-7.
Still, MWSU couldn't gain much on offense, and the Bearcats took advantage of a third opportunity to score. Adolf knocked in a 42-yarder by less than two feet against the wind to give Northwest a 20-7 lead with 7:06 to play in the game. That's when Missouri Western's magical season dwindled down into a magical quarter.
After the Griffons drove into Bearcat territory by hitting out-patterns to the right side, Partridge went down the middle to senior Tarrell Downing, who hammered his way nearly 30 yards, going right through the Northwest defense which had played well all night. Downing scampered into the end zone to cut the Bearcat lead to one score, 20-14.
Missouri Western's defense turned up the heat on the next drive, forcing the Bearcats to punt with just more than 3 minutes left on the clock. With the ball and down by six, the Griffons wouldn't let the Bearcats take the title home with them.
The Griffons traveled past the 50-yard line and continued to go down field, as Partridge hit Brandon Wright on two curl routes and then one to Downing to go into the red zone.
After Hill's carry brought the Griffons into the 5-yard line, they pulled the Northwest defense to the left, faking a run to Hill and Partridge took the ball into the end zone. Taylor Anderson's extra point with 1:07 went in to give MWSU a 21-20 lead.
Hill finished with 19 carries for 121 yards. Partridge went 19-for-26 with 207 yards and two scores, with one interception. Partridge also had 10 carries for 25 yards and a score.
Wright finished with four catches for 41 yards. Crockom had four catches as well, with 58 yards and a touchdown.
Wallace Carter had a huge day, helping the Griffons with nine tackles, including two for a loss.
The Griffons await their fate on who they play in next week's first round game in the playoffs. The Griffons will know tomorrow at 4 p.m. who they play, as they will watch the playoff selection show at Fulkerson Center.