Story and photo courtesy of Missouri Western Athletics
ARKADELPHIA, Ark. - The Missouri Western football team advanced to the regional final for the first time in school history with a 45-21 victory over 6th ranked Henderson State University on Saturday afternoon. The Griffons had 233 yards rushing and forced Henderson State's quarterback Kevin Rodgers into throwing four interceptions. The Griffons improve to 12-1 on the season and will travel to Mankato, Minn. to take on the Mavericks of Minnesota State-Mankato. Game time is set for 12:00 pm on Saturday, December 1st.
Two of the most prolific offenses in Division II were held scoreless on their first possessions of the game. From there the two teams put up a total of 24 combined points in the first quarter. The Reddies took their second possession of the game 66 yards on nine players which was capped by a Kevin Nichols one yard run.
The Griffons responded nicely scoring 17 unanswered points taking a 17-7 lead after one quarter. Michael Hill scored the Griffons first touchdown on a 15 yard run capping a five play 58 yard drive with 8:40 to play. Raphael Spencer had a 25 yard run to help set up the score for the Griffons. For Hill that was his school record 19th touchdown of the season and 44th of his career. Hill also has 114 points in a season which breaks the season record of 112 which was done by Bubba Hopkins in 1975. The rushing touchdown also set the career record for most rushing touchdowns with 35. Tony Williams had the record of 34 from 1994-97.
On the Reddies very next snap linebacker Stephen Juergens intercepted a Kevin Rodgers pass setting the Griffons up on the Henderson State 16 yard line. The interception was only Rodgers ninth of the season. MWSU proceeded to go 16 yards on four plays which was capped by a Travis Partridge one yard plunge. The final score of the first quarter was when Taylor Anderson connected on a 45 yard field goal with 29 seconds to play in the quarter giving MWSU the 10 point lead. Anderson now holds the record for most points by a kicker in a season with 106 which breaks Brad Beckwith's record of 97 set in 20009.
The Reddies cut the lead to 17-14 with 8:50 to play in the second quarter when Jarvis Smith went 14 yards capping an eight play 55 yard drive.
The final four minutes of the second quarter belonged to the Griffons as Partridge connected on three third down pays which included an six yard pass to Reggie Jordan giving MWSU the 24-14 lead with 3:42 to play in the half. MWSU stopped the Reddies and once again the Griffons used Jordan as the weapon as Partridge threw a one yard fade with 5 seconds to play giving MWSU the 31-14 lead at the half.
The Griffons had 254 yards at the half with 96 coming on the ground and 158 threw the air. Hill carried for 77 yards on 15 carries while Partridge connected on 15-of-19 for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Tyron Crockom had five receptions for 40 yards. Marc Harrision and Juergens had four tackles apiece for the Griffons.
The Reddies had 234 yards with 191 coming threw the air. Rodgers connected on 17-of-29 passes with two interceptions. Dustin Holland had six receptions for 57 yards while Robert Jordan had three for 64. Defensively Maxie Graham had 10 tackles for the Reddies.
The second half did not start well for the Griffons as Crockom fumbled on the second play of the half giving the Reddies the ball on the Griffons 19 yard line. MWSU's defense forced a field goal opportunity which hit the right upright. The Griffons proceeded to go 80 yards on four plays which was capped off by a 63 yard touchdown run by Spencer giving the Griffons the 38-14 lead.
The Griffons tacked on another touchdown in the fourth when Partridge went in from five yards out capping an six play 40 yard drive giving the Griffons a 45-14 lead with 6:46 to play. The Reddies scored one more touchdown but it was to late as they finished the season 10-1.
The Griffons finished with 437 yards of total offense. Partridge finished with 204 yards connecting on 22-of-29 passes and two touchdowns. Crockom had six catches for 40 yards while Kyle Knox and Brandon Wright had four apiece. Hill rushed for 122 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries while Spencer had six catches for 95 yards. Hill has rushed for over 100 yards 12 times this season and 20 times in his career. Defensively Ray Cottman and Harrison had seven tackles. The Griffons had nine pass break-ups with David Bass getting two.
The Reddies had 480 yards with 412 coming in the air. Rodgers connected on 37-of-65 passes with four interceptions and one touchdown. Holland had 10 catches for 103 yards while Jordan had nine for 125. Keaton Stigger had 16 tackles with 10 being solo.