Northwest's sophomore quarterback Braden Wright runs into the end zone in the Bearcats' 63-7 win over Lindenwood Nov. 30. Wright dueled with Ferris State's Travis Russell in the Bearcats' 27-21 loss to Ferris State Nov. 24, 2018. 

When Northwest football makes the trip to Big Rapids, Michigan, Dec. 7, it will be 379 days removed from the same place that its 2018 campaign came to an end. The matchup with Ferris State last year was certain. The starting quarterback for the Bulldogs was, too — or so Rich Wright thought.

Rich Wright’s defense spent the week preparing for Jayru Campbell, the 2018 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Instead, the Bearcats were tasked with stopping junior quarterback Travis Russell, the backup making his first career postseason start.

The Bulldogs’ quarterback debacle, Rich Wright told reporters after the loss, was challenging.

“Ferris State did a great job — didn’t find out until just prior to kickoff they weren’t going to have their quarterback,” Rich Wright told the reporters Nov. 24, 2018. “Apparently, they did.”

Identical to last year, the matchup with Ferris is certain. This time around, the quarterback is too.

Russell, the quarterback that led the Bulldogs’ offense to a win over the Bearcats in the second time the programs met, will get the nod to start against Northwest. The opportunity is in part due to the fact that Campbell has battled injury throughout the course of the 2019 season. The former starter will have not played since Oct. 26, having his season ended after surgery on one of his ankles, Rich Wright said.

“The kid that we’re going to play against (Russell) is the kid we played against last year,” Rich Wright said. “He’s a good football player.”

Russell, senior linebacker Andy Hessler said, excels at running the ball as well as he does throwing it deep. To show for it, in seven games this season, the junior has compiled 1,116 yards passing and six touchdowns while completing 55% of his attempts. Along with that, the quarterback’s rushing efforts have been good enough for 237 yards and two touchdowns.

Northwest’s sophomore quarterback Braden Wright, Rich Wright said, is ready for the second dual between the two.

“He’s a competitor,” Rich Wright said about his quarterback. “I think that he’ll respond accordingly.”

The goal, Rich Wright preached after the Bearcats’ win over Lindenwood Nov. 30, was to play a nationally televised game. For Northwest to do that, the defense will have to fail to succumb to the play of Russell and the rest of the offense. There would come a time, Russell told reporters after last year’s win, whether it was at that moment, in the past or in the future, where he would be counted on.

With a trip to the national semifinal on the line at Top Taggart Field, the Bulldogs will, once again, be counting on their unforeseen starting quarterback to aid them to another win. With a season at stake, Northwest will be counting on its defense to halt Russell and company in an attempt to falter the Bulldogs’ chances of doing so.

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