Northwest football coach Rich Wright was in the middle of breaking down the Bearcats’ Week 2 opponent when he started to get the news that he didn’t have to.
Lincoln, Northwest’s scheduled opponent for the Bearcat Stadium debut Sept. 7, canceled due to COVID-19 protocols.
“I found out around 1 o’clock. We were getting ready to go to meetings at 2, then practice at 3,” Wright said. “We’re great for anything you can plan for, but this was, obviously, quite unplanned.”
After COVID-19 testing following Lincoln’s 64-point loss to Washburn in Week 1, the Blue Tigers’ 63-person roster was depleted in certain position groups.
The Bearcats, though, won’t search for a new Week 2 opponent, Northwest Athletics told The Missourian Sunday afternoon. They’ll now have an extra week to prepare for their Week 3 matchup against Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri.
“We looked a little bit, but there are several logistical challenges to that,” Wright said. “I mean, it was already Sunday at 2 o’clock, so you weren’t going to get anybody until at least Monday or Tuesday if you could find someone. I spent the better part of last fall trying to get any Division I-AA to play us, much less a Division II, and couldn’t get anybody to do that.”
The Bearcats, Wright said, were supposed to win that game. The coach isn’t too concerned about not being able to play that particular opponent, more so upset they won’t get to play one at all.
Wright would’ve rather had a bye week toward the latter part of the season, he said, because it helps recover from the bumps and bruises that accrue throughout the entirety of an 11-week regular season.
Now, instead of having a game Thursday, the Bearcats will have an intrasquad scrimmage in Bearcat Stadium.
“The whole reason why we decided to scrimmage on Thursday was, realistically, we felt as though if we did what we were supposed to do, our starters only probably play a half,” Wright said. “Then we’d be able to get our twos and threes in. … We’ll pull the starters out about halfway through, like we would’ve Thursday night, then get after it with some younger kids.”
Wright doesn’t expect cancellations to be a regular occurrence, though, and is hoping the MIAA makes it all the way to the postseason.
“I think this is maybe a little bit more of an outlier,” Wright said. “I mean, I haven’t spoken to get exact numbers from every coach in the MIAA, but the consensus with the guys I talked to is that most of their teams are like mine, where we have a high percentage of our players who are vaccinated. So, you just don’t run into the same issues you do when you play programs that the vast majority are not.”