PITTSBURG, Kan - A dominant first half was more than enough for Northwest to dethrone the Gorillas for the top spot in the MIAA, landing a 31-7 win Oct. 6.
Junior running back Isaiah Strayhorn jump started the offense early for the No. 16 Bearcats (5-1) with a one-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter that hushed a rowdy No. 8 Gorilla (5-1) crowd. This would be the only points of the first quarter as both defenses held their own early on.
The defense standstill would not continue into the second quarter with the Bearcats putting up 21 points on big plays from the offense, defense and special teams. The explosive plays began with a reverse flea-flicker that landed a 41-yard completion from freshman quarterback Braden Wright to junior tight end Cody Massey.
On the next play, Braden Wright hit senior Chase White for a four-yard touchdown to make it a 14-0 game with a little more than two minutes off the clock in the second quarter. After a couple of stalled drives by both the Bearcats and Gorillas, Northwest started its third scoring drive at its own five yard line.
A Strayhorn 31-yard rush and a 43-yard reception by senior Shawn Bane Jr. helped lead Northwest to the Gorilla 13 yard line. Braden Wright then connected with fellow freshman LaTroy Harper for Harper’s first collegiate touchdown.
Harper found himself wide open after slipping through a gap in the middle of the Gorilla defense for the score and had one thought going through his mind.
“Catch the ball,” Harper said. “Do your one-eleventh and catch the ball. Ozzy (offensive coordinator Joel Osborn) harps on me all the time about doing my one-eleventh. The wide receivers are coming out there making big plays, being special players and stuff like that so that was the only thing going through my mind.”
The big plays would continue for the Bearcats in the second quarter with their next drive. Northwest followed up a 95-yard drive with a 70-yard drive capped off by a 23-yard fake field goal ran in by sophomore Alec Tatum. This pushed the score to 28-0 with 34 seconds left in the half.
Trick plays were a key driver in the Bearcats’ playbook with two fakes on special teams and many different offensive schemes. Coach Rich Wright explained the unique play calls were part of the plan all week.
“We were playing to win and that is what we talked to the kids about all week long is that we were going to come down here to play and win a football game,” Rich Wright said.
The second half had a different feel than the first half as neither team managed any consistent offensive movement until the fourth quarter. The lone points for Northwest were on the foot of sophomore Parker Sampson who added a 38-yard field goal to the scoreboard.
With just over three minutes remaining, the Gorillas found the end zone for the first time ended Northwest’s bid for a second-straight shutout. A 31-7 win over Pitt State not only gives Northwest the top spot in the MIAA but keeps the momentum rolling into Homecoming against Nebraska-Kearney Oct. 13.