Northwest football saw its upset bid and season come to a close in a 27-21 loss to Ferris State Nov. 24 in Big Rapids, Michigan.
The Bearcats finished year two under coach Wright at 10-3 with a second-round exit in the NCAA Division II Playoff. The Bulldogs (13-0) jumped out to a 20-0 lead that would prove to be too much for the Northwest to overcome.
Not only did the loss end the season, it ended the college careers for 19 Northwest seniors. Many of the seniors received substantial playing time this season and throughout their time at Northwest. Despite losing many key pieces, coach Rich Wright was confident in the program’s future with the youth they have.
“We’re going to replace 19 seniors that were pretty big pieces of what we did, but we do feel like we have a great nucleus of guys coming back,” Rich Wright said. “We are very excited about the future.”
The future for Northwest will include returning a starting quarterback for the first time under Rich Wright. Freshman Braden Wright started all 13 games for the Bearcats and was named MIAA Freshman of the Year.
For Braden Wright, the season was a learning experience not only on the field but in the locker room with his teammates.
“Last year was kind of just an intro year, you could say,” Braden Wright said. “All of us redshirts pretty much stayed all together and didn’t branch out much. This year, I felt like I really did build relationships that will last a lifetime and playing that last game with the seniors was one of the hardest things to do knowing I won’t get to play with them anymore.”
One key factor that will help determine the growth and success of Braden Wright is the supporting cast that the coaching staff puts around him. The Bearcats’ leading receiver senior Shawn Bane Jr. will not be back next year, but sophomore Alec Tatum was second to Bane in both receptions and receiving yards.
Another young wide receiver that stepped up this season is true freshman LaTroy Harper. Harper had his most productive receiving game as a Bearcat against Ferris State, hauling in eight receptions for 115 yards.
Harper, Tatum and the other young group on offense give Braden Wright a group of players he is familiar with and he can grow with.
“I think it (the young returners) gives him (Braden Wright) a good nucleus of guys that he trusts,” Rich Wright said. “Now it becomes timing and relationships and knowing where they are going to be. A cohesion that we haven’t had since I’ve been able to take over just because there has always been a different quarterback in place.”
While the ultimate goal of winning a championship was not achieved, the 2018 season for Northwest brought back the MIAA title and gave glimpses of what the future could hold for the Bearcats.