Congratulations to Northwest football on its Nov. 9 win over Fort Hays State in double overtime to keep the Bearcats’ playoff hopes alive. The win was pretty impressive, but it shouldn’t have come to the ’Cats scratching and clawing down the stretch to even have a chance at making the postseason.
Everything for Northwest was going great — until it wasn’t. Well, sort of.
Most programs across the country would consider 9-1 and in a position to fight for a playoff spot to be a pretty successful season. For Northwest, Bearcat fans rambling on Facebook think that’s a pretty crappy one.
I mean, come on. They survive a Week 1 scare on the road to Missouri Western, dominate for three weeks before surviving another scare in Week 5 on the road against Emporia State, win in the battle of undefeated in Arrowhead Stadium against Pitt State, just to lose on the road to Nebraska-Kearney.
I’ve got news for those wondering: the road doesn’t get any easier from here on out for the Bearcats.
The path that could lead to Northwest missing the playoffs for the first time since 2003 will have its first fork in it at home, where the ’Cats have had substantially more success compared to when they have had to travel. Really, the playoffs started for the Bearcats in the matchup against Fort Hays.
The lone Week 7 loss to the Lopers could be a ghost that haunts them for the potential 10-month offseason. A win over Central Missouri could skyrocket the Bearcats in the Super Region 3 Standings, maybe.
If the Bearcats are able to tame the Mules (10-0) in Week 11, they’ll secure a spot in the postseason. If they lose, their season will hang in the balance of a committee that’s historically proven to be unpredictable.
The Bearcats sit as the No. 6 seed in their region; the top seven teams get in. It isn’t the quintessential situation for them, but it’s the situation they’re in. Really, one that they shouldn’t be in.
You can’t win them all, but you don’t have to lose the ones that you’re supposed to win. After surviving every scare to that point, ahead of playing a less than mediocre Lincoln and Northeastern State, Northwest put itself in nothing but a dangerous place.
There’s too much riding on the Week 11 matchup for it to go unaddressed. Aside from the elephant that will be in Bearcat Stadium regarding the playoffs, there’s an MIAA Championship on the line as well. A loss, despite missing out on the goals and aspirations that coach Rich Wright has preached all season long, would leave a lot of questions on the table for fans of the program.
What would have to change? What would the Bearcats do to once again be prestigious? Who is responsible for the snapping of a playoff streak that’s 15 seasons long? Those would all be questions that people would reasonably want answers to.
There are people that haven’t watched Northwest miss the playoffs in their lifetime. There are people that remember what it was like to capture a National Championship trophy in 2009, in 2013, in 2015 and in 2016.
There are people that know what this team is capable of. There are people that know the potential of the offense. There are people that know what the historically good defense is capable of, aside from the injuries that have plagued the secondary all year.
It’s not illogical for someone to step back and realize that, with all things considered, the Bearcats shouldn’t be in this position. It shouldn’t have to come down to the last week of the regular season to secure a playoff spot.
Defeating the Mules isn’t going to be an easy task. Northwest defensive back Chama Pierre, the Bearcats’ No. 1 corner, is out for the rest of the year with an injury. Swiss army knife Mike Hohensee is possibly out with a cast on his hand. The Bearcats could be out with a Nov. 16 loss in Bearcat Stadium.
So, congratulations Northwest football for the win over Fort Hays. But it’s simple for the Bearcats, who control their own destiny. It’s time to sink or swim. So are they going to touch the bottom of the metaphorical ocean, or are they going to reach fresh air?