With two games left in the regular season, Northwest football sits atop the MIAA standings with a chance to capture its 29th conference title in program history against Fort Hays State Nov. 3.
The No. 10 Bearcats (8-1), for the second straight year, head into a Week 10 matchup with the Tigers (7-2) focused on securing the MIAA crown. Fort Hays holds the status as reigning MIAA champions, and coach Rich Wright gave an unique analogy of the situation.
“We’re going to embrace the underdog role,” Rich Wright said. “They are the defending conference champions. We are just going to go out there and be the little engine that could and just work really hard.”
Defining the Bearcats position as an underdog role is something not many would do from looking at the matchup. Northwest is 4-0 at home this season, and Fort Hays enters the game 2-2 in road games.
In those four home wins, the Bearcats have outscored opponents 159-19, averaging a 35 point margin of victory. A part of the home success has been the play from freshman quarterback Braden Wright.
Braden Wright has thrown for 915 yards, completing 59 percent of his passes at home compared to 975 yards on 51 percent on the road. While he has more yardage on the road, the total comes from five road games compared to four home.
Part of what has helped Braden Wright be successful in his first season leading Northwest is the run game that has been steady all year.
“It makes it pretty easy for me, to be honest,” Braden Wright said. “When in doubt, you just hand the ball off to our running backs, and once they get their running game going, that helps my quarterback run game.”
The rushing attack for Northwest is averaging 215.3 yards per game while gaining 5.32 yards per rush. The 26 rushing touchdowns this year for the Bearcats ranks second in the MIAA, behind Nebraska-Kearney with 27.
Another aspect of the game that may play a factor is the senior day recognition before the game. This is the second senior class Rich Wright has been the head coach of, and he said this year is closer for him personally.
“I was close to last year’s class because it was my first as a head coach, but this is the first class I have really gotten to know,” Rich Wright said. “I recognize that last year it was so new and I was really trying to find my way a little bit, and this year I have immersed myself with more of the team than just the defensive side of the ball.”
The Bearcats will honor 19 seniors prior to the 1:30 p.m. kickoff and even the younger players will feel the impact of recognition.
“I just feel like all of us underclassmen have to match that same energy level and that same drive they have every day so we can send them (seniors) out the right way,” Braden Wright said.