MARYVILLE, Mo. — Northwest Missouri State accomplished the first task of its postseason “recipe” by dismantling Central Washington 50-21 in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs Saturday at Bearcat Stadium.

Prior to the Super Region 3 quarterfinal matchup, Northwest head coach Rich wright revealed his five-step recipe for postseason success.

“Win a playoff game — that’s No. 1, OK?” Rich Wright said on Tuesday before the meeting. “Get to Thanksgiving together. Play into December. Play on television. Play for it all. At Northwest, there’s your recipe if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”

The Bearcats (10-1) took control early over the Wildcats (8-3), scoring on seven of its first eight drives of the game to eventually tally 472 yards of total offense.

“We felt like, with our playoff experience, that we were a team that if we — they hadn’t played in a close game in several weeks — if we could come out and get them down early, that we’d cast a shadow of doubt for them,” Rich Wright said. “We were able to do that.”

Leading the day with 130 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 23 carries, senior Al McKeller scored on a three-yard rush into the end zone to push their lead to 13-0 in the first quarter.

McKeller’s second score came on the first play in the fourth quarter on a 14-yard run to give Northwest a 47-7 lead.

“(It’s) really just all the credit to the offensive line,” McKeller said. “It wasn’t really hard to see anything. The holes were wide open, and I just do my job on hitting them and getting in the end zone.”

Northwest quarterback Mike Hohensee was the first to find the end zone, punching it in from 1 yard out in the first, but that marked his only score of the day.

The junior went down midway through the second quarter with a non-contact injury and was able to walk to the sideline alongside athletic trainers.

Then, Northwest junior quarterback Braden Wright answered the call.

The Bearcats held a 13-7 advantage after Washington redshirt freshman quarterback Quincy Glasper connected with Tyler Flanagan on an 8-yard touchdown pass.

Cleared from his post-surgery recovery, Wright would soon take his first snaps under center since the Bearcats’ Week 8 win against Northeastern State on the road.

Wright capped off the drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Northwest senior Imoni Donadelle to own a 20-7 lead.

“It was fun to be back out there,” Braden Wright said. “Seeing Mike go down sucks, and then just having to get thrown in there with no warm up or anything, that’s not the situation you necessarily want. … I just knew I needed to go out there and do what I could to help the team win.”

Wright passed for three touchdowns and rushed for another in accounting for four of Northwest’s seven total touchdowns, finishing with 178 yards passing while completing 11-of-15 passes.

Despite allowing late scores from Flanagan on a 94-yard kickoff return and on a 1-yard rush, the nation’s second-best defense held the Wildcats to 173 yards of total offense.

Central Washington entered the matchup recording an average of 424.9 yards of offense per game.

“We have a pretty good system that’s structured to handle the run game,” Rich Wright said. “When you’re not familiar with how we play, I feel like it gives us an advantage, in terms of, we just do things a little bit differently up front.”The three-seeded Bearcats now turn their attention to second-seeded Harding, who they’ll face on the road as Wright looks to fulfill his team’s recipe of success.

“My biggest thing to be thankful for in winning this playoff game is the fact that — these guys are my family, and that’s the way I live this thing,” Rich Wright said. “We get to have Thanksgiving together, and I’m fired up about that. There’s always something special about practicing on Thanksgiving morning and getting to sit down with these guys on Thanksgiving afternoon.”

Northwest travels to Searcy, Arkansas next Saturday to take on Harding in the second round of the playoffs. Harding scored a 30-14 win over Washburn to earn the right to play host to Northwest.

Micaela Dea can be reached at micaela.dea@newspressnow.com.

Follow her on Twitter: @NPNowDea

Micaela Dea is a sports reporter for News-Press NOW. She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Growing up in San Diego, Micaela loves to travel, meet new people, and tell stories. Have a story idea? Don't hesitate to email!

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