MARYVILLE, Mo. — Northwest head coach Rich Wright finally has something this season that he’s never had in his three years at the helm: a returning quarterback.

Elkhorn, Nebraska native Braden Wright boasted a strong debut season at quarterback last year, racking up 3,1100 total yards with 35 touchdowns. Ranking second in the MIAA for touchdown passes and passing yards, the rookie phenom went on to earn the title of MIAA Freshman Player of the Year.

As the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder returns for his second season with the Bearcats among seven other returners on offense, the team hopes to see another standout performance.

“Especially at that position because everything is distributed through him. To have a guy who has a year under his belt, has some experience and knows what the MIAA is like, knows what the playoffs is like, understands out system, feels comfortable with it is just a huge blessing,” said Rich Wright.

The Bearcats ranked first in scoring offense and defense last season in the MIAA, but ranked seventh in passing offense with 26 touchdown passes.

Right tackle Austin Clarkson said having Braden Wright on the offensive squad brings their game to a whole new level.

“Our most experienced group is probably the offensive line,” Clarkson said. “But we have great wide receivers and Braden is coming back too. He’s a great leader. All those guys are.”

Northwest also rosters other quarterbacks in 6-foot-4, 202-pounder redshirt junior Jadyn Kowalski and redshirt freshman Mike Hohensee. Kowalski saw action in three games at quarterback last season, going 6-of-9 in passing for 67 yards and scoring once.

Despite advancing to the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs last season, there remains some room for improvement for the Bearcat squad. Braden Wright ranks 16th currently in the MIAA in scoring with 5.1 points per game and sixth in the passing leaders category.

Tight end Marqus Andrews was an Honorable Mention to the All-MIAA team last season with 222 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 12 games. He said Braden Wright has put in the work to improve this season.

“He’s always in the film room with me and a couple of the older receivers. He’s figuring out what the defense is trying to do whenever we are running our plays during those player-led seven-on-sevens,” Andrews said. “I’m expecting some big things out of him this year.”

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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!