MARYVILLE, Missouri -- Saturday’s contest against Pittsburg State (5-0) is familiar territory for the Bearcats (5-0) at an unfamiliar location for some.
“I am a Chiefs fan, but I’ve never been inside an NFL stadium, let alone the Arrowhead. So it’ll be an experience for me, I’ll be looking around,” sophomore defensive tackle Zach Howard said with a laugh.
As the Bearcats prepare for their biggest test yet, head coach Rich Wright said the team planned a walk-through at Arrowhead Stadium on Friday to allow the excitement wear off.
“To the kids on our football team, most of them grow up in the Midwest, a lot of them are Chiefs fans. It’s a really cool deal,” Wright said.
Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the National Football League's Kansas City Chiefs, hosted 12 annual meetings between the Bearcats and the Gorillas from 2002-2013.
Northwest is 11-3 all-time at Arrowhead, including wins over Central Missouri State in 2016 and 2017.
In the total 14 contests in Kansas City, the Bearcats have averaged more than 30 points per game and drawn seven crowds of more than 20,000 fans.
Wright added, “It’s a great venue. It’s always loud in that stadium, I don’t know what it is in that stadium. It reverberates. It’s a big, fun-time atmosphere, and most schools don’t get to experience that. So, I think our kids feel blessed that they get to play at the home of the Chiefs.”
The Bearcats take on an undefeated MIAA foe in the Gorillas. The last time Northwest battled Pittsburg State was in 2013, and both teams also were undefeated at the time with 6-0 records.
In their last meeting at Arrowhead Stadium, the Bearcats beat the Gorillas 24-15 on Oct. 19, 2013. Now, the team is preparing for a dynamic Gorilla offense led by head coach Tim Beck.
“You can look at the first three or four games and say we played well on the outside,” Howard said. “We have a lot of room to grow, but I think that’s exciting to look at the past and say we haven’t gotten to the quarterback how we wanted, but we’re getting better every single week.”
The Bearcats aren't going into the game underestimating their opponent.
“Tim Beck’s done a phenomenal job down at Pittsburg for a long time. I don’t think he gets the credit that he deserves," Wright said. "As an offensive guy, I remember (former Northwest coach) Bostwick would be mad at him going into the games at Arrowhead because he’s always got new wrinkles.”
Beck is in his 10th season as Pittsburg State’s head football coach, boasting an 81-30 record during his tenure leading his alma mater.
“He’s always got new things he’s doing. He’s innovative and creative, and their kids are buying in. They believe in what they’re doing, and they’re executing at a really high level. So, it’s going to be a big challenge,” Wright said.
As the two squads prime themselves to step onto the Chiefs’ home turf come Saturday, a rivalry will be renewed.
“I’ve lost to Pittsburg State more than I’ve lost to any other team since 2004. Usually when we play them the stakes are pretty high, and so yeah it’s a rivalry game of sorts,” Wright said. “It’s two teams who are looking forward to trying to get to the postseason and ultimately win a national championship.
Kickoff is set for noon Saturday between Northwest and Pittsburg State at Arrowhead Stadium.