Despite a 45-35 victory last week against Missouri Western, the Northwest football team expressed its concerns heading into week two of MIAA play.

“Our kickoff team was abysmal, and that’s a huge area of emphasis this week. It was absolutely terrible,” head football coach Rich Wright said. “I thought Parker (Sampson) kicked the ball well as far as placement, but I wasn’t happy with our coverage team at all.”

The Bearcats averaged a net 28.4 yards per kickoff while the Griffons held an average net yardage of 42.2 in last Thursday’s season opener matchup. Going into this week’s game versus Washburn, the Bearcats hope they return with a good sense of cohesion formed from the stiff competition.

“I felt like what we were doing, we just needed to do a better job of executing it. So, when we lost the lead and the offense came back, and then we started to get some stops, you could feel the momentum kind of build and that’s ultimately what turned the time,” Rich Wright said.

Sophomore quarterback Braden Wright completed 8 out of 18 passes and had one interception against the Griffons. Even though the Bearcats have won 14 straight in the series versus Washburn, Braden Wright said he wants this Saturday’s matchup to showcase his improvements.

“I’ve got a different role on the offense this year being more of a leader, so I just have to be ready and I’ve got to play better than I did last week, that’s for sure,” Braden Wright said. “I’m just working on building on that performance and becoming a better player myself, doing my job and hopefully helping our team get some wins.”

Senior running back Justin Rankin rushed for seven first downs and posted a team-best 143 all-purpose yards. Braden Wright added he’s thankful Rankin’s on the team.

“I like to think of him as the world’s greatest bail out option. If nothing’s there downfield, I’m confident and comfortable just kind of chucking the ball down to him and letting him go,” Braden Wright said.

With plenty of confidence formed in the Bearcats’ running game, the offensive staff is still working toward leaning on different kinds of offensive options throughout the game.

Rich Wright added, “Obviously Justin (Rankin) and Isaiah (Strayhorn) are talented kids, but we have a pretty dangerous passing game as well. And I think we have to mix it up to keep defenses a little bit more off-balanced.”

Sophomore linebacker Sam Phillips was named the MIAA’s football defensive player of the week, scoring two defensive touchdowns in last week’s win.

“That’s a tough catch because he wasn’t very far off on the line of scrimmage,” Rich Wright said. “The other one was probably a little one more right place at the right time. His brother scooped the fumble up and turned around looking for somebody to pitch the ball to and it ended up getting it to Spencer’s hands.”

As Washburn head coach Craig Schurig enters his 18th season as the Ichabods’ head coach, the team heads into this weekend’s matchup also with a 1-0 record.

“Washburn is another team that’s always battling. They’re a physical football team. Offensively, they’ve got a quarterback that is returned,” Rich Wright said. “They’ve got several good receivers. They’re physical up front. They’ve got a good offensive line.”

The Bearcats have a 31-6 lead in the all-time series vs. Washburn and are 17-2 versus the Ichabods in Maryville.

Northwest kicks off against Washburn on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Bearcat Stadium.

Climbing on up

The Northwest volleyball team ranks 18th in this week’s American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 poll after earning a 4-0 start to the season at the Washburn Invitational. This marks the 10th time in program history that Northwest has been ranked in the AVCA top 25, while the previous nine times came during the 2016 season…The Bearcat cross-country team opened its season last Friday, with the men placing first and the women placing third at the Bearcat Open…The Bearcat women’s soccer team fell 5-2 to Southwest Baptist last Sunday...The Northwest women’s golf team completed day one of the 21st annual NSU Golf Classic on Monday at Cherokee Springs Golf Course in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, shooting 331 in round one.

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!