Braden Wright

Northwest junior quarterback Braden Wright throws a pass versus Fort Hays last Thursday at Lewis Field Stadium in Hays, Kansas.

After the cancellation of their home opener, the Bearcats are using their time wisely.

“We’re not going to take it off,” Northwest head coach Rich Wright said. “Our kids were disappointed, but as I told them, we’re gonna spin this thing positive.”

On Sunday, the No. 4-ranked Bearcats were given the news that the Lincoln Blue Tigers had COVID-19 issues within their program, forcing them to cancel Thursday’s Week 2 matchup.

Ruled a no contest, the game was supposed to be Northwest’s home opener, and the team initially felt disappointed about the cancellation.

“On Sunday I said, ‘Take a day to feel bad,’” Wright said. “We all worked really hard to get to this to this moment and have our time, and we just got through our first week and we were excited to get better and improve. But the reality is, when we got back to the complex on Monday, it’s time to go back to work.”

With the threat of game cancellations looming over teams competing amid the pandemic, Wright wished it would’ve came later on in the season rather than sooner.

“Probably the biggest frustration in terms of being a head coach is that if this happens in Week 11, when we played a full season, it’s actually a welcome reprieve to get some of your injured guys back or get fresh again,” Wright said. “When you have a two-year hiatus, you sure as heck would like to play on Week 2, but those aren’t the cards we were dealt, so we’re going to play the hand that we got.”

Northwest searched for a replacement for Week 2 but faced logistical challenges. Instead, the Bearcats will now implement a team scrimmage on Thursday.

“We’ve kind of flipped the script and said that we’re going to get after each other,” Wright said. “We’re gonna play good-on-good, and we’re gonna beat the snot out of each other for a little while and try and recreate a game as much as we possibly can.”

Luckily for Northwest, the scrimmage will replicate the original game plan versus Lincoln, who the Bearcats were heavily favored to beat.

“Our starters would probably play a half, and then we get our twos and our threes in, so we’re going to scrimmage ones against twos and get after it for a while and at about that halftime point, which is going to be 25 snaps for the offense and 25 for the defense, we’re going to pull the ones out just like we would have on Thursday night and get after it with some of our younger kids,” Wright said.

The Bearcats are coming off their 15-7 win over Fort Hays on the road in Week 1.

Northwest sophomore punter Mike Hohensee punted seven times for a 41.4 average in the victory, earning him the MIAA’s Special Teams Athlete of the Week.

Four of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line, including a pair at the one-yard line. Hohensee recorded the longest punt of the 2021 season by any MIAA player when he unleashed a 73-yard punt in the third quarter of the game.

The Bearcats now prepare to face Central Missouri in Week 3. After talking with other MIAA coaches, Wright said his team’s high vaccination rate mimics others in the conference, giving him hope for a long season ahead.

“The consensus with the guys that I talked to is most of their teams are like mine where we have a high percentage of our players are vaccinated, so you just don’t run into the same issues as you do when you’re playing against programs that have the vast majority who are not,” Wright said.

Northwest faces Central Missouri on Sept. 18 in Warrensburg, Missouri, with a kickoff set for 1 p.m.

Volleyball makes history

Northwest volleyball made program history with its No. 8 ranking in the latest American Volleyball Coaches’ Association Division II Top 25 rankings.

The Bearcats’ previous highest ranking came at No. 10 in the Sept. 30, 2019, and Oct. 7, 2019, polls.

Northwest posted a perfect 4-0 record at the 2021 Courtyard by Marriott Classic, with wins over Augustana, Ashland, Illinois-Springfield and then No.-5 ranked Tampa.

Northwest head coach Amy Woerth credited her team’s hard work in practice towards the success.

“I keep telling them, I sound like a broken record every practice when I say, ‘This is just going to pay off in the end.’ When we work as hard as we do in our practices, it’s not a surprise to me that something like this could really happen,” Woerth said.

The Bearcats travel to Springfield, Ill., this week to take part in the Capital Classic hosted by the University of Illinois-Springfield. Northwest will match up against Grand Valley State, Michigan Tech, Purdue University-Northwest and Upper Iowa.

Soccer season starts strong

Northwest women’s soccer is off to a 2-0 start after a 4-2 win over Wayne State.

Teagan Blackburn led Northwest with two goals scored and an assist while Annelize Aleixo and Kaylie Rock each scored goals as well. Hannah Stirling and Linsi Mashburn each recorded one assist.

Northwest meets Grand Valley next Friday in Warrensburg in non-conference action, with a kickoff is set for 3 p.m. The Bearcats also face Minnesota State next Sunday at Bearcat Pitch.

Golf tees off

Women’s golf began its fall season at the Central Region Preview on Tuesday and will continue competition Wednesday in Blue Springs, Missouri.

Sophomore Elly Speece recorded her second collegiate hole-in-one in the opening round. Speece aced the par-3, 12th hole which played at 136 yards.

The Bearcats go to Tahlequah, Oklahoma next to compete in the NSU Women’s Golf Classic on Sept. 13 and Sept. 14.

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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