After a week of practicing, Missouri Western’s football team finally got back in the groove of a game as it hosted its scrimmage Saturday morning at Spratt Stadium.

Fall camp started for the Griffons on Monday, and Saturday was the first time they played both sides of the ball together competitively. Head coach Matt Williamson was happy from what he saw from his team, but knows that there is always room for improvement.

“I think I saw a lot of good thing on both sides of the ball,” Williamson said. “I thought we ran the ball pretty well, offensively. Defensively, we got a bunch of new guys that fitted in pretty well, although we had a few misfits. I think our running back corps and offensive line did a really good job today and they kind of scripted practice for us.”

Western is coming off of its first winning season since 2015, as it finished 7-5 and won a bowl game against Southern Arkansas, in its first postseason appearance in six years. While it was a pretty successful season for the Griffons, they are still looking to improve and feel they are off to a good start.

“I think overall, it was a great atmosphere and competitive environment with a lot of fun. I was really proud of how our guys played from start to finish. The biggest thing was that we were were able to play the game of football, when we get to go live and run through and tackle people, it makes it a lot more enjoyable,” Williamson said.

With a successful start to fall camp that wrapped up their first week with a satisfying scrimmage, Western is hoping to bring together all the talent and new faces and turn those into wins against the highly competitive MIAA conference.

“I think just the camaraderie of our team and how competitive they’ve gotten and the talent that we got is going to take us to where we want to go. A lot of those close games come down to teammate chemistry and guys being held accountable so right now we’re trying to improve that and get our guys to gel together and get on the same page,” Williamson said.

While they lost multiple starters and talented seniors from last years graduating class, the Griffons are returning 13 starters from last year, along with 16 seniors for this fall. Many of the players have been itching to get back on the field ever since the Agent Barry Live United Bowl trophy last December.

“It’s good to finally be back to doing football stuff,” senior quarterback Wyatt Steigerwald said. “We’ve been waiting for this all summer and people have been working hard. It’s nice to get back with all the coaches and continue to get better for the regular season.”

As the team has spent the past week together on and off the field, the players know there is a long season ahead of them and they are just getting started.

“I feel like we have a great group, so I am looking forward to seeing what we can do as a group. We are confident in ourselves and what we do and we just can’t wait for the opportunity. There were some positive and negatives on both sides of the ball, but the biggest negative is that we need to cut down on our penalties,” Steigerwald said.

Penalties were a big downfall for the Griffons last fall and was something that Williamson preached to the team as they huddled together at midfield at the end of practice.

“It’s a little bit of being undisciplined, but I think it is mainly just because everyone is just extremely hyped up. They all just want to destroy the person in front of them that they get so caught into that, they lose focus on pre-snap reads and all that stuff,” junior defensive lineman Tyler Baska said.

The Griffons will host the longtime MIAA rival Northwest for their season opener on Thursday, September 5.

Tanner Cobb can be reached