MARYVILLE, Mo. — For a stretch a few years ago, a Division II football championship game couldn’t be played without Northwest Missouri State or Grand Valley State.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Sometimes it was the Bearcats and the Lakers.
The familiar foes will meet once again in a national semifinal at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Bearcat Stadium.
The winner advances to the NCAA championship game next Saturday in Florence, Ala.
In 2005 and 2006, Grand Valley defeated Northwest in the title game. In 2009, the Bearcats reversed the outcome, and they also beat the Lakers in the 2007 national semifinals.
Between 2001 and 2009, one team or the other played in eight title games.
“It says a lot about both of our programs,” Northwest coach Adam Dorrel said. “The consistency of them, the coaching staffs, the universities’ commitment to the programs, both staffs’ ability to recruit kids based on tradition. I think that’s a lot of it.”
The head coaches have looked across the sideline at each other for a good chunk of the time.
Dorrel joined the Northwest staff in 2005 and became head coach in 2011.
Grand Valley’s Matt Mitchell is in his fourth year as a head coach in Allendale, Mich., after serving as the Lakers’ assistant the previous six years.
The Bearcats, 13-0, advanced to the semifinals after slugging two opponents by an average score of 52-21. Grand Valley, 12-2, trailed both its previous two playoff opponents in the second half — and scored the final 21 points to beat West Texas A&M by a touchdown last week.
For Northwest, defense has set the tone. The Bearcats opened a 31-0 lead on Minnesota-Duluth and recorded seven sacks in the game.
Against St. Cloud State last week, the Bearcats’ early lead was 28-0, and Northwest held quarterback Phillip Klaphake, who entered the game having thrown for more than 4,000 yards, to 169 yards on 11 of 28 passing.
Opponents are averaging 16.8 points and 285.9 yards against Northwest, top 10 figures in Division II.
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.