Chad Bostwick was the final Northwest Missouri State coach off the field.
After the news conferences, after the players had polished off a post-game meal of spicy fried chicken as the equipment was loaded on buses, Bostwick posed for a final photograph on the blue NCAA 2013 Football Championship stand with a trophy that, under difference circumstances, might have been held by his older brother, Scott.
But in June 2011, Scott Bostwick, the Bearcats’ defensive coordinator who had been selected to succeed legendary Mel Tjeerdsma as the program’s head coach, died of a heart attack on a summer morning while mowing his lawn. He was 49.
“Not a day goes by when I don’t think of him,” said Chad Bostwick, who coaches the linebackers. “He’d have loved this day. He’d have been proud of what happened here.”
On Saturday, Northwest Missouri State defeated Lenoir-Rhyne 43-28 for the NCAA Division II championship. The Bearcats jumped to a 17-0 lead, and were never really threatened because of the play of an experienced quarterback — Trevor Adams, who led a mistake-free offense — and an aggressive defense that kept the Bears’ potent option attack off balance most of the day.
The Bearcats’ fourth NCAA title since 1998 capped a 15-0 season, and marked the first championship for coach Adam Dorrel, who took over the program upon Bostwick’s death.
As Northwest rolled through its schedule this fall — the victory over Pittsburg State at Arrowhead Stadium may have been the proof that the team was poised for a special season — Dorrel was struck by the closeness of the players, and that thought moved him to put a call into the team’s gear sponsor, adidas, this week.
The Bearcats were to wear visiting white jerseys, and Dorrel worked with the company to have “Family” stenciled in red letters above the numbers.
Red, for a school with green and white colors?
Scott Bostwick wore a red baseball cap. It helped his defensive players identify him easily when they glanced to the sideline.
Dorrel ordered the jerseys Monday and they arrived at the team hotel Friday, but Chad got a sneak peak.
“It choked up me up, big time,” Bostwick said. “I got the lump in the throat.”
Northwest helmets also included a decal of a red baseball hat with the initials “SB.”
With the sideline pumped full of inspiration, Northwest came out blazing. Defensively, the Bearcats dished up a pair of three-and-outs and a fumble and turned each of their first three possessions into scores.
The first touchdown spoke directly to Dorrel’s pregame thought of pushing the early pace. On a fourth-and-7 from the 29, with the wind at Northwest’s back and a capable kicker in Simon Mathiesen, Dorrel went for it.
Adams threw a dart to Reuben Thomas that would have been enough for the first down. But Thomas didn’t let an arm tackle bring him down and continued to the end zone.
“Just got him the ball in space and let him go,” Adams said.
The duo hooked up again in the second half on a 30-yard over the top touchdown, and Adams found Jason Jozaites on a 34-yard connection to end the Bearcats’ scoring and provide a measure of nostalgia.
The Bearcats had run and scored on the same play in each of their previous championship games.
Lenoir-Rhyne punched in a final touchdown to give a final score a more respectable look, and as the seconds ticked away, the boxes of championship caps and T-shirts made their way to the field. Fans were allowed on the turf and green surrounded the podium as Dorrel and the players hoisted the championship trophy.
A final duty remained.
As the buses pulled away from the stadium headed to a celebration at a conference center before traveling to the airport, Dorrel planned to keep a promise.
He and the coaches would head to Cajun’s, a bit of a seafood joint and sports bar outside of town known for its buffet, live music and casual feeling. With the championship game headed to Kansas City next year, there won’t be another opportunity soon to make this trip.
“Scott’s favorite place in town,” Dorrel said.
Dorrel headed there to drop off a red cap.