There’s something fun about preparing for the unfamiliar, Northwest Missouri football coach Adam Dorrel said, as his program is set to face West Georgia for the first time in the NCAA Division II semifinals on Saturday at Maryville, Mo. Kickoff is 2:30 p.m.
“It’s exciting to face an opponent you haven’t seen,” Dorrel said. “After watching film they’re what you expect them to be.”
Which is to say dynamic, especially on defense.
West Georgia ranks second nationally in scoring defense (14.6 points) and total defense (238.1 yards), just behind the Bearcats in both categories. Northwest yields 11.9 points and 220.8 yards per game on average.
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But although this game begins the gridiron history between the schools, they’re not entirely strangers, at least on the coaching staffs.
West Georgia head coach Will Hall spent the 2006 season at offensive coordinator at Southwest Baptist, formerly of the MIAA.
Both teams have spent time at the top of the Division II polls. West Georgia held the No. 1 ranking until a loss to Florida Tech in early November. Northwest eventually moved to the top spot and has remained there throughout the postseason.
The Bearcats are coming off a 38-17 victory over Emporia State, a game in which quarterback Brady Bolles passed for 329 yards and three touchdowns. Northwest opened a 17-0 lead and went on to improve its all-time home playoff record to 25-3. Since 2004, Northwest is 18-0 at home in the postseason.
West Georgia, which won a share of the Gulf South Conference championship for the first time since 2000, defeated Valdosta State 27-20 in the second round and Tuskegee 35-9 in last week’s regional final.
Against Tuskegee, West Georgia quarterback Dallas Dickey passed for 398 yards and three touchdowns.
The other Division II semifinal matches Grand Valley State (Mich.) against Shepherd (W.Va.). Grand Valley knocked off defending champion Colorado State-Pueblo last week 31-7, and Shepherd improved to 12-0 with a victory over Slippery Rock.
The semifinal winners will meet on Dec. 19 at Sporting Park for the national championship.