Northwest Missouri State coach Adam Dorrel has won plenty games in his five seasons with the Bearcats, including a national title.
Still, the specter of playing for the school’s fifth national crown in the friendly confines of Kansas City’s Sporting Park loomed large enough that Dorrel gave himself a few pep talks in the mirror to calm his nerves.
Those fears nearly came to fruition on Saturday, before the top-ranked Bearcats slammed the door on West Georgia, 38-23 in a Division II semifinal at Bearcat Stadium
Northwest Missouri, 14-0, will make its ninth appearance in the national title game, and will play Shepherd (W.Va.)
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“I haven’t said this to anybody, but I felt a lot of pressure when they switched that game to Kansas City,” Dorrel said. “I hope I was calm this week.”
Saturday was almost the story of West Georgia’s epic comeback. The Wolves, 12-2, trailed 24-6 at halftime, but the deficit was just 24-23 when West Georgia kicker Hunter Heck lined up a 53-yard field goal with 4:45 to go.
West Georgia needed 14 yards for a first down, and Heck had already made two field goals earlier.
“Hunter felt like he had it, and we were only down one. I felt like even if we didn’t get it and they scored, we’re still only down one score,” said West Georgia coach Will Hall. “It was a better roll of the dice than punting it down deep, getting a stop and then going for a score again anyway.”
Heck missed well to the right, and the Bearcats were determined to close the game out on the fog-drenched afternoon.
“After they missed that field goal, A.D. (Dorrel) said ‘We’re going to play to win this game.’ He called that play, and me and (quarterback) Brady (Bolles) looked at it each other and said ‘Let’s go. Let’s go make a play,” Northwest junior receiver George Sehl said.
Sehl ran a double move and was wide open along the sideline. Bolles (who finished with 235 yards, two touchdowns and an interception) hit Sehl in stride for a 64-yard touchdown.
“Their DB’s were doing a great job all game of breaking on the ball, and we thought if we could get a double move we could catch them off guard,” Bolles said. “Really, we just caught them in the right time.”
Bearcats senior safety Bryce Enyard got the victory party started just moments later when he stepped in front of a receiver and then the interception 61 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
All that separated the Bearcats from Kansas City after that was a week’s worth of practice and a 90-minute bus ride.
“On the sidelines I just kept talking to the coaches, like ‘Hey, I’m feeling these guys out,’” Enyard said. “We just stayed patient. We knew we were going to get one of them. I just had to keep that mentality, and at the right time it was there.”
Dorrel expects Sporting Park to be awash in green and white next Saturday for the national championship. Despite a few tense moments this week, it’s exactly where he expected to be.
“Say what you want, but there was never a doubt in my mind we were going to win that game, because of our kids. The spirit of our kids,” Dorrel said.