Oct. 29, 2010
Bolles, Bearcats host Fort Hays State on Senior Day
By David Boyce
In his five seasons at Northwest Missouri State, Blake Bolles has progressed from redshirt to back-up quarterback as a sophomore to starter who led the Bearcats to their third national title.
He's now turning in a fine senior season. He's completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 1,981 yards, tossed 18 touchdowns and only six interceptions in 196 attempts.
Bolles handles the highs that come with winning big games and the occasional lows of a loss in the same down-to-earth manner.
"He always gives a lot of credit to his teammates, which I think is important," Northwest coach Mel Tjeerdsma said.
Yes, it's cliché to say, but if you cut Bolles, he will bleed Bearcat green.
As he prepares for what could be his final home game at Bearcat Stadium on Homecoming weekend, Bolles probably has as good an understanding as any of his teammates of what it means to be a Bearcat.
"It's like being part of a family," he said. "The coaches, the players, they all create a family atmosphere. It's fun to be around. You see people every day who you enjoy being around and who you have a good time doing things with."
Northwest's primary focus for the 2 p.m. kickoff on Saturday will be to beat Fort Hays State and stay undefeated in the MIAA. Since dropping the opener to Texas A&M-Kingsville, the Bearcats have won six straight conference games.
Northwest and the University of Central Missouri are the only two teams undefeated in conference play. The showdown for sole possession of first place is next week in Warrensburg.
But there is no danger in the Bearcats looking past Fort Hays State. Too much is happening this Saturday for them to peek ahead.
Homecoming, Tjeeerdsma said, is a special time at Northwest.
"I don't know that I've seen another school where everybody gets involved," Tjeerdsma said. "All of our students, the fraternities and sororities have a lot of stuff going on. It is incredible the number of floats and all of that. It's like it used to be a long time ago.
"It's just a great tradition here. Our alums come back. We get tremendous support from them and it is pretty neat."
In addition, it's the final regular-season home game for the Bearcats and that means honoring the seniors, like Bolles, linebacker Willie Horn, defensive end Kyle Sunderman and so many others.
"It will be an emotional game," Bolles said. "We will definitely be amped up and ready to go, especially the seniors. It's just one of those things that it goes by so fast that it is hard to believe this is our last game at home."
The seniors have sacrificed their bodies and their time to uphold the strong football tradition built by the many senior classes before them.
|Jake Soy is one TD reception shy of Jamaica Rector's
career record of 38.
And the younger brothers are the juniors, sophomores and redshirt freshmen who have learned from the upperclassmen.
"Our team takes a lot of pride in sending the seniors off in the right way. I'm always excited about senior day," Tjeerdsma said.
There's little doubt who the leader of Northwest is this season. It's Bolles. Whether he or the team has a good game or a poor game, he's upfront answering the questions.
Sure, it's tough sometimes, Bolles said. He shouldered the blame when the Bearcats lost the season-opener in each of the last two years.
He figures that comes with the territory of playing quarterback at Northwest.
"It's tough answering some of those questions, but you got to man-up and take the responsibility," he said.
Even when things go right, as it has much of this season, Bolles will have critics.
"I had somebody say to me the other day, ‘Are you worried about Bolles? He seems to be missing a lot of people,'/" Tjeerdsma said.
"Well, maybe you are watching a different game than I'm watching. He has missed on some long passes, but he will be OK."
All these experiences will only help Bolles when he moves from college quarterback of one of the top NCAA Division II programs in the country to the real world of earning a paycheck for a family.
"I really feel like adversity is not going to be a problem," he said. "I really feel like all the hard work and dedication you are taught to put in one thing at this institution is really going to help me when I get a job in whatever I will be doing. It will be like college.
"I will put all the hard work into that one thing and be successful."
For now, Bolles is going to enjoy every moment playing football for Northwest. He understands the wonderful ride is almost over.
"The coaches will preach that to you from the moment you come in about how it will go by so fast and it will be gone before you know it," he said. "It seems like just yesterday I was getting here and redshirting and now I'm a senior playing my last guaranteed game at home.
"It's been probably the best experience I've had with any sport my entire life. Coming from a high school where we didn't throw the ball much and coming here where they cut me loose a little bit. I got to run some my sophomore year. This year and last year I got to pass some. It's just been a fun experience and something I will never forget."
And Bolles is part of a senior class Tjeerdsma will never forget.
"They have been through a lot," he said. "They have a lot of great opportunities and taken advantage of almost all of them. They are a special group."
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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