Sept. 26, 2011
Bearcats ready for 10th Fall Classic
A gentle breeze, clear blue skies and temperatures in the low 70s made for a picture-perfect Monday at Arrowhead Stadium.
It was fitting because inside the beautifully refurbished NFL facility, a press conference for the 10th Fall Classic at Arrowhead took place at noon.
The first anniversary of significance is the 10th one.
Some of the cast from the annual showdown at Arrowhead have changed for Northwest Missouri State and Pittsburg State. But the excitement and the special feeling for all of those involved remain just as strong as the first one on Oct. 17, 2002 when 26,695 fans showed up on a Thursday evening.
In nine seasons, the Fall Classic has averaged 21,547 people, an amazing number for a Division II regular-season football game.
"Ten years, said Chiefs director of special events Gary Spani, "is a long time. That's a pretty big deal."
"Obviously, what have made this game special is the players and the fans. It's a great atmosphere for Division II football at Arrowhead. It's a great tribute to the fans of both schools and the teams and their accomplishments in those 10 years."
All indications suggest the game at 2 p.m. Saturday could shape up to be another Northwest-Pitt. State classic. The Bearcats enter the contest 4-0 and ranked No. 1 in Division II. Pittsburg State has rebounded from two straight uncharacteristic mediocre seasons and is 4-0 and ranked 15th in Division II.
Even though the Gorillas are the Bearcats rivals, Northwest senior wide receiver Jake Soy is glad to see Pittsburg State back to playing winning football.
"They are a storied program just like Northwest," Soy said. "It brings a lot more excitement to the game. The last few years when they were down a little bit, you talk to fans and they said, ‘they are not very good but we are going to the game.' This will bring the spirit back and the people back."
Last year's attendance of 16,504 was the lowest in the nine years at Arrowhead, but it was still more than the 4,027 that showed up for the Division II Championship game in Florence, Ala.
"The thing that has stayed the same is the great tradition of the Bearcats and the Gorillas and their fan base," said MIAA Commissioner Bob Boerigter, who started this event when he was the athletic director at Northwest.
"That's why this has been able to sustain itself. It has been fun to be a part of it. Now as commissioner, I get to walk on both sidelines. It will be fun for me this Saturday."
When the games at Arrowhead started in 2002, Adam Dorrel was in his second of four seasons as offensive coordinator at William Jewell.
Dorrel has experienced the Fall Classic at Arrowhead as Northwest offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. This will be his first as head coach.
"When you play in this type of venue and in this type of atmosphere I think it is very special for our kids. It's very special for me personally. From a recruiting standpoint, I can just go on and on why this is a big event for Northwest Missouri State.
"It's big for our alumni base. We have a lot of people here in Kansas City."
The aspect that has made this game so compelling is the play on the field. There have been some amazing games. Even last year, Pittsburg State had a chance to win late before falling 22-16.
In 2004, both teams came into Arrowhead undefeated for the final regular-season game. Pittsburg State won 21-17 and went on to finish National runner-up. In 2007, Northwest won 37-34 in overtime.
Saturday's game could be another instant classic.
"Pittsburg State, by far, is going to be the best team we've played so far this year," Dorrel said. "We are looking forward to the challenge."
Northwest is putting up offensive numbers like the Pittsburg State team of 2004. The Bearcats have scored 65, 52, 73 and 70 points in their first four games.
"I was going to call Adam on Sunday and tell him we didn't get the right video," Pittsburg State coach Tim Beck said. "I thought he sent us a highlight video. I put their video on and they are scoring 70 points a game.
"We thought they may have been down a little bit because they lost a lot of starters on defense. They just plug the next guy in and here they go again."
Given what the Northwest players went through during the summer when head coach Scott Bostwick suddenly passed away because of a heart attack, the Bearcats' start has been amazing.
"I think they have handled it absolutely as good as they possibly can," Northwest athletic director Wren Baker said. "It could have gone in one or two ways. They really could have shut it down from an emotional perspective and just said, ‘hey we are overloaded with emotion.' It could have been negative as far as their effort on the field.
"Or they could have taken that emotion and channeled it in a positive way. As a coaching staff and players, they have absolutely channeled it into something positive. I can't tell you how proud I am of the young men on the team and the coaches and the way they approached things.
"I have learned a lot from the football players and the coaches this fall about dealing with adversity and how you focus on the task at hand."
The football season is still early, but the 2011 Bearcats have already created some memorable moments and they want to add to it on Saturday.
"The thing I enjoy each day is our kids are having fun. With everything that has happened in the offseason, it put some things in perspective a little bit. Just to watch our kids enjoy each other, fly around, be physical and see them after games is something that has been neat to see. We are very excited for Saturday."
For more information, please contact:
Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
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