Nov. 14, 2013
Mo West week special for Gnader, Bearcats
By David Boyce | #2 Northwest at #19 Missouri Western | Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 | 2:37 p.m. | Spratt Stadium (St. Joseph, Mo.)
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MARYVILLE, Mo. - Before Northwest Missouri State coach Adam Dorrel gets the name out of his mouth, he chuckles. Junior linebacker D.J. Gnader knows what is coming.
Gnader hears it all the time when Dorrel addresses him in practice. At Tuesday’s weekly media luncheon at the Student Union, Dorrel did it to Gnader again.
“This week,” Dorrel said, “I brought Donald.”
Gnader had to smile. It was a humorous moment.
“He calls me Donald all the time,” Gnader said. “I am used to it now. The first few times I was like, ‘coach, don’t embarrass me like that.’
“My dad and grandfather are both Donald, too so they gave me the J so I could go by something different. Yes, it is an alright name.”
Four days before the biggest game so far this season, it is always a good sign that coaches and players can have lighthearted moments instead of being uptight and tense 24/7.
Make no mistake, the Bearcats will be fired up for the regular-season finale when they head into Spratt Stadium and take on Missouri Western at 2:37 p.m. Saturday.
A year ago, Northwest played for the MIAA title at home against Missouri Western in the last regular-season game. Both teams had one conference loss. The Bearcats held a 17-0 halftime lead. They lost 21-20 and then watched Missouri Western players celebrate at Bearcat Stadium.
“Personally, I will never forget that moment just because the way they handled themselves after the game,” Gnader said. “Seeing another team hold that trophy on your home field is motivation.
“We met Sunday and coach Dorrel said it is not about Missouri Western, it is about us. Missouri Western is the next step in what our goals are and what we want to do. As a team, we really believe that, but there is some revenge, of course. We have a great opportunity. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Since spring football, the Bearcats have talked about finishing. That was one of the weaknesses in last year’s team. They took their foot off the gas a bit when they took a lead.
It is a totally different story this season. Northwest, 10-0 overall and 9-0 and in sole possession of first place in the MIAA, has not let up with a lead. That was the case in their most recent victory, a 48-21 win at previously unbeaten Emporia State.
“I hear our kids talk about it,” Dorrel said. “They talk about finish. We were talking about it at Emporia State. If you do it properly, you can learn from losing.
“We learned a little bit from last year and hopefully it will carry us into Saturday.”
Gnader is one of the reasons the Bearcats have been so effective on defense. He is second on the team in tackles with 69. He brings intensity to the middle linebacker position.
“He is a free-spirited kid,” Dorrel said. “We are really proud of him. He has been consistent all year. His preparation has been good all year.
“He is what you want in a middle linebacker. He has great intensity, good instincts. He is one of our emotional leaders. He really gets guys going. He gets me going.”
Gnader simply loves the game of football. He has been playing it since he was 8 years old.
Game day is special to him even more so this year because this team is so unselfish. Nobody on the Bearcats is looking for individual glory. Each player just wants to do his part to help Northwest win.
Anybody who has played on a team that acts as one unit knows it is a special thing to be part of because it does not happen every year.
“We definitely are doing our 1/11,” Gnader said. “We preached that all year long. We have a lot of great athletes on this defense and on this team. You can find selfishness on other teams, but you are not playing gap sound assignment football. If a guy is not doing his assignment, it can be catastrophic. Us being unselfish and doing our job is the best.”
Gnader credits the coaches for putting them in position to be successful on and off the field.
“They spend countless hours putting together game plans, teaching us the game and putting us in the right position,” Gnader said. “We are a direct reflection of them. They do a great job of motivating. They not only do a great job of teaching us football, but also the game of life.”
And the game of life is more than football. As intense as football can be, a player needs to find other outlets. One for Gnader is hunting. It is something he picked up about a year ago.
Dorrel brought it up at the Tuesday luncheon, joking that Donald shot a few ducks.
“Yes, I like to hunt,” Gnader said. “Matt Longacre, Zach Williams and I went out Monday. With the weather changing the way it did, we killed a total of 15 ducks. It was a great day. Sometimes we sit out there and see two or three ducks. We cleaned all of them and ate them.
“My dad and I hunted a few times back home. It is just the peacefulness out there. It is hard to explain, especially when you are out there with your teammates. We get away from everything and get to sit out there and relax and talk about stuff. It is also an adrenaline rush. I am kind of an adrenaline junkie. It is a great feeling being out there and spending that quality time with teammates. It feels like it brings our bond closer together.”
On Saturday, the Bearcats will be hunting a few Griffons. Gnader is ready for the next big game for Northwest.
“When you get a chance to make that play and you make it, there is no better feeling in the world, especially in front of the Bearcat fans,” Gnader said. “They travel well. They are a great support system.”
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