Dec. 19, 2013
Balanced production from Bearcat receiversBy David Boyce
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Through all these championship years for Northwest Missouri State football program, the Bearcats have always entered the season with a go-to receiver.
Who was going to be that guy in 2013?
Junior Bryce Young was the most likely to ascend to that spot. As a sophomore, Young caught 36 passes for 504 yards and two touchdowns.
The lone senior in the receiving group, Clint Utter, only had had four receptions last year.
“Going into the fall camp, there was a question mark of whether we would get open and make plays,” Young said. “Playing against the secondary we have to play against in fall camp, we were able to get open. I think doing that gave us confidence.
“If we can get open on the Dixon brothers, Travis Manning and the guys we practice against, that gave us good momentum going into the season.”
Northwest coach Adam Dorrel echoed Young’s words.
The Bearcats returned a veteran offensive line, a very experienced defense and a senior quarterback who saw significant action the previous two years.
The starting running back, Billy Creason, was entering his sixth year in the Northwest football program.
“I think anybody on our football team would say that they were the biggest question mark coming into the season,” Dorrel said. “There was some experience, but not a ton of productivity in numbers.”
What the 2013 Northwest receivers have become is something much more than the numbers they produce on the field. They are a shining example of what it means to be part of a team.
Utter, Young, juniors Reuben Thomas, Jason Jozaites and Korey Jackson have all had their moments during the season. The receivers do not care who is featured.
“It is a very humbling experience,” Jozaites said. “At wide receiver, it is a position that gets a lot of glory. We can make or break a game with a game-winning catch or lose it with a drop. We don’t have one major guy. Utter kind of stepped into that role, being our senior leader.
“It has really brought a different dynamic to our team and a challenge to all the other teams we are playing this year.”
Utter set the tone with his senior leadership early this year.
“He started that in summer workouts and bled into fall camp,” Young said. “Whenever we needed a play, he was always there. I think he has really helped Jason and I.
“He really stepped up because he has been a quiet guy since I have been here. He stepped into that role and been our vocal and big play maker.”
When Northwest, 14-0, takes on Lenoir-Rhyne, 13-1, 11 a.m. Saturday in the NCAA Division II Championship game in Florence, it would be easy for the Bears to focus on Thomas.
Thomas leads the group with 61 catches for 933 yards and eight touchdowns. Utter ranks second with 40 receptions 691 yards and nine touchdowns.
But it would be foolish to focus on Thomas and Utter and forget about the other three receivers. They have combined for over 70 catches, 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“It has got to be tough,” Young said. “Maybe in the past you could focus on one or two guys and be able to spy them. On any given route, any of us could be open on a play. I think that is nice for our offensive coaches to game plan, to have four or five players on the outside.”
For this to work, the receivers had to leave their ego at home. Over the last few decades in the NFL, receivers have become the prima donnas on a football team, the needy players who crave the spotlight.
“That is the diva position,” Dorrel said. “None of them is like that. None of those guys complain about playing time. We never had even one of those guys thinking about walking into our office and say ‘I need more playing time.’ It is refreshing and why we are where we are at.”
Josaites said the receivers are no different from any of the other positions. Senior quarterback Trevor Adams shares time with sophomore Brady Bolles.
That kind of camaraderie and versatility has made the 2013 Bearcats such a dynamic team on the football field.
“We have three or four tight ends, three or four running backs and having a dual quarterback threat, I just don’t understand how teams scout us,” Jozaites said. “I can’t understand how teams prepare for what we bring to the table.”
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