NCAA Division-II Football Playoffs
No. 18 Emporia State Hornets (11-2)
No. 1 Northwest Missouri State Bearcats (12-0)
How They Got Here:
The Emporia State Hornets finished second in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) trailing only Northwest Missouri, their opponent in this contest. The Hornets went 9-2 in the regular season, winning their first six games, before finally falling to Fort Hays State.
Emporia State had the lowest seeding in their bracket, but these Hornets know how to sting. In their first round contest in the NCAA Division-II football playoffs, the team took on Minnesota State, the team that was the runner-up for last year’s title. This was an absolutely outstanding game as the lead changed five times during the contest. Both teams had sizeable leads at some point in the contest before the other team came back and retook the lead.
The Mavericks took a 28-10 lead with a little more than six minutes left in the second quarter, but Brent Wilson led a huge comeback, throwing five touchdowns during a span where ESU scored five straight touchdowns. Minnesota State battled back by scoring 21 of the next 24-points and had the lead late, however, an Austin Morton 33-yard field goal as time expired gave Emporia State the 51-49 win.
Wilson threw for 437-yards and 5 TDs. Morris Williams II had 159-yards receiving and a touchdown and Kavaski Ervin had 139-yards and 3 scores. Mitchell Foote also went over 100-yards receiving (116). Jason Tetuan made 14-tackles and had 2.5-sacks. JP Lohrentz had 12-tackles and made three interceptions.
Up next was No. 8 Henderson State. Emporia State dominated this game, scoring the first 22-points of the game and finishing with a 29-3 victory. It was a scoreless tie through the first quarter, but Eddie Vinson’s fumble recovery in the end zone made it 10-0. Austin Morton was the big hero in the game, hitting five field goals. Landon Nault rushed for 187-yards and scored a TD.
Northwest Missouri State enters the contest as the MIAA champions after going 11-0 in the regular season. The Bearcats put on an amazing offensive show all season long, dominating every opponent but one, including a 69-0 victory on October 10.
Northwest Missouri State had a first round bye in the NCAA Division-II football playoffs, but in round two they took on No. 11 ranked Humboldt State University. This was truly no contest as the Bearcats were able to shut down star running back Ju’Quan Gardner in a 54-7 victory. NWMSU scored 47 points before Humboldt was even able to get onto the scoreboard. The defense was absolutely stymieing as the Jacks generated just four first downs and 48 total yards of offense. That included -24-yards rushing. The Humboldt quarterback was sacked five times and intercepted two other times in the game.
Meanwhile, Simon Mathiesen connected on four field goals and Brady Bolles tossed a 75-yard touchdown pass and ran for another score in the victory. Bolles threw for 276-yards and two scores. Shawn Bane had 7-receptions for 134-yards and a touchdown.
Keys Players to Watch:
Brent Wilson leads the Emporia State offense and is having an absolutely amazing year. He leads Division-II football with 3,920-yards passing and 39-touchdowns. The senior is also quite accurate with his passes, completing 65 percent of them, but he will force balls into traffic. That has led to 14 interceptions, something he cannot afford to do in this contest.
Kavaski Ervin is Wilson’s favorite target. So far the senior has caught 76-passes for 1,139-yards and 11 TDs. He is incredibly quick off the line and has great hands. Add to that the play of Mitchell Foote, who caught 12-touchdowns and 75-passes and it is clear to see why Wilson is having such a great year.
Austin Morton connected on 21 of his 24 field goal attempts and made 54 of his 57 point after attempts. He is a big weapon for the Emporia State offense and if the game is close he is a difference maker.
Both Kole Schankie and Josh Monteaqudo are outstanding tacklers who always seem to be in on the play. The two have combined for nearly 200 tackles this season, plus both have the ability to attack the quarterback or drop back into pass defense.
For the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats their offense is led by quarterback Brady Bolles. The senior has good size and arm strength and he is very smart in his decision-making. Bolles has thrown for 3,184-yards and 24-touchdowns versus just 8-interceptions.
Shawn Bane has become his favorite target making 65-catches for 1,045-yards and 8-TDs. The wide receiver has great speed and excellent hands, and he knows how to get open.
Simon Mathiesen is an excellent kicker in his own right. The junior successfully connected on 21 of his 25 field goal attempts and made all but one of his 63 point after attempts. He has deadly accuracy as well making the kicking game an interesting aspect of this contest.
On defense, Jacob Vollstedt and Collin Bevins are two dominating forces that can easily disrupt an offense. Vollstedt has 9.5-sacks and Bevins 9. Bevins leads the team with 19-tackles for losses.
If you throw the way of Kevin Berg you do so at your own peril. The junior safety intercepted eight passes so far this season and always seems to find himself in the right position to make plays in the passing game.
Outlook: Emporia State has been on an amazing run that has seen them beat the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in their bracket. It would be exciting to see if they could topple the No. 1 team, but Northwest Missouri State is just too good. They were ranked the No. 1 team in the country heading into the playoffs and look to have a dream matchup against last year’s winner. Take Northwest Missouri State to win this one easily, 45-27.
Featured Image Courtesy of the Post-Crescent
By Robert Pannier