Bearcat football picked to finish first in MIAA preseason

·4 min read

Jul. 27—The 2022 MIAA Football Media Day kicked off July 26, signaling that football season is right around the corner. There were 12 members that gathered inside the Kansas City Convention Center's Little Theatre to discuss their expectations and teams.

The reigning MIAA Champions, Northwest Missouri State, were one of those teams that made the trip to speak in front of the media. Alongside head coach Rich Wright were quarterback Braden Wright and defensive tackle Zach Howard, who are both entering their senior season.

As a team, the Bearcats are losing 13 starters, while returning nine. Within those nine returners, two of them experienced quarterbacks in Wright and Mike Hohensee.

While Wright experienced an injury during the 2021 season, the quarterback saw action in seven games, starting in three games. He passed for 945 yards and 10 touchdowns, as eight of his 10 touchdown passes came in the playoffs.

Hohensee, who also suffered an injury later in the season and was relieved by Wright, made 10 starts at quarterback. In those 10 starts, he was able to lead the nation in completion percentage (73.6%) and passing efficiency (187.3).

On the season, he threw for 20 touchdowns, and rushed the ball 62 times for 258 yards and eight touchdowns.

After 2021, the offense lost running back Al Mckeller, along with wide receivers Imoni Donadelle, Kaden Davis, and Alec Tatum. For coach Rich Wright, he knows these two can lead an inexperienced offense.

"Any time you can have your quarterback position solid, I think that's very helpful. We've got two guys in Braden and Mike who have played significant snaps and big time games," Rich Wright said. "They understand the rigors and the pressure of that, so I feel really good starting."

There was no confirmation on who would be starting come Sep. 1 as the Fort Hays Tigers come to Maryville for the Week 1 matchup. However, while one of the quarterbacks will get the nod to start, it doesn't mean it's the end of the season for the other.

They're going to play. That's what we're going to do, we're going to roll with both of them," Rich Wright said. "They both deserve it. They both earned it, and so they're both going to play."

Braden Wright will have a large sum of new faces to throw to, and will no longer be accompanied by McKeller in the backfield. Last season, the Bearcats averaged 206.5 rushing yards per game.

With a lot of new rotations being added to the Bearcats' offense, Braden Wright knows the importance of early season work.

"We got to get our stuff down so the new guys can now integrate in our offense and they know it's time to go," Braden Wright said. "Everyone on the team knows it's time to go."

The running back room will feature seven freshmen, two sophomores, and one junior and senior. The inexperience from the position may be worrisome to fans, but Rich Wright sees the potential every kid poses.

"I feel like the running back position is a position where we have some inexperience, but we've got talent, and kind of looking forward to seeing what we can become moving forward once we get to camp," Rich Wright said. "The thing that I'm excited about in our running back room is the versatility that those guys have. They can line up in the slot, and can run routes and create matchup problems and do some things like."

Defense didn't seem to be the main focus for the Bearcats when discussing inexperience in positions. Last year's defense allowed an average of 12.5 points per game, 152.6 passing yards per game, and 71 rushing yards per game.

The Bearcats aren't completely in the clear however, as Howard knows the defensive line will have to come together to be effective.

"Identity on the d-line is going to look different. We're going to have to play really well as a group and not just individuals playing well. We played well as a group last year," Howard said. "There's so many other guys that are going to rotate and roll through and they're going to be good by the end of the year."

This year, the Bearcats have been selected as the favorite a top both of the MIAA preseason football coaches and media polls.

Calvin Silvers can be reached at calvin.silvers@newspressnow.com.