HAYS, Kansas – The No. 12-ranked Northwest Missouri State University football team came through with a double-overtime victory over Fort Hays State, 36-33.
Junior placekicker Parker Sampson’s 38-yard field goal in the second overtime provided the winning margin for the Bearcats. Northwest senior Mike Ehlke forced a fumble and recovered it for the Bearcats in the second overtime session for Fort Hays State’s offensive possession. Three plays later Sampson split the uprights for the triumph.
FHSU’s Dante Brown forced overtime when he drilled a 56-yard field goal as time expired to knot the score at 26-26.
In the opening overtime possession, Braden Wright hit Imoni Donadelle for a five-yard touchdown to give Northwest a 33-26 lead. FHSU answered in its half of overtime on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Chance Fuller to Dandre Reed.
Northwest overcame a 17-point deficit in the second quarter to rally for a 19-17 lead at halftime. The Tigers dominated the first quarter by outgaining the Bearcats, 115-31. However, Northwest flipped the script in the second by outgaining Fort Hays State, 191-59.
The Bearcats broke into the scoring column on a one-yard touchdown run by Wright with 12:31 left in the second quarter. The scoring play was set up by a 54-yard catch and run to the one by Gus Gomez.
Northwest’s defense set up the Bearcat offense for its next scoring opportunity after stopping Fort Hays State on a 4th-and-1 at the Bearcat 48-yard line. Northwest drew to within 17-14 on a 42-yard touchdown strike from Wright to Donadelle with 10:32 remaining in the second.
Sam Phillips picked off Fuller at midfield to give Northwest the ball back with 8:31 on the second quarter clock. Northwest knotted the game at 17-17 on a 41-yard field goal from Sampson. It was Sampson’s fifth field goal of 40 or more yards this season. Sampson’s three-pointer came with 7:09 left in the second stanza.
Sampson played a key role in Northwest’s next score. His 64-yard punt was downed at the one-yard line, which allowed the Bearcat defense to take the scoring into its hands. On FHSU’s first snap of the ensuing drive, Brody Buck and Spencer Phillips tackled FHSU running back Te’Corey Tutson in the end zone for a safety. The two-pointer gave Northwest a 19-17 lead with 4:15 left before the half.
The Tigers regained the lead at 20-19 on the first drive of the second half when Brown connected on a 27-yard field goal with 12:20 left in the third quarter.
A 48-yard scramble from Wright took the ball to the FHSU 27-yard line. Wright hit Alec Tatum for a nine-yard reception on a 3rd-and-7 to convert a first down that put the Bearcats into the red zone. Wright converted on another third-and-long situation when he connected with Marqus Andrews on a 14-yard pass play to give Northwest a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. Wright tossed a shovel pass to Justin Rankin for a nine-yard touchdown that gave Northwest a 26-20 lead with 8:24 remaining in the third quarter.
FHSU’s Brown pulled the Tigers to within three at 26-23 after he drilled a 38-yard field, his third made field goal on the day, with 12:25 left in the fourth quarter.
Northwest took over possession at its own 10-yard line with 5:14 left in the fourth quarter looking to run out the clock and score the road victory. Facing a third-and-3, Wright connected with tight end Kyle Raunig on a 17-yard completion to keep the drive alive. However, the Northwest drive stalled and Sampson punted to give FHSU a chance to tie.
The Tigers took over at their own 19-yard line with 1:05 to play and a chance to tie the game. FHSU marched 42 yards in eight plays to get Brown in position to even the game with his 56-yarder.
Northwest will wrap up the regular season at home next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against the Central Missouri Mules. Northwest will celebrate Senior Day and Ag Day at Bearcat Stadium. Northwest will honor 18 seniors prior to next Saturday’s kick. A Northwest victory would clinch a share of the program’s 30th MIAA title.
NOTES: Wright went 23-of-43 passing for 279 yards and three touchdowns … Wright also rushed for a team-high 96 yards and a score … Donadelle caught five passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns … Justin Rankin caught five passes for 35 yards and a touchdown … Jacob Gassman and Sam Phillips each tallied interceptions … Spencer Phillips and Sam Roberts were each credited with a quarterback sack … Blake Bayer and Jackson Barnes led the defense with eight tackles each … it is the first overtime game for Northwest since a 38-35 loss to Minnesota State on Nov. 24, 2012, in the NCAA Division II playoffs … it’s the first overtime win for Northwest since a 38-31 victory over Midwestern State on Nov. 26, 2011, also in the NCAA Division II playoffs.