West Georgia football team entered the 2015 season determined to advance beyond the NCAA Division II semifinals. A three-point loss in last year’s semifinals fueled the Wolves.
In Saturday’s semifinal game at Northwest Missouri State, the Wolves appeared far away from reaching the championship game. Despite eventually falling 38-23, West Georgia showed a championship spirit on a foggy afternoon at Bearcat Stadium.
“It was a two-score final, but I thought the game was closer than that,” West Georgia coach Will Hall said.
Indeed. West Georgia went into halftime trailing 24-6. Three long drives by Northwest, a turnover and a miscue on a punt allowed the Bearcats to enjoy a comfortable lead.
The Wolves, who only had 87 yards of total offense in the first half, definitely didn’t make it comfortable for Northwest in the second half. Less than 2 minutes into the third quarter, senior quarterback Dallas Dickey threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to Telvin Brown. Five minutes later, Dickey tossed a 40-yard touchdown pass to Qa Walker.
Suddenly, with still 8 minutes remaining in the third quarter, West Georgia trailed 24-20.
“They did a great job of fighting their tails off there,” Dickey said of his offense line. “They did a great job of pass protecting for me.”
Defensively, West Georgia was stopping Northwest drive after drive. The Wolves even had a dramatic goal-line stand that prevented the Bearcats from punching it in from the 1 yard out late in the third quarter.
“Once we got together as a team and started operating at a high level, I felt we were stopping them on everything they were trying to do,” said junior defensive end Alex Armah.
Momentum was definitely on West Georgia’s side. Early in the fourth quarter, West Georgia was inside the 10 and a great opportunity to take the lead.
“We faced second and goal from the 5 and were down 24-20,” Hall said. “I made a real bad call. I called a run play. They blitzed us on the front-side edge and made a good tackle for a loss there. I should have called a timeout. I thought that was the turning point in the game.”
The Wolves settled for a 33-yard field goal by Hunter Heck, his third of the game. West Georgia was down one point with 10:37 left.
West Georgia again stopped Northwest, got the ball back and moved to Northwest 32. The Wolves eventually lost four yards and then attempted a 53-yard field goal to take the lead with 4:39 left. The ball sailed wide right.
On the next play, Northwest completed a 61-yard touchdown pass play from senior quarterback Brady Bolles to junior wide receiver George Sehl. A minute later, Northwest added a pick-six interception from senior Bryce Enyard for the final points of the game.
“We got behind, but credit to our guys for not quitting,” Hall said. We didn’t play well in the first half. That is on me. I take responsibility for that. We came back out in the second half and played lights out. Credit to Dallas for making some big-time throws and credit to our defense for making some adjustments.
“Today hurts, but we have come a long ways at West Georgia in a short amount of time. We are not going anywhere. We will be back in this moment again.”
Dickey is proud what the Wolves have accomplished the last two seasons.
“It is an awesome accomplishment for us and a great representation for our university and where it is going,” he said.
Division II football championship game set
The 2015 NCAA Division II championship game scheduled for 3 p.m. CT Saturday at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., figures to be intriguing and exciting.
It’s a first-time matchup between two undefeated teams. Northwest Missouri, 14-0, is making its ninth trip to the title game. The Bearcats are seeking their fifth national title. They were the 2013 champions, beating Lenoir-Rhyne 43-28 in Florence, Ala.
For Shepherd, 13-0, this is a new experience. The Rams are making their first trip ever to the championship game after knocking off Grand Valley State 34-32.
It was a gritty performance by the Rams. With 54 seconds left in the game, Shepherd prevented Grand Valley from tying the game by stopping a two-point conversion.
Even more remarkable was the Rams played nearly the enter game without junior starting quarterback Jeff Ziemba, who was hurt in the first series. Sophomore Connor Jessop stepped in and completed 15 of 20 passes for 175 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The 13 wins are the most in school history for Shepherd. Northwest is attempting its second 15-0 season in the last three year.
Coaching basketball at Division II level
Missouri Southern second-year men’s basketball coach Jeff Boschee once experienced college basketball at its highest level.
From 1998 to 2002, Boschee played guard for the University of Kansas, one of the top NCAA Division I basketball programs in the country. Boschee was Big 12 freshman of the year in 1998-1999 season, played in the Final Four in 2002 and left with the conference record in made three-pointers with 338.
Boschee, 35, and the father of two daughters, enjoys coaching at the NCAA Division II level.
Boschee took over for Robert Corn last season and led the Lions to a 20-11 record. Missouri Southern is off to a 6-4 start this season and 3-1 in the MIAA. He enjoys the charms of Division II basketball.
“The thing I like about it is I think you get a little more time with your family,” Boschee said. “The stress of Division I is constant. You are not on the road as much at this level. I like the small town atmosphere. I think it is special. I like being in this area.”
Competing in the MIAA makes it fun and challenging for Boschee. Central Missouri won the Division II title in 2014. This season, 10 of the 14 teams in the MIAA currently have winning records.
“It is a tough league and that makes it enjoyable,” Boschee said. “When I was coaching high school in Kansas City, you always heard about the MIAA. You have great fan support from the majority of the schools in the MIAA. You always are going to go up against a good team.”
Boschee is still at the beginning stage of his head coaching career. He wants to build a program that has good, character student-athletes.
“I think first and foremost, I want kids who are serious about their education,” Boschee said. “Obviously, we want to win basketball games. We want to play an up-tempo style of basketball. It is the same way coach Corn did previously. I want to build a winning a culture and you do that by having good kids.”