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Northwest Missouri State feeling confident ahead of 2023 football season

Jul. 27—Northwest Missouri State Football is coming off a 2022 campaign where much was unknown heading into the season.

After the canceled 2020 season due to COVID-19, the team had 17 players use their COVID year to return, setting the Bearcats up nicely during the 2021-22 season.

Due to this, some younger guys couldn't get as many reps, and Northwest was left with seven starters. However, the team made the second round of the 2022 NCAA Division II Playoffs, finishing with a 10-3 overall record.

"We got better every week and by the end of the season, we're able to make a run after losing a couple of games, get ourselves in the playoffs and, you know, advance to the second round," head coach Rich Wright said. "So I was really proud of the group and I think it sets us up for a springboard coming into 2023."

This season, one key returner that will take the field is quarterback Mike Hohensee. The shot caller is entering his sixth season with the Bearcats, having an obstacle filled career.

Hohensee didn't play in 2020, dealt with a new offensive coordinator in 2021 and last season dealt with a two quarterback system. Now, he'll be looked to make the big plays every Saturday.

"The big thing for me this year was kind of bringing the younger guys along more," Hohensee said. "I'm obviously working on my game, both physically and mentally, but really getting the young guys up to speed this spring."

Last season, Hohensee threw for 2,174 yards and 16 touchdowns. Getting more attention in the offense has helped the quarterback in his development.

"It was just unbelievable to watch the transformation, understanding his progressions, understanding his reads, understanding how to check things at the line of scrimmage, and just his command of the offense in general," Wright said.

Defensively, the Bearcats are known to cause troubles. This was showcased by the likes of Elijah Green, Zach Howard and Sam Philips. Now, one returner will look to fill some big shoes from the linebacker position.

When it comes to defense, there is one thing the returning captain knows.

"I'll tell everybody until I die. The one thing I don't worry about is coach Wright getting four guys on the d-line ready to go on Saturday," Isaac Vollstedt said. "I mean, we got a lot of guys returning in the back end too."

As the season begins, the team wants to make it 19 straight NCAA playoff appearances. While that may seem nerve-racking to maintain, the team isn't worried.

"The culture around here, second to none, and I don't view it as a streak or letting anybody down from the past," Vollstedt said. "Obviously, there's a standard you want to hold yourself to, but I don't focus too much on streaks and that matter."

Northwest will open the 2023 season on Thursday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. at Missouri Southern. The Bearcat home opener is set for at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7, against Emporia State.

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