By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The Missouri Western football team stays home this weekend as they welcome Emporia State to Spratt Stadium on Saturday night.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. with coverage starting at 5 p.m. on KFEQ Radio (680 AM, 95.3 FM, 680kfeq.com).
The Griffons are coming off of a 38-31 win over Fort Hays State in the home opener last Thursday. It was a game where Western forced four turnovers and scored two defensive touchdowns - part of a 28-point third quarter.
Head coach Matt Williamson was happy with the effort in the second half, but he was especially happy to celebrate and ring the bell with his team after - a nice end for an overall great night for the Griffons.
"I mean, I can't describe it," he said. "It was awesome. Just to see those kids' guys and the passion and to beat a good quality team like that, it was awesome. It was a great feeling. Got the chills when we walked down there, and obviously we played really well in the second half and made some things happen."
Williamson also credits the fans, especially a large student section turnout, for providing a great atmosphere at Spratt on what was also Military Appreciation Night.
"Our student section was awesome," he said. "Probably one of the best I've seen since I've been here. I know a lot of the other sports were there supporting us as well, so, cool, cool environment. I think we'll get an even better one this Saturday."
Missouri Western moved the ball pretty well on offense, finishing with over 200 yards rushing, but they fumbled the ball three times in the red zone. Fortunately for the Griffons, Fort Hays State only scored three points off of those turnovers.
"That could have turned into a really bad situation with us turning the ball over three times in the red zone," Williamson said. "It could have been a blowout on their end. But, defense stepped up and made plays like we expect them to, and we moved the ball. Man, we were just pounding it."
Junior safety and Platte County alum Kobe Cummings arguably had the play of the game with a 69-yard pick-six early in the third quarter that tied the game at 17.
Later, Benton graduate and sophomore receiver Cooper Burton had an 86-yard touchdown grab to put Missouri Western ahead 38-24 entering the fourth.
Burton is already over 200 yards receiving this season. Williamson says he's also become a big vocal leader for the team.
"I love him to death," Williamson said of Burton. "When he came here, great kid. But, was real immature and trying to find his way just like a lot of kids coming in. Over 2019, with him playing and have a little but of success and then having a year off due to COVID, he's come back and he's just a totally different person. It's absolutely awesome to see."
Emporia State enters Saturday’s game with a 2-0 record - most recently beating Central Oklahoma last week 31-21. The Griffons last played Emporia State at the Spratt in November 2019, and beat the Hornets 28-0.
Emporia State is led by sophomore quarterback Braden Gleason, who's thrown for over 600 yards, has completed over 68 percent of his passes and has thrown six touchdowns with zero interceptions.
On defense, the Hornets return seven starters from a 2019 defense that ranked second in the MIAA in yards allowed per game.
"Their quarterback is very talented," Williamson said. "I think their running backs have done good things. Their offensive line protects well. They have a couple of receivers who can catch and scoot and move and make people miss. So, we're going to have to play really good on defense."
Missouri Western has won the last two meetings in a row with Emporia State, and leads the all-time series with the Hornets 26-16.
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