Fort Hays State falls to 4th ranked Northwest Missouri
The Fort Hays State University football team struggled in last week’s season opener, scoring just a touchdown against the tough defense of fourth-ranked Northwest Missouri State University.
The Tigers will be looking to bounce back from that 15-7 loss at Lewis Field Stadium on Thursday, when Fort Hays goes on the road for the first time for a 7 p.m. kickoff against Missouri Western State University at St. Joseph, Mo. The Griffons are in their home opener after losing 24-20 at University of Central Oklahoma in their first game.
FHSU returns an honorable mention All-American and first team all-MIAA wide receiver this season after not playing since 2017. Monterio Burchfield is back for his senior year after sitting out 2018 and 2019 and the 2020 campaign was canceled due to COVID-19. In Thursday’s opener, the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder caught five balls for 118 yards and had one reception go for 53 yards. He also dropped a couple passes.
Fort Hays coach Chris Brown expects Burchfield to be a weapon for the Tigers.
“I think he put so much pressure on himself to make things happen, he dropped a few balls,” Brown said Tuesday in his weekly news conference. “I think as the year goes on that rust will come off, and he will get better week in and week out.”
Burchfield caught 54 passes for 1,003 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior in 2017, averaging 18.6 yards per catch.
“He’s a good football player, can make things happen,” said Brown, who talked with Burchfield about returning. “There were some discussions with him as well, what he wanted to do. With that being said, a great opportunity for us and a great opportunity for him.”
BIG GAME: Players and coach alike know a win is needed if the Tigers are to stay in contention for a league title and postseason berth. Starting 0-2 is not an option.
“We do need to win out, or at least win nine of these last 10 games to get into the playoffs,” Brown said. “Our goal is to win a conference championship, whether that is sharing it or winning it outright.”
“It’s very important to perform well and do what we know we can do, and come home with the win,” said junior tight end Hunter Budke.
“As a team, we know we can’t lose a game,” said senior defensive lineman Javaris Sanders.
FULLER FRUSTRATED: Junior quarterback Chance Fuller, who threw for 3,344 yards and 35 TDs in 2019, was 16-of-41 passing for 265 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions, in the opener.
“Chance, he’s a perfectionist, every throw he makes should be a perfect throw,” Brown said. “In reality, that doesn’t happen.
“Sometimes you put too much pressure on yourself and you don’t perform as you should,” he added. “I still think he is one of the best quarterbacks in this conference. I think he is the best.”
DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE: The Tiger defense kept the team in the game in the opener, holding the Bearcats to 13 points; the offense gave up a safety. Sanders said the Tigers can still get better on defense.
“We missed a lot of tackles that game,” Sanders said. “Get turnovers, help the offense out, field position.”
SUPER SENIOR: Players who would have been seniors in 2020 but took advantage of the opportunity to come back in 2021 are commonly referred to as “super seniors.” Sanders is one such player; he lends advice to the younger Tigers.
“Last year could have been my last year,” Sanders said. “I graduated, decided to come back. I’m taking advantage of this year, grateful I’m able to play again.”
GROUND GAME: The Tigers will look for improvement in the running game in Week 2. Fort Hays rushed for 48 yards, averaging 2.5 yards per carry, in the opener.
“With any offense you want to get the run game going first,” Brown said. “That will set up the pass game. The offensive line, we should be able to establish the run game every single game.”
GRIFFONS AT A GLANCE: Missouri Western has won the last two meetings with FHSU and is 12-2 against the Tigers since they entered the MIAA in 2006. The Griffons are young on offense, with just one senior on the two-deep roster. Missouri Western has a veteran defense which shut out Central Oklahoma in the second half last week.
“They return a lot of guys on defense … that’s their main thing, is stop the run,” Brown said. “Offensively, a lot of new faces. … They played well in Game One against UCO, but just not enough plays to win that ball game. I feel like our defense is talented enough to hopefully stop their offense.”