Ferris football fell to the No. 1 Northwestern Missouri State Bearcats 35-20 in the national semifinals.
The Bulldogs had a miraculous run in the latter half of the season winning eight straight games. However, that streak has come to an end as well as the season.
The defensive line for NW Missouri disrupted the Ferris offense all game. The Bearcat defense only wrapped up two sacks but there were no gaps for Bulldog backs to run through. Constant pressure up the middle blocked junior Reggie Bell or senior Trevor Bermingham from stepping up in the pocket and forced several errant throws.
Both Ferris quarterbacks combined for 12-of-25 passing for 176 yards and a touchdown to senior tight end Kyle Thompson.
The Bearcats scored on their first possession with a methodical 12-play drive. Ferris and NW Missouri traded punts before before Ferris had its first answer. Bermingham replaced starting quarterback Bell late in the first before delivering his first completion to sophomore receiver Malik Taylor from midfield to the five yard line. Bermingham ran it into the endzone a couple plays later.
Sophomore defensive end Zach Seiler came up huge on the following Bearcat possession getting a strip sack at the Bearcat eight-yard line. Bermingham ran for two yards from there and threw a touchdown the next play to Thompson. The extra point was blocked, however, leaving the score 13-7 in favor of the Bulldogs.
Seiler continued wreaking havoc by knocking NWMSU’s starting quarterback Kyle Zimmerman out of the game with a crushing hit. However, NW Missouri stayed poised and completed a 10 play, 70 yard touchdown drive behind their backup quarterback. Bearcats led 14-13.
NW Missouri would score again to go into halftime up 21-13 with all of the momentum.
The Bulldog defense opened up the second half with a four and out. The Bulldogs took over with Bermingham under center. His first pass of the second half was complete to senior receiver Shakur Sanders for 20 yards, but Sanders had the ball stripped giving the Bearcats the ball. Ferris senior linebacker Anthony Darkangelo forced a fumble on the following possession with NW Missouri recovering and punting a few plays later.
Junior running back Jahaan Brown got the Bulldogs across midfield with a 24-yard run which was followed by a 26-yard Taylor catch. Sophomore receiver Devontae Harrington scored on a six-yard sweep play to makethe score 21-20 NW Missouri.
The Bulldogs would not see the end zone again. Whether Bell or Bermingham was in the game, the Bearcat defense sniffed out all the misdirection and stretch plays that are vital to the Bulldog attack. Consistent coverage and quarterback pressure led to a stagnant Ferris pass attack. However, the Ferris defense was not done fighting to keep the game alive.
The Bulldogs forced a fumble in the fourth when the Bearcats were driving in Ferris territory. The offense had a chance down eight points to tie up the game. However, the Bulldogs went four and out with NW Missouri making them pay. The Bearcats scored on their next possession for a final score of 35-20.
The Bulldogs were held to their lowest offensive output of the season only putting up 284 yards of total offense. Taylor led FSU in receiving with 59 yards and Bell led in rushing with 61.
Senior linebacker Nick Huckabay led in tackles with 12. Seiler had the only sack of the game for the Bulldogs.
This historic season has come to an end, having defyied most expectations after a 5-2 start. The Bulldogs looked doubtful to make the playoffs but they made it farther than their undefeated teams of the last two years. Being one game away from the promised land may sting, but a 12-win season is a cause for celebration in Big Rapids.