(MARYVILLE, Mo.) Adam Dorrel's third season as Northwest head coach begins Thursday with maybe the toughest opening draw of his tenure.
The Bearcats scored a 65-3 win at Truman and a 33-3 win over East Central (Okla.) to begin Dorrel's first two years at the helm. Now, they host No. 22 Saginaw Valley State, fresh off an 8-3 campaign and a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference North Division crown.
"We educated our kids right away on who Saginaw Valley was," Dorrel said. "They educated themselves on who Saginaw Valley was. It was right away, it just hit you watch them, how many kids they have coming back. We're very excited about it, but we understand the team we're playing will quite possibly be one of the best football teams we play all year."
Offensively, senior quarterback Jon Jennings set a school record in completions in 2012 and helped the Cardinals lead the GLIAC in passing yards per game with 300.4. He racked up 3,282 yards through the air with 27 touchdowns.
His go-to target will be All-American senior wideout Jeff Janis, who snagged 106 balls for 1,635 yards and 17 scores a year ago.
That production, backed up by five returning offensive lineman, gives Northwest's defense plenty to handle out of the gate.
The Bearcats return just five starters from a defense that led the MIAA in 2012, holding opponents to 310.4 yards and 13.8 points per contest. Preseason All-American cornerback Brandon Dixon begins his second campaign in Maryville and is the likely candidate to cover Janis.
Kickoff between the Bearcats and Cardinals comes at 6:30 on Thursday at Bearcat Stadium.