(MARYVILLE, Mo.) Northwest's highly-touted defense did everything necessary to stifle the Griffon offense in the first half.
But Missouri Western just needed the final 30 minutes to chip away.
A two-yard keeper by quarterback Travis Partridge with 1:07 left became the decisive blow as the Griffons erased a 17-point deficit, defeating Northwest 21-20 on Saturday.
The win gives Missouri Western (10-1) their first outright MIAA Championship in program history. Their 10th win also marks the first time the team has won double-digit games in a season.
A standing-room only crowd at Bearcat Stadium witnessed arguably the most-hyped meeting ever between the two rivals after having played nearly identical schedules this season.
After two star-studded defenses flexed their muscles enough for a scorelss first quarter, quarterback Trevor Adams opened up the passing game. He connected with Tyler Shaw for a six-yard scoring strike, giving the Bearcats (9-2) a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the second frame.
Runningback Jordan Simmons got in the mix next as he capped off a methodical seven-play, 74-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown plunge. That gave Northwest a 14-0 advantage with 5:47 left before halftime.
Todd Adolf tacked on a 22-yard field goal five minutes later to provide a 17-0 lead heading into the locker room.
Missouri Western finally showed life on the scoreboard midway through the third when Partridge marched them to the red zone for the first time. He found Tyron Crockom for a 11-yard connection, cutting the deficit to 20-7 with 5:35 left in the frame.
Adolf had an opportunity to boot his second field goal of the day late in the quarter. But, a botched snap kept the Bearcats off the scoreboard until the fourth.
He did notch his second successful kick of the day, this time from 43 yards out, with 7:06 remaining to push the lead to 20-6.
The Griffons stuck with the end zone, as Tarrell Downing took a Partridge pass 38 yards for the score with 5:08 left, cutting the lead to 20-14.
Missouri Western's defense mustered a couple more holds of Adams and company, allowing Partridge the chance to march his offense down the field again. He did so all the way to the two-yard line, thanks, in large part, to a 13-yard rush by Michael Hill down to the brink of the goal line.
Partridge faked the handoff to Hill and kept it himself for the tying touchdown. Taylor Anderson continued his perfect extra point streak, booting the biggest of the year to give the Griffons their ultimate 21-20 lead.
Partridge finished the day 19-for-26, 207 yards, two scores and an interception. He also accounted for 31 yard and a score on the ground. Hill notched his first 100-yard day of his career against the Bearcats, amassing 123 yards on 19 carries.
Adams completed 22 of 35 balls for 232 yards and a score. Runningbacks Jordan Simmons and James Franklin for 123 yards and one score on 29 carries.
The teams now wait to learn their first-round playoff opponents based on their seeding in Super Region 3. Northwest entered the day as third while the Griffons were fifth.