(ST. JOSEPH) Missouri Western football soared to new heights in the three years Travis Partridge started under center. He earned the Griffons' first outright MIAA Championship, first playoff win, a pair of victories over rival Northwest, and never missed a start in 37 games.
Now his time as a Griffon is through, but the show must go on.
The competition to replace Partridge is perhaps the premier battle leading up to MWSU's annual spring scrimmage on Saturday and includes freshmen T.J. Lafaver and Skyler Windmiller.
"Whoever wins that job potentially could be freshman of the year, that type of guy," head coach Jerry Partridge said. "We recruited those kids two years ago, thought very highly of them then, and they've done nothing to disprove our thought process."
Redshirt freshman Nate Wilson, who is also in the mix, appeared in four games as the backup last year, completing 5 of 7 passes for one touchdown and an interception. But Partridge recruited Lafaver out of Warrenton, Mo. and Windmiller out of Shawnee, Kan. in the hope that one could take over after his son's departure.
"In high school, I never really had to compete for the job," Lafaver said. "I was just kind of handed it my junior year."
"I've played quarterback since third grade," Windmiller said. "Ever since then, it was pretty much me coming into every single season."
Although an open competition is uncharted territory for the two, they've quickly become friends, and both are reaping the rewards of the battle.
"I think it's benefiting me and all of the other quarterbacks. I think it's benefiting our games exponentially."
"When we watch each other in practice, we'll see something that worked out for him and maybe I'll try something like that," Lafaver said. "You just have to watch each other and learn from each other because we're both great quaterbacks."
A freshman under center is nothing new for the Griffons. Former signal callers Drew Newhart and Casey Waterman both earned MIAA Freshman of the Year honors. Partridge, who plans to keep his decision a secret until the season opener, believes his new quarterback could have that same impact.
"Whoever is that guy for the remaining part of their career, to me, has a chance to step up and be one of the best quarterbacks we've had here," he said.
MWSU's spring scrimmage will be held Saturday at 12:45 p.m. at Spratt Stadium.