From staff reports
Missouri Western took the circuitous route — through Arkadelphia, Ark. — to earn its first appearance in the regional final of the NCAA Division II football playoffs.
The MIAA champion Griffons whipped No. 6-ranked Henderson State 45-21 on Saturday.
Missouri Western will play another road game next Saturday, at undefeated Minnesota State Mankato.
Mankato edged Northwest Missouri State 38-35 in double overtime in the other regional semifinal.
Missouri Western 45, Henderson State 21
At Arkadelphia, Missouri Western (12-1) had 233 yards rushing and forced Henderson State quarterback Kevin Rodgers into throwing four interceptions.
After the Reddies scored first on a 1-yard run by Kevin Nichols, Western answered with 17 points to take the lead for good. Michael Hill scored from 15 yards out, Travis Patridge had a 1-yard TD plunge and Taylor Anderson kicked a 45-yard fiel goal, all in the first quarter.
Jarvis Smith’s 14-yard run narrowed Henderson State’s deficit to 17-14, but Western scored the game’s next four touchdowns.
Partridge threw scoring passes of 1 and 6 yards to Reggie Jordan to make it 31-14 by halftime.
Raphael Spencer had a 63-yard touchdown burst on Western’s first drive of the third quarter and Patridge iced the win with a 5-yard scoring run.
Partridge completed 22 of 29 passes for 204 yards, while Hill rushed for 122 yards on 27 carries.
For Henderson State, Rodgers completed 37 of 65 passes, but the four turnovers were costly in the Reddies’ first loss after 10 wins.
Minnesota St. Mankato 38, Northwest Missouri 35
At Mankato, the Bearcats dug an early hole, falling behind 21-0.
After Northwest caught up to force overtime, quarterback Trevor Adams threw his fourth interception of the game.
Sam Brockshus hit a 27-yard field goal for the decisive points.
Jayron Robinson, a linebacker, blocked two Mankato punts in the second half to fuel Northwest Missouri’s comeback.
Adams helped atone for three early turnovers with three second-half touchdown passes.