The Bethel College football team faces its toughest test of the season to date at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Ottawa as the 14th-ranked (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Threshers takes on 19th-ranked Ottawa.


The Bethel College football team faces its toughest test of the season to date at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Ottawa as the 14th-ranked (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Threshers takes on 19th-ranked Ottawa.

Bethel is 6-1, 5-1 in Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference play, coming off a 54-7 win against rival Tabor last week. Ottawa improved to 6-1, 5-1 in KCAC play, with a 45-35 win over McPherson.

“They have a very good quarterback,” Bethel coach Mike Moore. “The biggest thing that coach (Kent) Kessinger has done with this program is improve retention. Looking at their depth chart, they have 17 kids back on their two-deep from last year on both offense and defense. They have several starters who have been in the program two or three years. They are very close to where we were at in 2006 (Bethel’s playoff season). They added several transfers who have made the difference in their ability to win ballgames.”

Ottawa had just three wins last season. The sole loss for the Braves came against sixth-ranked Friends 46-45 in the second week of the season.

That loss came late in the game. Ottawa scored a late touchdown to take a one-point lead. On the extra-point conversion, a bad snap allowed Friends to run the ball into the Ottawa end zone for two points.

Ottawa is averaging 37.6 points a game, 10th in the nation (NAIA). The team is fifth in pass offense at 293 yards a game.

Quarterback Ethan Haller has hit 151 of 288 passes for 1,979 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Robbie DuBois has 96 rushed for 417 yards and six touchdowns, followed by Andy Otto with 60 carries for 350 yards and two touchdowns. Kevin Mikaska has 43 carries for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

Ottawa has four receivers with 290 yards or more, led by Taylor Burnett with 33 catches for 587 yards and five scores. Chris Simms has 32 catches for 450 yards and five touchdowns. Corey Schultz has 34 catches for 412 yards and three touchdowns. Zach Schultz has 27 catches for 292 yards and four touchdowns.

Fielding Brenner leads the Ottawa defense with 59 total tackles, followed by Josh Hojie with 50, Art Rubio with 47, Jamison Shaw with 46 and Ross Diehl with 45.

Ottawa was down 28-14 early in the game against McPherson, but the Braves were able to come back.

“Ottawa had five or six turnovers and a ton of penalties,” Moore said. “McPherson opened by returning a kickoff for a touchdown. They also returned an interception for a touchdown. Ottawa was able to come back from that.”

Bethel quarterback Brett Clow has hit 136 of 239 passes for 1,869 yards, four interceptions and 15 touchdowns. Beau Cox has 110 rushes for 385 yards. Freshman Lee Voth-Gaeddert continues to lead the receiving corps with 24 catches for 420 yards and three touchdowns. Lance Francis has 23 catches for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Cox has 26 catches for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Darin Derstein has 11 catches for 232 yards and two touchdowns.

Curlee Bishop leads the Thresher defense with 44 total tackles, followed by Zachary Towns with 38. Reed Hammond, Rodney Shaw and Scotty Yerges have 31 tackles each. Yerges and Hammond each have three interceptions.

“We have to take care of the football,” Moore said. “We’ve been doing a good job of that. Right now, I think we’re leading the conference in turnover ratio (+9, seventh in the nation). Our defense has really started to come around the past few weeks. We moved Reed Hammond to free safety. Andrew Wiederholt missed four or five games because of an injury, but he is back and has helped us on defense. Ben Moser and Rodney Shaw have played well at corner back. Coach (Travis) Graber has done a a great job bringing the defense around.”

Moore reports receiver Derek Benson will return to the lineup this week. Moore said kick returner-defensive back Mervin Brookins will not play the remainder of the season.