Entering the season finale 1-9, the Bethel College football team had no post-season hopes.
Opponent Bethany was in similar shape. So the two teams played their own sort of bowl game Saturday, with the Threshers outlasting the Swedes 26-14 at Joe W. Goering Field on Bethel's Senior Day.
It was the fewest points the Bethel defense has allowed in a single game since a 30-0 shutout against Sterling at the end of the 2009 season.
"The defense played a little bit better today," Bethel coach Marty Mathis said. "They wanted to win for the seniors. They stuck together through hard times. I felt a lot of love on the field between the players and coaches. When you get that feeling, you know you can win. We've had that feeling about five times this season. We came away with two. That's two more wins than they've had in three years. Hopefully, we can improve on that next year. We'd like to finish .500 or above. That's all you can wish for."
Senior linebacker Garrett Garcia finished his career with a blocked field goal that led to a Thresher touchdown. He had an interception, where he nearly scored.
"I thought I was a little faster than that," Garcia said of the interception. "I blocked (the field goal attempt) with my stomach. We just had to stay together and trust each other to do our jobs. It was a long process. We finally got it done. I'm glad it was today. ... (The freshmen) grew up a lot this year."
Garcia is one of just five seniors on the team who lasted all four years. The health and physical education major is looking to be a PE teacher and football coach after graduation.
"It feels good to get a win after all this," senior lineman Jared Kaufman, a Moundridge High grad said. "We should have been at .500 this year. Defense stepped up today, and the offense fed off that. Then when the defense struggled late in the game, the offense picked it up. It was the first game where offense and defense really came together.
Kaufman is a health and physical education major. He would like to go into law enforcement after graduation.
Senior quarterback Bo Pratt hit 11 of 15 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
"We had nothing to lose, and we pulled together as a team," Pratt said. "We have a lot of love for each other and a lot of fight for each other. It took heart and just the will to win. Everybody wanted it so bad. We executed our assignments. We finished with heart."
Pratt is a business administration major. He will work for a telecommunications firm after graduation.
"I want to give it all back to my parents for all they've given me in these crazy years," Pratt said.
Freshman running back Stephen Scott finished the game with 116 yards on 31 carries with a touchdown. Scott finished the season with 1,409 yards rushing, 10th in the NAIA.
"It was learning experience," Scott said. "I did a lot better than people expected me to. I'll take it into next season and work harder."
Scott saw his rushing output diminish in the last couple of weeks, as teams put more emphasis on stopping him. He was able to break out in the second half Saturday for 85 yards.
"I had to get myself focused again," Scott said. "I might have been a little off, getting frustrated. We pulled together today. My O-line pulled it together today. The defense started it today. They held it together. We had trouble scoring for a while. We had wake up in the second half."
Junior receiver Tommy Alexander, a transfer from Central Methodist, finished with six catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Alexander finished the season with 1,048 yards receiving, giving Bethel a 1,000-yard rusher, passer and receiver for the first time in more than 10 seasons.
"We just needed to come together as a unit," Alexander said. "We've been making a lot of little mistakes this season. We wanted to do it today for the seniors. We've been doing the same things. We've been working hard. We're trying not to make the same mistakes we had the past games."
Alexander said his goals for next season are to reach the national championship game.
"It's tough to do that when you have only won two games, but they deserve it," Mathis said.
Junior Leland Brown finished the game with six total tackles. The linebacker from Galveston, Texas, finished the season tied for third in total tackles at 57. At the end of the game, he was changing from his football uniform to a tuxedo to perform at a choir concert.
"I do concert choir, I'm a student ambassador, a student chaplain, president of the multi-cultural student union and a senior custodian," Brown said. "I love football. I work around everything to fit in football."
"He is a leader and communicates well with the players and coaches," Mathis said. "And he's been injured half the year."
Bethany got stopped inside the redone twice in the first quarter. Bethel missed a 50-yard field goal early in the second quarter. A Garcia interception gave Bethel the ball at the Bethany four, but a lateral play on fourth down was picked up by Bethany.
Bethany ended the half with a drive that started at its own eight. Bethany got to the Thresher six. On fourth down with 11 seconds remaining in the half, Bethany attempted a 28-yard field goal that was blocked by Garcia and picked up a yard inside the endzone by Terrance Toney and run back for a touchdown.
Bethel was called for a penalty at the end of the play, and a 35-yard PAT kick went wide.
A Bethany fumble to open the third quarter set up a 68-yard pass from Pratt to Alexander. Bethel made another defensive stop and drove the ball 68 yards, scoring on a two-yard Scott run.
Another Bethel drive stalled at the Bethany 24, where a 37-yard Wren field goal was blocked, setting up a 55-yard drive that eneded on a nine-yard run for LonDarius Thomas. The PAT kick hit the upright and bounced back on the field.
Bethany tried an on-side kick, but Alexander recovered it with five yards tacked on for the Swedes being offside on the attempt. Bethel went 47 yards in five plays, scoring on a 27-yard pass from Pratt to Alexander. The PAT kick was blocked.
Bethany didn't lay down, going 67 yards in nine plays, scoring on a fourth-down pass of 16 yards from Dovenbarger to Rodney Molette with 5:09 remaining in regulation. Dovenbarger ran in the extra point. The on-side kick went out of bounds. Bethany had one more possession, but gave the ball back to the Threshers on a turnover.
"With everybody in the conference running hurry-up offenses, the biggest thing these guys need to do it get the call and run the call," Mathis said. "It's tough when you're young. We're playing with 60 freshmen against juniors, seniors and fifth-year seniors. The jist of college no-huddle offense is different from high school. They were running the calls and got two goalline stops."
Bethel and Bethany both finish the season 2-9, 2-7 in the KCAC. Bethel loses eight seniors.
"We just have to keep improving," Mathis said. "We need team players. We had a lot of them. We just need more."
Bethany 0 0 0 14 —14
Bethel 0 6 14 6 —26
2q. Bl. Toney 100-yd. blocked field goal return (kick failed) :00.0
3q. Bl. Alexander 68-yd. pass from Pratt (Wren kick) 12:36
3q. Bl. Scott 3-yd. run (Wren kick) 5:11
4q. By. Thomas 8-yd. run (kick failed) 11:37
4q. Bl. Alexander 27-yd. pass from Pratt (kick failed) 8:51
4q. By. Molette 16-yd. pass from Dovenbarger (Dovernberger run) 5:09
First downs 22 19
Rushing-yards 51-273 48-132
Passing yards 145 159
Comp-att-int 8-18-2 11-17-0
Punts-avg. 2-51.5 4-32.0
Fumbles-lost 2-2 1-1
Penalties-yards 5-40 2-20
Time of poss. 30:21 29:30
RUSHING — Bethany: Thomas 12-97, T.Linnebur 18-82, Doverbarger 9-78, Evans 1-15, Atherton 1-5, Thomas 4-2, Ocran 1-(-1), Molette 1-(-5). Bethel: Scott 31-116, Pratt 9-27, Hernandez 1-6, Hughes 4-4, team 3-(-6).
PASSING — Bethany: Doverbarger 8-18-2, 145 yards. Bethel: Pratt 11-17-0, 159 yards.
RECEIVING — Bethany: Atherton 3-48, Molette 2-48, Evans 2-31, T.Linnebur 1-18. Bethel: Alexander 6-110, L.Pouncy 2-21, Silva 2-12, Hughes 1-16.
Missed field goals — Bethany: Lyter 28 (blocked). Bethel: Wren 50 (WR), 37 (blocked).
W L W L
x-Sterling 8 1 9 2
Tabor 7 2 9 2
Ottawa 7 2 8 3
Friends 7 2 8 3
McPherson 4 5 5 6
S-western 4 5 5 6
K.Wesl. 3 6 4 7
Saint Mary 3 6 4 7
Bethel 1 8 2 9
Bethany 1 8 2 9
x-clinched conference title.
of Intercollegiate Athletics
2013 Football Championship
Series Pairings (all times local)
Game 1: St. Ambrose (Iowa) (7-3) at Cumberlands (Ky.) (10-0), 11 a.m.
Game 2: Ottawa (8-3) at Grand View (Iowa) (10-0), 1 p.m.
Game 3: Georgetown (Ky.) (7-3) at Carroll (Mont.) (10-1), 1 p.m.
Game 4: Sterling (9-2) at Baker (10-1), 1 p.m.
Game 5: Rocky Mountain (Mont.) (8-3) at Morningside (Iowa) (9-1), noon
Game 6: Faulkner (Ala.) (9-2) at Saint Francis (Ind.) (8-2), 11 a.m.
Game 7: Northwestern (Iowa) (8-2) at Missouri Valley (8-2), TBA
Game 8: Tabor (9-2) at Benedictine (10-1), TBA