By Mark Schnabel
The Bethel College football team travels to historic Haskell Memorial Stadium in Lawrence to face Haskell Indian Nations University at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Haskell was one of the nations college football powerhouses from the 1900s to the 1930s, despite junior college status. The Indians had wins over teams from most of the major conferences of the day.
The college football program was discontinued in the late 1930s as the school returned to being a high school with post-secondary vocational classes.
The school revived its junior college offerings in 1970, expanded to a four-year college in the late 1990s. After playing football at the junior college level, Haskell resumed playing football at the four-year college level in 1999.
Both teams open their seasons with the game. Bethel is coming off a 2-9 campaign that saw the Threshers break lengthy losing streaks in both overall and conference play. Haskell was was 2-7, winning one game by forfeit. The Indian's last win over a KCAC team was 28-24 against Southwestern in 2006.
"The pre-season has been great," Bethel coach Marty Mathis said. "We're really excited. Our numbers are up. I feel a lot better about our twos this year. We've got guys who can come in off the bench when we need them. We just got done with two-a-days (practices) and started going to one-a-days. The players are getting along with each other. We've had no outside distractions and we feel better about that."
Bethel ended last season with a 26-14 win over Bethany College, while Haskell fell to Lindenwood-Belleville 57-7.
The two teams met in the season opener last year with Bethel winning 41-24.
"They have a decent team," Mathis said. "They almost won three more games last year, and they took us to the fourth quarter. We're going to have to play well, but we're looking forward to going up to Lawrence and try to get a win there."
Mathis looks for the Indians to try and run the ball. He said Haskell likes to use the "lighthouse" formation, where a team uses three backs, five linemen and just two receivers, trying to power the ball through the defensive front. Mathis described it as being similar to the old student-body left and student-body right formations. Mathis said Haskell will use the formation for wildcat plays, as well as standard quarterback plays.
"They did some damage last year going up the middle," Mathis said.
On defense, Haskell employs a 3-3 stack.
The Indians are expected be led by quarterback Maverick Lang, who hit 110 of 216 passes for 1,201 yards with 11 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Lang passed for 177 yards against the Threshers last year, his second best passing game of the season. He passed for 319 yards against Trinity Bible College, with five touchdowns.
The leading rusher returning is Quinton Newsome, who had 184 yards on 54 carries with a touchdown. Haskell's leading back from last season, Malcolm Coleman, graduated.
Top receivers back include Canku One Star, who had 26 catches for 400 yards and four touchdowns; and Victor DeMarco, who had 33 catches for 375 yards and a score.
Mathis begins his second season with Bethel and is looking to take the rebuilding process a step futher this year.
"I'd like to see us grow up and take a leadership role," Mathis said. "We had talent last year, but now we need the leadership to take us through to the next level. We have 50 upperclassmen this year and that makes a big difference. We were ninth in the conference last season out of 10 teams, and we were picked to finish 10th again this season, so we need to play with a little chip. We almost won six games last year. If we can start winning those games, we'lll start getting more respect."