LINDSBORG — As the Bethel College football team gains more experience, the Threshers will be able to withstand comebacks like the one Bethany made Saturday in a 31-28 Swede win in KCAC play at Anderson Field in Lindsborg.
Fernando Avila-Castro hit a 24-yard field goal with 47 seconds left for the game-winner.
“I think it was a game of not taking advantage of opportunities,” Bethel coach Terry Harrison said. “We had plenty. When you have a young program, it’s not finishing people off. I think we’ll grow from that like we grew from last week. We fixed a ton of mistakes from last week, which I’m proud of. It would have been nice to finish them off late in the fourth.”
Bethany quarterback Isaiah Salazar hit 35 of 43 passes for 394 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He threw for 254 yards in the second half. Dalton Goodwin and Michael Milbourne each had 95 yards receiving, followed by Jafar Thomas with 94.
“That’s what happens when you play in this league and it’s so pass happy,” Harrison said. “You can’t hold a team to no passing yards. People are going to complete passes. We had one dropped pick in the fourth quarter and bobbled it.”
Bethel running back Braedon Starling Driver had 20 carries for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Camryn Harrison finished with 12 carries for 95 yards. Zach Esau hit six of 10 passes with an interception for 100 yards passing and had 18 caries for 53 yards rushing and a score.
Bethel finished the game with 366 yards rushing, just 40 yards shy of the school record set against Sterling back in 1941.
Jordan Bell led the Bethel defense with 15 total tackles, nine solo. He added a sack.
Bethel scored on its first play from scrimmage, a 60-yard run for Starlin-Driver. After a three-and-out for Bethany, the Threshers drove down the field, scoring on a five-yard run for Gary Jolivet.
A pair of Bethel off-sides penalties — one which wiped out a pick-six and another one on fourth down with Bethany back to punt — extended a Swede drive. Salazar recovered a fumble and threw to Peter Garza for a 42-yard touchdown pass.
A Bethel drive stalled at the Bethany 30, where a 45-yard Brayden Francis field goal attempt was blocked.
A Khalif Majied interception in the endzone set up a long drive that stalled out on the Bethany 21. Another Bethel drive ended on an interception by Bryce Badon and returned to the Bethel 49. The turnover set up an 11-yard run for Quaylon Jones. The PAT kick tied the game.
Bethel got to the Bethany one-yard line, where on fourth down, the Threshers fumbled it back with 17.5 seconds left in the half.
Bethel held a 319-166 advantage in total offense in the first half.
“We’ll learn from that too,” Harrison said of the final drive of the first half.
Bethany marched down the field on its first drive of the third quarter, scoring on a four-yard pass from Salazar to Milbourne.
Bethel countered with with a drive of its own. On fourth and three at the Bethany 13, Esau broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and ran in for a touchdown.
Bethany got in the red zone on the following possession, but fumbled it back at the Bethel 18. Bethel fumbled it back on the following play. A pair of penalties backed the Swedes back to just inside midfield and the Thresher defense forced a punt, which was partially blocked.
Salazar was sacked by Curtis Bent on the Bethany 48 on fourth down late in the third quarter, setting up an eight-yard run for Starling-Driver.
Bethany fumbled the ball out of the back of the Bethel end zone, wiping out a touchdown and giving Bethel the ball at the 20 with 7:08 in regulation.
After forcing a punt, Bethany got the ball back at the Bethel 39 with 5:13 to play. Bethany scored on a 26-yard pass from Salazar to Thomas with 4:07 in regulation.
Bethel fumbled the ball away two plays later on its own 30 with 3:14 to play. The Swedes got it to the Bethel six, where Avila-Castro hit a 24-yard attempt.
Jolivet returned the kickoff to the Bethel 38. Bethel got to the Bethany 24 with 4.4 seconds left. Francis’ 41-yard attempt was wide left.
Bethel returns home at 7 p.m. Saturday to face KCAC newcomer Avila. The Eagles are 2-0 after a 54-31 win over McPherson. Avila also received votes in the latest NAIA rankings.
“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Harrison said. “They are 2-0 and atop the conference. I know our kids will respond to this. This whole season, we want to make some relevant noise. This will give us an opportunity to do that.”
1q. Bethel Starlin-Driver 60-yd. run (Francis kick) 14:32
1q. Bethel Jolivet 5-yd. run (Francis kick) 6:41
1q. Bethany Garza 42-yd. pass from Salazar (Avila-Castro kick) 2:40
2q. Bethany Jones 18-yd. run (Avila-Castro run) 2:21
3q. Bethany Milbourne 4-yd. pass from Salazar (Avila-Castro kick) 11:35
3q. Bethel Esau 12-yd. run (Francis kick) 7:37
4q. Bethel Starlin-Driver 8-yd. run (Francis run) 12:08
4q. Bethany Thomas 26-yd. pass from Salazar (Avila-Castro kick) 4:07
4q. Bethany Avila-Castro 24-yd. field goal :47.6
Time of poss.;30:45;28:56
RUSHING — Bethel: Starlin-Driver 20-169, Harrison 12-95, Esau 18-53, Jolivet 9-50, Scurry 1-(-1). Bethany: Jones 17-63, Thomas 4-27, Anderson 5-19, Salazar 5-(-3), Goodwin 1-(-16).
PASSING — Bethel: Esau 6-10-1, 100 yards. Bethany: Salazar 35-43-1, 394 yards.
RECEIVING — Bethel: Galliart 2-48, Hill 2-36, Harrison 1-13, Starlin-Driver 1-3. Bethany: Goodwin 10-95, Milbourne 9-95, Thomas 7-94, Garza 4-70, Jones 4-40, Anderson 1-0.
Missed field goals — Bethel: Francis 45 (blocked), 41 (WL).