By Mark Schnabel
STERLING — The Bethel College offense finally woke up Saturday against Sterling College at Smisor Stadium, but the defense and special teams struggled in a 70-54 loss.
The two teams combined for more than 1,100 yards total offense.
“We’ve been making the same mistakes over and over again,” Bethel coach Morris Lolar said. “It’s a learning experience 100 percent. It’s when guys aren’t doing what they aren’t supposed to do. They think they can get away with it, then you find somebody who holds you accountable for it. That’s football. That’s the learning experience you have in football.”
Bethel was led by Jaylen Sykes, who rushed for 330 yards on 41 carries with five touchdowns. Sykes was named both the KCAC and NAIA national offensive player of the week for the effort. He moved to first in the NAIA in rushing yards per game and fourth in total rushing yards (904).
Bethel went to a 1970s style offset-power I formation with an extra fullback to open up more holes for Sykes.
“We’ve got to get guys in place where we want them to make it easier to block,” Lolar said. “We’ve got to get (Sykes) a 400-yard game. Maybe next week. We have to be able to pass the ball to loosen him up. We have to stop people on defense. We didn’t make them punt until the last series.”
Chase Sparks hit 15 of 24 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns, entering the game late in the first quarter. Marquis Jackson had eight catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
Sterling was led by Cedrick Phillips, who rushed 21 times for 142 yards and hit 19 of 27 passes for 248 yards and six touchdowns. Dentton Hudspeth hit two of two passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns. T.J. Brown had seven catches for 153 yards and four touchdowns. Nathan Frame added eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
“They have a great quarterback,” Lolar said. “He makes everything happen for them. When you can scramble around back there and make good decisions and make good passes, that makes it tough for everybody.”
Sterling improves to 4-2, 3-2 in KCAC play.
Bethel forced just two punts in the game. The Thresher defense didn’t make a stop in the second half until the closing seconds. Bethel took just three punts and committed just one turnover.
Bethel forced a fumble in Sterling territory on the first series of the game, but gave up the ball on downs four plays later. Sterling then scored on a long halfback pass from Hudspeth to Brown for 45 yards.
Bethel needed just two plays to answer — a 10-yard Sykes run, followed by a 50-yard Sykes run. The PAT kick was blocked.
Sterling scored on a 34-yard pass from Phillips to Frame. A Sterling fumble set up a three-yard touchdown run for Sykes.
Sterling sustained a long drive early in the second quarter, scoring on a 10-yard Aaron Chisholm run. Bethel replied with a long Sykes run followed by a Sykes 12-yard touchdown run on fourth down.
An offside call on the kickoff wiped away a kick that put the Warriors on the 12. Sterling returned the rekick into Bethel territory. Sterling took advantage of the short drive to score on a one-yard pass from Phillips to Frame. Sykes replied with a 10-yard TD run that was preceded by a 37-yard run.
Sterling appeared to close out the first half scoring with a 28-yard pass from Phillips to Brown with 1:15 left in the half, but Bethel came back with a 73-yard, four play drive that ended with a six-yard pass from Sparks to Tahj Davidson with 33.1 seconds in the half. The two-point conversion pass was dropped, leaving Bethel down two at the half, 35-33.
Sykes finished the first half with 248 yards rushing.
Bethel took its first lead of the game on the first drive of the second half. Sykes capped a 75-yard drive with a one-yard run. The lead lasted just 17 seconds as Brown ran back the kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown.
“That kickoff return killed us,” Lolar said. “We fought back and fought back. Then we got the lead. Then they get that kickoff return.”
Bethel drove again, but Sparks was picked off at the Sterling 25 midway in the second quarter. Sterling needed just seven plays to go 75 yards, scoring on a 20-yard pass from Phillips to Brown. Bethel was forced to punt on its next possession, setting up a 45-yard pass from Hudspeth to Brown. The PAT kick missed, but Bethel was called for being offsides, allowing the Warriors a do-over.
Bethel was stopped on downs near midfield with 11:50 left in the quarter. Seven plays later, Phillips hit Hudspeth for a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Bethel regained its scoring mojo, finishing an eight-play, 48-yard drive with a 14-yard pass from Sparks to Marquis Jackson. Sparks hit Montero Dubose for a two-point conversion. Sterling recovered the on-side kick. Sterling replied with a 14-yard pass from Phillips to Marcus Franks with 3:59 to play.
Bethel got the last score of the game, a three-yard pass from Sparks to Jackson with 2:17 remaining. Sparks hit Jolivet for the two-point conversion. Sterling recovered the on-side kick and was able to hold the ball until the closing seconds, when they were forced to punt.
Bethel falls to 2-4, 2-3 in KCAC play. Bethel hosts 0-6 Southwestern at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Moundbuilders fell to Bethany 28-20 Saturday.
“There’s a lot of jobs that are open,” Lolar said. “We’ll line them up and get guys to where they need to be. We’ll do the best we can to get this thing turned around. We have a good Southwestern team. We have some guys hobbled up that we will need to get healthy.”
Bethel 13 20 7 16 —56
Sterling 14 21 14 14 —70
1q. S Brown 45-yd. pass from Hudspeth (Winstead kick) 13:05
1q. B Sykes 50-yd. run (kick failed) 10:05
1q. S Frame 34-yd. pass from Phillips (Winstead kick) 5:40
1q. B Sykes 3-yd. run (Mathis kick) 2:52
2q. S Chisholm 13-yd. run (Winstead kick 14:59
2q. B Sykes 12-yd. run (Mathis kick) 10:47
2q. S Frame 1-yd. pass from Phillips (Winstead kick) 8:24
2q. B Sykes 10-yd. run (Mathis kick) 5:16
2q. S Brown 28-yd. pass from Phillips (Winstead kick) 1:15
2q. B Davidson 6-yd. pass from Sparks (pass failed) 33.1
3q. B Sykes 1-yd. run (Mathis kick) 11:05
3q. S Brown 96-yd. kickoff return (Winstead kick) 10:48
3q. S Brown 20-yd. pass from Hudspeth (Winstead kick) 4:25
3q. S Brown 45-yd. pass from Phillips (Winstead kick) :36.7
4q. S Hudspeth 25-yd. pass from Phillips (Winstead kick) 9:20
4q. B Jackson 14-yd. pass from Sparks (DuBose pass from Sparks) 5:47
4q. S Franks 14-yd. pass from Phillips (Winstead kick) 3:59
4q. B Jackson 3-yd. pass from Sparks (Jolivet pass from Sparks) 2:17
First downs 27 31
Rushing-yards 54-361 38-251
Passing yards 231 335
Comp-att-int 17-33-1 21-29-0
Punts-avg. 3-31.0 2-30.0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 2-10 6-40
RUSHING — Bethel: Sykes 41-330, Sparks 7-27, Simon 4-4, Purvin 1-0, team 1-0. Sterling: Phillips 21-142, Brown 5-60, Rios 3-22, Chisholm 3-13, Newell 1-8, Reed 2-5, Hudspeth 2-4, Davis 1-(-3).
PASSING — Bethel: Sparks 15-24-1, 222 yards; Jones 2-9-0, 9 yards. Sterling: Phillips 19-27-0, 248 yards; Hudspeth 2-2-0, 87 yards.
RECEIVING — Bethel: Jackson 8-107, Davidson 3-32, Marshall 3-21, DuBose 2-41, Jolivet 1-30. Sterling: Frame 8-106, Brown 7-153, Hudspeth 2-28, Newell 2-25, Franks 1-14, Bennett 1-9.
Missed field goals — none.