The Bethel College football team opens the season at 6 p.m. Saturday at Goering Field against Dordt College as a part of the Great Plains Athletic Conference-Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Challenge.
Bethel is coming off a 3-7 season, 3-6 in KCAC play. The Defenders were 5-6 last season, 2-6 in GPAC play.
It appears to be the first meeting between the two schools in football.
Dordge was picked seventh in the GPAC pre-season coaches poll.
The Defenders are led on offense by quarterback Brock Lamie, who hit 118 of 242 passes last season for 1,793 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Lamie also rushed for 367 yards on 92 carries with three touchdowns.
The Defenders lost running back Bryce Lidtka, who led the NAIA in rushing with 1,714 yards. He also led the nation in scoring per game at 13.5 points and was second in rushing yards per game at 155.8. Back in the backfield is Levi Schoonhoven, who had 80 carries for 293 yards and three touchdowns.
Dordt lost the fourth-leading receiver in the NAIA, Jason Miller, with 1,311 yards and 11 touchdowns. Back is Jake Dodge, who had 16 catches for 241 yards and two touchdowns.
Leading the defense is linebacker Josiah Kotte, who had 90 total tackles, a sack, 3.5 tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery.
Dordt also returns kicker-punter Jeff Paepke, who hit three of four field goal attempts last season with a long of 38 yards.
Bethel’s biggest loss on offense was Jalen Sykes, who rushed for 904 yards on 160 carries with eight touchdowns. Sykes played in just six games in an injury-shortened season. The top returnee in the backfield is TyShawn Simon, who rushed for 411 yards on 99 carries with three touchdowns.
While the quarterback position is still up for grabs with about four candidates, top returning receivers include Montero DuBose and Gary Jolivet. DuBose had 27 catches for 299 yards and a touchdown. Jolivet had 26 catches for 410 yards and three touchdowns.
Key returnees on defense include Jariah Booker, who had 70 total tackles, 3.0 sacks, 12.5 tackles for a loss and four fumble recoveries. Also back is Jordan Bell, who had 61 total tackles.
The Threshers return 10 starters on defense.
Kicker Brett Mathis hit six of 10 field goal attempts last season with a long of 48 yards.