The Bethel defense forced seven turnovers, but still allowed too many big play with inconsistent offense in a 37-33 loss to Bethany Saturday at Joe W. Goering Field in KCAC play.

After an early lead, Bethel trailed by 10 at the half. The Threshers pulled to within three in the fourth quarter, but never found a way to get over the top.

“We’re still young, we still have guys that have to buy in and we’re not that type of a program yet,” Bethel coach Morris Lolar said. “When we get close games like this, this is like last year. Something has to bring you over the top. We still haven’t found it. We’re still 0-3 and that’s not why I’m here. That’s not why we’re here. We have work to do and we’ll get it done.”

Bethany, 3-0 overall and 2-0 in KCAC play, was led by Aaron Knox, who rushed for 157 yards on 31 carries with a touchdown. Isaiah Salzar hit 11 of 23 passes for 80 yards with five interceptions and a touchdown. Bethany also scored on a punt return, an interception and a safety.

Bethel freshman Zach Esau made his first start, hitting 15 of 40 passes for 193 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Adrian Palmore had seven catches for 85 yards and a score. TyShawn Simon had 13 carries for 36 yards and a touchdown.

Reggie Young had three interceptions for the Threshers. Javan Moore picked off two passes for the Swedes.

“Offensively, we kind of found an identity,” Lolar said. “We were able to throw the ball a little bit. Defensively, we’re still tweaking some things. We still have to get better. The offensive line gave us a chance at the end of the game. We had so many chances to put this game away. We missed two field goals late, two extra points. There are some positives, but the one negative is we lost.”

Bethel went three and out on its first series. Two pass attempts were just missed. The punt snap went over the punter’s head and was kicked out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

A Charles Johnson interception set up a 32-yard touchdown pass from Esau to Palmore. The extra-point kick was blocked.

A Young interception got Bethel the ball on the Bethany 5, setting up a one-yard touchdown run for Isaiah Smith. This time Mathis hit the PAT kick.

After two penalties on the kickoff, Bethel tried an on-side kick, but Bethany recovered it at the Bethel 31. The Swedes took advantage of the short field, scoring on a 16-yard pass from Salazar to Mike Wimberly.

Wimberly then scored on a 70-yard punt return.

A Young interception set up a 13-yard touchdown run for Simon early in the second quarter.

Bethany regained the lead with a 50-yard Moore interception return for a touchdown. Bethany finished its first long drive at the end of the half, going 61 yards on eight plays, scoring on a one-yard Knox run with 18 seconds left in the half to put Bethany up by 30-20.

Bethany held a 146-55 advantage in total offense in the first half.

Bethany was stopped on its first possession of the second half and a bad snap gave Bethel the ball on the Bethany 22, but a penalty put the ball back on the 37. Bethany fumbled a punt at its own 15, but the Threshers couldn’t move the ball beyond the 4 and Bethel missed a 28-yard field goal attempt.

Bethel got inside the red zone a third time, but a penalty killed the drive. Bethel tried a fake punt that lost yardage and gave the Swedes the ball near midfield.

A Young interception set up a 22-yard Gary Jolivet jet-sweep run with 1:14 left in the third quarter. A Jariah Booker interception gave Bethel the ball at the Swede 15, but a 31-yard field goal attempt went wide.

Bethany came back with a 15-play, 80-yard drive that ended on a six-yard pass from Salazar to Rodney Molette. The drive took more than eight minutes.

Bethel turned the ball over on the next drive, but Booker forced a fumble and Young returned it to the Bethany 16 with 3:21 to play. On the next play, Esau hit Ben Marshall for a touchdown. The PAT kick missed.

Bethany recovered the on-side kick, but was forced to punt. The Threshers got from their own 27 to the Swede 40 in two plays. On fourth down, Esau hit a pass to the 28. Esau was intercepted in the end zone as time expired.

Bethel falls to 0-3, 0-2 in KCAC play. Bethel plays at 7 p.m. Saturday at McPherson. The Bulldogs fell to 1-2 after a 45-17 loss to Southwestern.

“These kids deserve better and we’re going to get them there,” Lolar said. “They have seven games left. Going 7-3 is a wonderful season for Bethel — not for us, but for Bethel. That could still get us in the playoffs. We’ll get is. We’ll fix it. Hopefully, we can still find some things we can do well. We need to move the ball a little bit.”

Bethany;16;14;0;7;—37

Bethel;13;7;7;6;—33

Scoring

1q. Bty. safety punt snap kicked out of endzone 13:37

1q. Btl. Palmore 32-yd. pass from Esau (kick failed) 11:22

1q. Btl. Smith 1-yd. run (Mathis kick) 9:29

1q. Bty. Wimbely 16-yd. pass from Salazar (Augusta kick) 7:35

1q. Bty. Wimberly 57-yd. punt return (Augusta kick) 5:21

2q. Btl. Simon 13-yd. run (Mathis kick) 12:49

2q. Bty. Moore 50-yd. interception return (Augusta kick) 9:50

2q. Bty. Knox 1-yd. run (Augusta kick) :18

3q. Btl. Jolivet 22-yd. run (Mathis kick) 1:14

4q. Bty. Molette 6-yd. pass from Salazar (Augusta kick) 5:05

4q. Btl. Marshall 16-yd. pass from Esau (kick failed) 3:16

Team stats

;Bty.;Btl.

First downs;15;17

Rushing-yards;34-173;33-66

Passing yards;80;193

Comp-att-int;11-23-5;15-41-3

Punts-avg.;3-32.0;4-36.5

Fumbles-lost;4-2;1-0

Penalties-yards;5-49;10-120

Time of poss.;30:01;29:48

Individual stats

RUSHING — Bethany: Knox 31-157, Jones 4-13, Wimberly 2-8, Salazar 3-6, Molette 1-4, Garza 1-4, Augusta 1-(-19). Bethel: Simon 13-34, Jolivet 2-21, Phorn 3-16, DuBose 2-9, Smith 2-8, Pickens 3-5, Starlin-Driver 1-0, Esau 3-(-2), Harrison 2-(-4), Mathis 1-(-21).

PASSING — Bethany: Salazar 11-23-5, 80 yards. Bethel: Esau 15-40-3, 193 yards; Webb 0-1-0, 0 yards.

RECEIVING — Bethany: Milbourne 4-36, Molette 1-18, Wimberly 2-16, Garza 2-7, Goodwin 1-2, Knox 1-1. Bethel: Palmore 7-85, DuBose 5-70, Marshall 1-15, Jolivet 1-14, Alvarez 1-9.

Missed field goals — Bethel: Mathis 28 (WR), 31 (WL).