WICHITA — The Bethel College football team fell behind by three touchdowns early, falling to Friends University 38-20 Saturday in KCAC play at Adair-Austin Stadium in Wichita.
Bethel got back within one score early in the third quarter, but was unable to get closer.
“Nothing changed (from the first half to the second half), we just started playing better,” Bethel coach Terry Harrison said. “(Turnovers) were big for us.”
Friends quarterback Brennan Whitaker hit 18 of 30 passes for 331 yards and four touchdowns, earning KCAC player of the week honors. Cade Nagy had five catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
Desean McKinnon had 10 total tackles for Friends, 3-7 overall and 3-6 in KCAC play.
Bethel was led by Zach Esau, who hit seven of 19 passes for 130 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Esau also rushed for 128 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns. Tanner Galliart had five catches for 95 yards.
Keondre Churchwell led Bethel with 14 total tackles and two forced fumbles.
Bethel had favorable field position in each of its first three possessions due to a pair of Friends on-side kicks and a short punt. Bethel got to the Falcon six-yard line on their first possession, turning the ball over on downs.
Bethel stopped the Falcons on their first offensive possessions, but Friends finished drives on their next two for touchdowns. Friends got to the Bethel nine on its following possession, but missed a 27-yard field goal attempt.
A mishandled snap on a Bethel punt attempt gave Friends the ball on the BC 16. Friends got to the Bethel five and missed another field goal attempt.
A Friends punt on third down (the officials never adjusted the down marker after a holding penalty) bounced off a Bethel player and was recovered on the BC 11. Two plays and a holding call later, Whitaker hit Glen Whisby for a 21-yard touchdown.
Bethel mounted a drive that got to the Friends 11, then had three plays that lost yardage to the 20, losing the ball on downs.
Friends held a 244-77 advantage in total offense in the first half.
Churchwell stripped away the ball on the opening kickoff of the second half. Two plays later, Esau ran the ball in from 37 yards out.
Bethel made a defensive stop and drove 45 yards in seven plays, scoring on a one-yard Esau run.
Friends had three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties total in the first three drives of the second half with a player ejected.
Friends came back, aided by a 48-yard pass from Whitaker to Evans, scoring on a one-yard Quincy Brown run on fourth down. Friends stopped Bethel on the Threshers’ next drive, setting up a 27-yard Nick Navarro field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Bethel replied with a 72-yard, seven-play drive, scoring on a 24-yard pass from Esau to Galliart. The PAT kick was shanked. Two plays later, Chuchwell forced another fumble at the Friends 37. Bethel got to the Friends seven, where an Alexiou Munnings 28-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Bethel had its next two drives stopped, including on downs at the Thresher 32.
Friends put the game away with a seven-yard pass from Whitaker to Nagy with 2:12 to play. Esau was intercepted two plays later, allowing Friends to run out the clock.
Bethel ends the season at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Joe W. Goering Field against Sterling. The Warriors improved to 4-5 overall and in the KCAC after a 41-18 win over McPherson, snapping a three-game losing streak.
“We are young, but I hate to say that because we are playing some older guys as well,” Harrison said. “We need to keep battling. We’re not going to change who we are. We’re not going to change how we operate. We’re going to get better at everything we do. They’re like us. They’ve been in some games they could have won. Our kids haven’t packed it in. They are still playing hard. I hope that’s what people see.”
1q. F Evans 10-yd. pass from Whitaker (Navarro kick) 7:07
1q. F Nagy 47-yd. pass from Whitaker (Navarro kick) 2:56
2q. F Whisby 21-yd. pass from Whitaker (Navarro kick) 4:09
3q. B Esau 38-yd. run (Munnings kick) 14:10
3q. B Esau 1-yd. run (Munnings kick) 7:54
3q. F Brown 1-yd. run (Navarro kick) 4:38
4q. F Navarro 27-yd. field goal 14:07
4q. B Galliart 24-yd. pass from Esau (kick failed) 10:54
4q. F Nagy 15-yd. pass from Whitaker (Navarro kick) 2:12
Time of poss.;28:25;31:35
RUSHING — Bethel: Esau 29-128, Starlin-Driver 13-38, Simon 3-23, Burnley 1-2, Peery 1-0, Jolivet 4-(-19). Friends: Brown 13-50, Diaz 11-19, McSha 6-13, Evans 1-8, Jenkins 2-6, Biehler 1-2, Whitaker 1-1, team 4-(-17).
PASSING — Bethel: Esau 7-19-1, 130 yards. Friends: Whitaker 18-30-0, 331 yards.
RECEIVING — Bethel: Galliart 5-95, Jolivet 1-27, Edwards 1-8. Friends: Nagy 5-153, Evans 3-71, Whisby 3-48, Perry 2-24, Crandall 2-6, Brown 1-14, Salazar 1-10, Diaz 1-5.
Missed field goals — BC: Munnings 28 (blocked). Fr.: Navarro 27 (WR), 22 (WR).