The Bethel College football team has done a good job so far of getting a lead early and holding on.
Saturday, the Threshers fell behind by 10 points early, but twice came back from deficits to down Sterling College 31-26 in a KCAC battle of unbeatens at Thresher Stadium.
It was a safety with 12:20 left in the fourth quarter that could have broke the Threshers’ back.
“Our kids have doing an awesome job of just playing football,” Bethel coach Terry Harrison said. “They haven’t been too high. They haven’t been too low. That was a situation where it could have been frustrating or even imploded, but the defense got a stop and we scored a touchdown.
“That was (the first comeback win) this year, but we have a lot of kids who came back from last year and they had to come back in all of their wins.”
“It was a tough game,” senior defensive lineman Joseph Winfield said. “Whenever the D-line didn’t make a play, the linebackers made a play. If the linebackers didn’t make a play, the DBs made the play. It was a defensive team effort. The sideline really picked us up. When you play for each other, things turn out.
“We really don’t worry about what they do. We have a plan in place. We stuck to the plan today.”
Bethel is 4-0 for the first time since 2007. Bethel also is on a five-game winning streak dating back to last season. Sterling drops to 3-1. Both teams received votes in the NAIA poll.
“I am so proud of my teammates,” Winfield said. “The people here and the people in the past. We’re not going to stop here. We’re going to keep going.”
Dominic Brown led the defense with 11 total tackles.
Chantz Scurry led the offense with 151 rushing yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns. Zach Esau rushed for 54 yards on 17 carries with two scores. Esau threw just three passes with no completions.
Sterling’s Cedrick Phillips hit 16 of 28 passes for 242 yards with two touchdowns. Cevon Mitchell-Ford rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown, Shaheem Sanders caught four passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
Sterling scored on its first two possessions, a nine-yard Mitchell-Ford touchdown run on the first and a 28-yard Peter Slysko field goal on the second.
Bethel was stopped on its first two possessions, having the first end on downs inside the Thresher 30. The second was a punt.
Bethel made a goalline stand early in the second quarter, stopping Sterling on the one. A Sterling fumble set up a 34-yard Logan Demond field goal late in the first half.
A bad punt snap with 11 seconds left in the half gave Bethel the ball on the Sterling 18. After a dive to the middle of the field, the Threshers elected to skip the field goal and try a pass that was intercepted in the end zone.
Bethel opened the second half with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended on a one-yard Esau run. The drive took longer than five minutes.
Sterling regained the lead on a 33-yard pass from Phillips to Shaheem Sanders on fourth and 20.
Bethel replied quickly, scoring on a one-yard Esau run.
The Bethel defense forced its first punt with 12:25 remaining in the game. Five seconds later, a bad pitch led to a Sterling safety.
Bethel got the ball back on the Sterling 32 after the Threshers stopped a fake punt attempt with 10:36 to play. Bethel scored on a 26-yard Chantz Scurry run 27 seconds later. Bethel was called for illegal motion on the two-point conversion, setting up the PAT kick.
Bethe put the game away with a three-yard Scurry run with 2:08 to play.
Sterling got back in the game with a 12-yard pass from Phillips to Sanders with 58 seconds to play. The on side kick went out of bounds, allowing Bethel to kill the clock.
Bethel plays Southwestern at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Winfield. The Moundbuilders are 1-2 before Saturday’s game at Bethany.
“They won the game last year and that was a game that we felt like we never even showed up,” Terry Harrison said. “We’re in the same scenario where we’ve won a couple of games in a row and now have to go down there. We have our work cut out for us.”
1q. S Mitchell-Ford 9-yd. run (Slysko kick) 10:30
1q. S Slysko 28-yd. field goal :08
2q. B Demond 34-yd. field goal 2:29
3q. B Esau 1-yd. run (Demond kick) 9:44
3q. S Sanders 33-yd. pass from Phillips (Sysko kick) 6:21
3q. B Esau 1-yd. run (Demond kick) 2:16
4q. S Safety: pitch goes out of the end zone 12:20
4q. B Scurry 26-yd. run (Demond kick) 10:09
4q. B Scurry 3-yd. run (Demond kick) 2:08
4q. S Sanders 12-yd. pass from Phillips (Slysko kick) :58
Time of poss.;29:02;41:08
RUSHING — Sterling: Mitchell-Ford 17-77, Williams III 7-24, Phillips 15-22, Whitehead 2-2, Patten 2-(-22). Bethel: Scurry 19-151, Harrison 7-82, Esau 17-54, Murray 4-53, Starlin-Driver 6-13, team 2-0.
PASSING — Sterling: Phillips 16-28-0, 242 yards. Bethel: Esau 0-3-1, 0 yards.
RECEIVING — Sterling: Butler 7-44, Sanders 4-95, Robeson 2-59, Harbour 1-30, Whitehead 1-10, Rocheford 1-4. Bethel: none.
Missed field goals — none.