When Zach Esau made the eight-mile or so trek from Hesston High School to Bethel College, .
Esau has helped lead the Threshers to numerous records on the offensive end, as well as a 5-0 record this season after a 78-28 win over Ottawa Saturday at Thresher Stadium.
He rushed for two touchdowns in the game, setting the school record for career rushing touchdowns at 33. He also passed for three touchdowns.
"I’m not sure what I expected when I came here, but it definitely has been a great experience," Esau said. "I’ve enjoyed coming here to Bethel. I would definitely come here again if I had to do it over."
In 32 games with the Threshers, Esau has 3,218 passing yards with 29 touchdowns and 1,825 rushing yards with the aforementioned 33 times in the end zone.
Esau is currently ranked ninth nationally (NAIA) in scoring per game (10.5 points), ninth touchdown scoring per game (10.5) and 11th in both touchdown scoring and total scoring with 42 points this season.
The Bethel offense is first in the NAIA in third-down conversions (62.1 percent), pass efficiency (273.0), total rushing offense (2,124), rushing offense per game (424.8 yards/game), scoring offense (301 points) and scoring offense per game (60.2 points/game).
"I first saw him in high school, so I knew who he was before I became the coach here," BC coach Terry Harrison said. "I watched him in the Shrine Bowl. Obviously when I got here, I knew he was a super-talented kid, which would give us a lot of abilities to do different things."
Esau had to split time with two other quarterbacks as a freshman, with much of the shuffling due to injury to all three. He emerged as the full-time starter as a sophomore, but at the same time, Bethel had a coaching change as current coach Terry Harrison was brought in, as well as a change from the spread offense to the flexbone, which forced Esau to change styles from a traditional drop-back passer to an option quarterback.
"My freshman year was rough, but then coach Harrison came in with the flexbone," Esau said. "I was unsure at first, because I’d been in the spread my whole life. Now after running it for three years, I enjoy it. I love the team and I love how much it’s team centered. One player can’t be the difference. The whole team has to play well for us to do well."
"The kids when we got here were striving for some structure and a little bit of discipline," Harrison said. "They just needed a good plan. We were very lucky to inherit kids like him. He just thrived in the structure we provided and the results speak for themselves right now."
Bethel is 5-0 for the first time since 2007 and is in the NAIA national rankings at 24th.
"We’ve been playing well this year, as the scores have shown," Esau said. "… We’ve been getting great practices in. We’re playing together. This year, compared to last year, we just had a better understanding. We figured out the offense and what we need to work on. Much of the credit goes to the coaches."
His 164 yards passing was a season high, and his best single-game passing performance since he threw for 174 yards against Avila his sophomore season. His best was 220 as a freshman against Southwestern. Against Avila in the season opener, he only threw four times for 70 yards.
"We got ourselves a couple of penalties that gave us some tough down and distances," Esau said. "I had to rely on the pass to get out of it."
Down 14-7 after the first quarter, Bethel took the lead with a 35-7 second quarter. Key plays in the first half for Bethel was a fumbled kickoff by Ottawa, which led to a Bethel score; and a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown by Trey Palmer.
Ottawa was worn down by the fourth quarter, allowing Bethel to pull away.
Getting a fifth down, Landon Barnes scored on a 29-yard touchdown. It was the first fifth-down touchdown in college football history since the infamous Colorado win over Missouri Oct. 6, 1990.
Ottawa, 2-1, was led by Bailey Shire, who passed for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Dylan Foos and Greg McMahon each caught a touchdown pass. Derrick Curtis and Newton High grad Colton Davis each rushed for a score. Davis led the receivers with 107 yards.
Bethel plays at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bethany.