Bethel looks to navigate 2020 minefield

Mark Schnabel
mschnabel@thekansan.com
Bethel senior running back Camryn Harrison rushed for 840 yards on 68 carries with six touchdowns, earning NAIA All-American honorable mention last season.

In past years, the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference media day focused on probable favorites and top players from each of the league’s 11 members.

The 2020 media day, which was held online this season, focused on season formats, keeping players in touch and accountable and figuring out the minefield that the COVID-19 outbreak has out in front of the teams and their coaches.

Many discussed the logistics of holding practice while maintaining social distancing. Some will have to break their workouts into smaller groups. Many talked about holding team meetings online.

“We were a little different,” Bethel coach Terry Harrison said. “We only had two Zoom meetings. We didn’t want to bog down our kids with meetings. To play here and be a part of our program, you have to be self-motivated. The kids go home in the summer. You have be able to operate independently. We still e-mail our parents and text our kids and everything. We have a special group of kids who have owned this situation, and they’re going to be ready to play.”

Bethel is coming off an 8-3 season, 7-3 in conference play. Harrison begins his fourth season as the Thresher head coach. He is 11-10 with the Threshers.

“Our conference is doing things in a first-class fashion and I’m just thankful to be a part of that and am excited about this year,” Harrison said. “The leadership provided by the conference during this global pandemic has been the best of any conference I have seen across the country at any level.”

When the Threshers report to campus this week and begin practice Saturday, Harrison expects around 106 players this season. He has 41 letterwinners returning, including 21 players who started at some point in the season. He has 14 returning with All-KCAC honors, led by NAIA All-American honorable mentions Camryn Harrison at running back and Josh Seabolt at linebacker. Kicker Logan DeMond was the KCAC special teams player of the year.

Also back is senior quarterback Zach Esau, a three-year starter.

“We’re excited about the depth we finally have now,” Harrison said. “This being our third season and being a former high school guy who’s trying to learn how to recruit, that’s been the challenge. Football is football from middle school to college, but we’re finally at the point where our depth is correct.”

Harrison expects 35 freshmen and transfers to report.

“That’s a good number,” Harrison said. “When I started, we had about 65 freshmen and transfers. That’s tough for retention. Our roster is now balanced out from freshman to senior.”

Harrison has 10 senior letterwinners.

“We had eight seniors who were here prior to be being here,” Harrison said. “I am thankful that those guys bought into a program that was uniquely different than what they were apart of prior. I’m excited that they were able to see the change, and be a part of the change, and the belief they had in the program.”

Harrison said the team made great progress in the classroom, even with online classes.

“We had our highest team GPA this spring,” Harrison said. “Having done that online. That’s a credit to our kids. That’s what they’re here for. They have owned our classroom, our GPA, preparing, that’s been really cool to see that. And our retention was over 80 percent.”

Harrison also cited the support of athletic director Tony Hoops.

“For a former basketball guy, he’s done a pretty good job of helping the football coaches in our conference and develop this schedule,” Harrison said. “His vision for this football program, and develop one that’s much more than about winning and has a purpose well beyond winning. We’re thankful that the kids are competitive and it is fun for the kids that we’re ranked, but we want to be the premier Christian football program across the country. I believe we’re headed that way. We go to church together. We’re building this thing with that in mind.

“I hope we can perform at that level, whatever we’re voted to be, it’s about much more than that for us, the parents we have and the kids we have. We want to be competitive, but we want to be a Christian warrior program.”

Bethel opens the season Sept. 12 at home against Avila, which also is ranked in many preseason polls.

“My first year here, we played Avila here and that was a competitive game that went down to the wire,” Harrison said. “Last year, the same thing. It was a competitive game the whole way through. It will be fun to have those guys on our home campus. We’re certainly excited about that. They’re a great addition to our conference.”

KCAC preseason football polls

Coaches

1. Kansas Wesleyan 98 pts. (8 first-place votes)

2. Bethel 86 pts. (1)

3. Avila 81 pts. (2)

4. Sterling 72 pts.

5. Tabor 58 pts.

6. Southwestern 56 pts.

7. McPherson 46 pts.

8. Ottawa 42 pts.

9. Friends 32 pts.

10. Bethany 23 pts.

11. Saint Mary 10 pts.

Media

1. Kansas Wesleyan 266 pts. (14)

2. Bethel 245 pts. (6)

3. Avila 238 pts. (4)

4. Sterling 199 pts. (1)

5. Tabor 174 pts.

6. Southwestern 148 pts.

7. Ottawa 118 pts. (1)

8. McPherson 109 pts.

9. Bethany 96 pts.

10. Friends 88 pts.

11. Saint Mary 35 pts.