Thresher gridders prep for fall finale

Mark Schnabel
The Kansan

After an unplanned bye week, the Bethel College football team will get back in action for the the last scheduled time this fall, hosting Friends University at 1 p.m. Saturday at Thresher Stadium, Joe W. Goeing Field.

Bethel enters play 7-0, beating Southwestern 39-35 when quarterback Zack Esau plunged into the end zone with six seconds remaining in regulation. Bethel was supposed to travel to Tabor last week, but that game has been moved to the spring.

Friends, 2-4 overall and in the conference, had its game against Saint Mary postponed. The Falcons last played on Nov. 7, falling to Ottawa 35-28 at home. Friends trailed that game 21-7 at the half, tying the game early in the fourth quarter. Ottawa replied with a pair of touchdowns. Friends scored on a six-yard pass from Dan Dawdy to Waylon Chance with 6:51 to play. The Falcons got the ball back, but the drive ended on downs and Ottawa was able to run out the clock.

“The kids had a good week of practice. We were healthy anyway, but we’re even better now,” Bethel coach Terry Harrison said. “We’re ready to play another game. It was a bummer that we didn’t get to play, but we feel we’re pretty fortunate. No one has played more games than us in the conference, so we can’t complain about that. We’re frustrated that we couldn’t play last week, but our kids handled it well and we’re ready to play Saturday.”

Only eight other teams in the NAIA have played more games than Bethel — two in the Heart of America Athletic Conference South, four in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and two in the North Star Athletic Association.

Bethel joins Dickinson State, Morningside, Keiser, Grand View and fellow Kansas team Baker as the remaining unbeaten teams in the NAIA.

Bethel is ranked 24th in the NAIA, but just one ranking has been released in the fall with the remaining polls to be released in the spring.

If Saturday’s game is played as scheduled, Bethel will meet the NAIA minimum amount of games needed to qualify for post-season play.

“We’re in a spot where we’re close to it, but we need to take care if it,” Harrison said. “We still have to see how it all plays out. It will be a bummer to have to wait so many months to finish it out. … We still have to play well in the springs. Getting (the minimum) games in is important, so that’s not a stressor.”

Friends is led by Dawdy, who has hit 108 of 200 passes for 1,125 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. Juan Salazar leads the Falcon rushing attack with 511 yards on 104 carries with three touchdowns. Dawson Marcum has 349 yards on 69 carries with a touchdown. Cade Nagy leads the receivers with 377 yards on 30 catches with two touchdowns. Kevin Green has 21 catches for 218 yards. Tyler English has 14 catches for 158 yards and four touchdowns.

David Akao has 62 total tackles with a pair of sacks. Jagger Blubaugh has 42 tackles with a sack and an interception. Jason Weah has 40 total tackles. Drake Damon has three interceptions.

“They are very talented,” Harrison said. “They have won a couple of games. Their defensive line is probably the most talented defensive line we’ve seen. They run the ball well on offense. It will probably be the first game we’ve played where both teams will run the ball at each other. Their strength is running the ball. They have a little more balance, but if we can stop the run, we have a pretty good chance to win.”

Bethel is led by Zach Esau, who has hit 29 of 47 passes for 716 yards with 12 touchdowns and an interception. Esau also has 91 carries for 417 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. Chantz Scurry has 115 carries for 503 yards and seven touchdowns. Camryn Harrison has 35 carries for 434 yards and five touchdowns. Brayden Francis has 11 catches for 353 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Tanner Galliart has nine catches for 189 yards and three touchdowns. Galliart will miss this game with a clavicle injury suffered against Southwestern.

On defense, Josh Seabolt has 68 total tackles with 14.5 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. Dominic Brown has 53 total tackles with two for a loss and an interception. Dayvon Martin has 33 total tackles with 4.0 for a loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception. Trey Palmer has three interceptions.

After this game, Bethel isn’t scheduled to play again until March 6, traveling to Saint Mary. Bethel then hosts Kansas Wesleyan March 13. The Tabor game hasn’t been placed on the schedule. Coach Harrison said the spring schedule isn’t set in stone. He expects the team to begin practice sometime in February.

“Our kids come back Jan. 8,” Harrison said. “A lot of it will be weather dependent. The first possible game is March 6. Putting a date on that is probably not wise. We’ll have three games to play. Some teams will have six games to play. It will be interesting to see. I know they are meeting to finish the schedule in the next week or so.

“Sometime in mid to late February, we’ll have some kind of a spring camp. We normally do spring ball in March, but we’ll be playing in March, so we’ll have to move that up a little bit, but doing it in a way to keep our kids fresh. … If we have two to three weeks before our first game, we’ll be ready to go.”

Around the KCAC: Week 11 — Sterling was supposed to play at Avila and Southwestern was to have played at Ottawa, but both were postponed until the spring. In the sole game that was played in the conference last week, Kansas Wesleyan downed Ottawa 34-23.