Thresher gridders set to resume season

Mark Schnabel
The Kansan
Bethel sophomore Dominic Brown brings down a ball carrier from play earlier this season. The 11th-ranked Threshers play at 1 p.m. Saturday at Tabor.

The storyline for the Bethel College football team’s season reads like an old-fashioned soap opera, “When we last left the Threshers, they were on the verge of a conference title. Join us in March for the next episode.”

Well the next episode begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at Joel H. Wiens Stadium in Hillsboro, when the 8-0 Threshers take on the 2-4 Tabor Bluejays for the 52nd annual “Menno Bowl” matchup.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference implemented a split-season format, while the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics moved the championships to the spring.

Bethel enters the game ranked 11th in the latest NAIA poll. A Bethel win in either of its final two conference games, or a conference loss for Avila, Southwestern, Kansas Wesleyan and Ottawa, locks up the conference title for the Threshers, as well as an NAIA playoff berth.

Bethel coach Terry Harrison said he’s OK with playing in the spring.

“It feels like the middle of fall right now,” Harrison said. “Once we started practice again, it felt like we picked up where we left off.”

Bethel has been in practice for two weeks now.

Bethel is coming off a 34-22 win over Friends Nov. 21. Bethel trailed 19-7 after the first quarter and 22-20 at the half.

Tabor’s last game was a 59-0 loss to Avila on Oct. 31, snapping a two-game winning streak. Tabor was held to 118 total yards offense in the game.

“They brought back most of their defensive players from the fall,” Harrison said. “They brought in a transfer running back and a transfer quarterback, that did not play in the fall. Coach (Mike) Gardner has been a very good coach for a very long time. We haven’t beat Tabor in 11 years. We have to show up ready to play well. There is like a 90-percent chance of rain. It will be a challenge for us. It will be like the Friends game, a huge challenge for us.”

Bethel fell to Tabor 29-21 last year, a game that proved detrimental to the Threshers’ postseason chances. The last Bethel win was 25-14 in 2009.

“They will be very similar to a lot of teams we’ve faced this season,” Harrison said. “They are very similar to Ottawa and Avila on offense. Defense, they are a lot like Avila. With a new running back and a new quarterback, we probably have to guess on what they do. Even though they haven’t played for Tabor, we’ve seen film of them playing with other schools.”

Under NAIA rules for this season, transfers at the start of the spring semester are eligible with their new schools if their grades and other paperwork are in order.

Harrison said he has a few transfers, but they won’t likely see playing time until the fall.

“No one new will be playing,” Harrison said. “All of our kids returned. We’ll be the same team we had in the fall.”

Tabor is led by Trey McGee with 111 yards rushing on 73 carries with a touchdown.

McGee also hit 104 of 165 passes for 1,066 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions. Javien Creary has 38 carries for 120 yards rushing and a touchdown.

Derrick Harper has 13 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Franklin Miller has 13 catches for 218 yards and two touchdowns.

The defense is led by Zach Roth with 48 total tackles, including 10.0 for a loss and 3.5 sacks. Brooks Gardner has 46 total tackles with 4.0 for a loss and a sack. Parker Folks has 34 total tackles with 8.0 for a loss and 6.0 sacks.

Gunnar Reiss has three interceptions, while Gardner has two. Gardner also has two fumble recoveries.

Bethel is led by Chantz Scurry with 657 yards rushing on 143 carries with 10 touchdowns. Camryn Harrison has 37 carries for 475 yards and five touchdowns. Zach Esau has 103 carries for 415 yards and 10 touchdowns. Esau has hit 31 of 50 passes for 779 yards with an interception and 13 touchdowns.

Brayden Francis has 12 catches for 361 yards and six touchdowns. Tanner Galliart has nine catches for 189 yards and three touchdowns.

Josh Seabolt leads the defense with 79 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks. Dominic Brown has 66 total tackles, 2.0 for a loss. Dayvon Mason has 41 total tackles with 4.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Ryan Clark has 5.0 sacks. Trey Palmer has four interceptions. Seabolt has two fumble recoveries.

Logan DeMond has hit 4 of 5 field goal attempts with a long of 31 yards.

“Ball security will be important,” Terry Harrison said. “With Friends, you saw that fiasco (Bethel had 12 fumbles, losing five). With the weather, we’re going to have to hang on to the ball. Special teams will play a big factor in this game. Our kids have had an awesome couple of weeks of practice. They look tuned in and ready to play. We have a good group of kids who focus in on what’s important. I’m excited to watch our guys play.”

Around the KCAC: Week 13

(Schedule subject to change)

No. 23 Avila (5-1, 5-1 KCAC) at No. 21 Southwestern (4-1, 4-1 KCAC), 6 p.m.

Both teams entered the NAIA polls this week with Southwestern ranked 21st and Avila at 23rd. The winner needs to win out, along with at least one Bethel loss, to claim at least a share of the KCAC title. The losing team is likely eliminated from the playoff picture.

Southwestern last played Nov. 7, falling to Bethel 39-35 on a BC touchdown with two seconds left in regulation.

Avila downed Saint Mary 51-0 on Nov. 7. Saint Mary elected to end its season after the game, finishing 0-4.

Sterling (0-5, 0-5 KCAC) at Ottawa (4-2, 3-2 KCAC), 1 p.m.

Ottawa needs a win and a lot of help to earn a chance at a share of the conference title. Ottawa last played Nov. 14, falling to Kansas Wesleyan 34-23.

Sterling kicked off the spring portion on the season, falling to Kansas Wesleyan 69-14 last week. The Warriors are on a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season.

Mark Schnabel can be reached at mschnabel@thekansan.com