Bethel College gridders lock up KCAC title

Mark Schnabel
The Kansan
Bethel defensive back Dominic Brown returns a kickoff during play Saturday. Bethel wins the KCAC title for the first time since 2007.
Bethel defensive back Trey Palmer misses a block on this kick, but blocks a field goal attempt and an extra-point kick in a 35-9 Bethel win.
Bethel running back Kayden Christiansen rushed for 57 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-9 win over Tabor.
Bethel receiver Tanner Galliart makes a long catch and run during play Saturday at Tabor. A touchdown on the play was called back on a penalty.
Bethel quarterback Zach Esau threw for 113 yards and a touchdown in a 35-9 win over Tabor Saturday in KCAC play in Hillsboro. Bethel snaps a 10-game losing streak to Tabor.

HILLSBORO — The Bethel College football team was at times its own worst enemy, overcoming four turnovers, for a 35-9 win over Tabor Saturday in the annual “Menno Bowl” clash.

The win gives Bethel a share of the KCAC title and it clinches an NAIA playoff berth as Bethel holds the tie-breaker over every other team with one loss in the conference.

“The fumbles are crazy,” Bethel coach Terry Harrison said. “No one wants to fumble. No one wants to drop the ball. We’ll get it fixed. The kids will keep working. We practiced all week with a wet ball, and it didn’t even rain and we still had fumble issues. In the last two games, we had 16 turnovers combined (actually eight), but won by 36 points combined. That shows we have a lot of room for improvement, which is pretty good.”

Bethel wins the conference for the first time since 2007 and returns to the NAIA playoffs since 2006. It will be the third appearance for the Threshers in the playoffs.

“It means a lot to me for Bethel, being an employee of Bethel and being proud of Bethel,” Harrison said. “It’s our kids. They worked really hard, It’s all the time they’ve put in. They get to see that hard work pay off.”

Bethel held a 425-191 advantage in total offense. Zach Esau passed for 113 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 30 yards. Kayden Christiansen rushed for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Chantz Scurry rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown.

Dominic Brown recovered a fumble for a touchdown. Trey Palmer blocked a field goal attempt and an extra-point kick.

“The whole year, we haven’t gotten a blocked kick,” Palmer said. “My teammate Dom got a couple last year. He told me I had to block one this game. I just hurried up and got one. I got another in the second half.”

The defense helped the team overcome the turnovers, holding Tabor to a field goal and a touchdown.

Palmer, a sophomore, led the defense with eight total tackles.

“We have a motto, ‘Party on the field,’” Palmer said. “Whenever something bad happens, make something good happen. We have to keep a good attitude and help the offense.”

“Just before the game I told my friends that I was going to score a touchdown,” Brown said. “I was just going to make it happen. The ball came out. My eyes got big. I got it and ran into the end zone. We’re used to having our backs against the wall. We work on that all the time. We have a different mentality. We don’t want to give up any points. … We’re feeling really good. We have a new defense this year, so we’re still learning.”

Tabor was led by Trent Quinn with 133 yards passing. Andre Renteria rushed for 34 yards and a touchdown.

After a misplayed kickoff by Tabor put the ball on the Bluejay 2, Bethel had a safety taken away on a play ruled a forward pass. Two plays later, Brown recovered a Tabor fumble and took the ball 11 yards for a touchdown.

Bethel scored early in the second quarter on a six-yard Christiansen run.

The Threshers turned the ball over on its next three possessions. The first one, aided by a pair of Bethel penalties, set up a 22-yard Joe Cannon field goal. The BC defense held after the second and forced a punt. The third turnover came after a long BC run. Tabor got the ball to the Thresher 22, where Palmer blocked a 39-yard field goal attempt.

Bethel needed just six plays from scrimmage to score to start the second half, going 61 yards and scoring on a five-yard Christiansen run. 

Tabor got the BC 29 on its first possession of the second half, where a 46-yard field goal attempt was wide right.

Tabor finally scored a touchdown on a Bethel turnover. Aided by a pair of Thresher penalties on the drive, Renteria scored on a two-yard run. Palmer blocked the PAT kick.

Bethel replied with a drive that ended on a one-yard Scurry run. A 46-yard pass from Esau to Brayden Francis with 1:58 remaining put an exclamation point on the game.

Bethel takes a week off and then hosts Kansas Wesleyan at 1 p.m. March 27. The Coyotes are 6-2, 5-2 in KCAC play. KWU downed Sterling 69-14 last week.

A Bethel win could mean a first-round home playoff spot.

“We want to win every opportunity that we play and every time we step on the field,” Harrison said. “It’s going to come down to a home playoff game or travel.”

Bethel;7;7;7;14;—;35

Tabor;0;3;6;0;—;9

Scoring

1q. B Brown 8-yd. fumble return (DeMond kick) 14:07

2q. B Christensen 6-yd. run (DeMond kick) 14:44

2q. T Cannon 22-yd field goal 8:57

3q. B Christensen 5-yd. run (DeMond kick) 12:46

3q. T Renteria 2-yd. run (kick failed) 2:01

4q. B Scurry 1-yd. run (DeMond kick) 10:21

4q. B Francis 46-yd. pass from Esau (DeMond kick) 1:58

Team stats

;BC;TC

First downs;21;16

Rushing-yards;55-312;34-58

Passing yards;113;133

Comp-att-int;3-7-1;14-29-0

Punts-avg.;2-38.0;3-38.3

Fumbles-lost;3-3;4-2

Penalties-yards;14-134;10-59

Time of poss.;n;a

Individual stats

RUSHING — Bethel: Scurry 18-59, Christensen 14-57, Murray 4-53, Schumpert-Street 5-50, Juarez III 2-41, Esau 6-30, Delancy 3-19, Harrison 3-3. Tabor: Renteria 12-34, Creary 12-20, Hoppes 3-18, Balin 1-5, Aviles 1-1, Parker 1-(-4), Quinn 4-(-16).

PASSING — Bethel: Esau 3-7-1, 113 yards. Tabor: Quinn 14-29-0, 133 yards.

RECEIVING — Bethel: Galliart 1-64, Francis 1-46, Murray 1-3. Tabor: Nonette 4-56, Blain 5-38, Usher 2-20, Hoopes 1-3, Renteria 2-6.

Missed field goals — TC: Cannon 39 (blocked), 42 (WR).

Mark Schnabel can be reached at mschnabel@thekansan.com.