Bethel caps regular season with clash against KWU
Two of the top offenses in the NAIA will meet at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Bethel Thresher football team hosts Kansas Wesleyan at Thresher Stadium.
Bethel, ranked 11th in the latest NAIA poll, is 9-0, 8-0 in KCAC play. The Threshers clinched a share of the KCAC title and clinched an automatic berth in the NAIA playoffs, which begin April 17. A Thresher win could lead the team to a first-round playoff game.
“Everything’s going pretty good,” Bethel coach Terry Harrison said. “It’s just another week of practice. This is a pretty easy group to work with right now.”
Kansas Wesleyan is 6-2, 5-2 in KCAC play. The Coyotes received votes in the latest NAIA poll, coming in at 28th, but need to move up at least 18 spots between now and the final poll for a chance to get an at-large berth.
Bethel is coming off a 35-9 win last week at Tabor. Kansas Wesleyan downed Sterling 69-14 March 6.
Bethel last beat Kansas Wesleyan 38-18 in 2008. The Coyotes won last season 61-31, a loss that kept the Threshers out of the playoffs.
Bethel leads the nation (NAIA) in pass efficiency (251.6), rushing yards (3,256), rushing yards per game (361.8) and scoring offense (447 points).
Kansas Wesleyan is third in passing offense (2,581) and total offense per game (529.9).
“They’re very talented,” Harrison said. “They lost a couple in the fall, close games against a couple of the top teams in the conference. They have a couple of transfers in at the semester, like they always to. They have won three playoff games in the last couple of years. It will be a good, tough match-up.”
Kansas Wesleyan is led by quarterback Isaiah Randalle, who has hit 137 of 203 passes for 2,205 yards with 16 touchdowns against just three interceptions. Randalle is third in the NAIA in total passing yards, fourth in total offense (2,283 yards) and fifth in passing yards per game (275.6).
Stevie Williams leads the receiving corps with 49 catches for 812 yards and seven touchdowns. Eren Jenkens has 26 catches for 512 yards and six touchdowns. Drevon Macon has 24 catches for 314 yards and a touchdown.
Quincy Sandoval is the leading rusher with 514 yards on 98 carries with 10 touchdowns. Christopher Fluker has 88 carries for 430 yards and four touchdowns.
Zyair Velazquez leads the defense with 67 total tackles, including 9.0 for a loss. Justin Sullivan and Scott Helsper each have 49 total tackles. Malayke Adams has three sacks. Helsper has three interceptions. Velazquez has two fumble recoveries and an interception.
Macon has two kickoff returns for a touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown.
“Like in the last couple of years, they run the ball and throw deep, play-action passes,” Harrison said. “That’s kind of the challenge. They don’t personnel groupings as much. They keep two backs in the backfield and three receivers in pretty much all the time. They’re able to run the ball, because they have those two backs in the backfield. They throw deep, play-action passes way down the field.”
Bethel led by Zach Esau, who has hit 34 of 57 passes for 892 yards with two interceptions and 14 touchdowns. Esau has 109 carries for 445 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Chantz Scurry has 161 carries for 716 yards and 11 touchdowns. Camryn Harrison has 40 carries for 478 yards and five touchdowns.
Brayden Francis leads the receivers with 13 catches for 407 yards and seven touchdowns. Tanner Galliart has 10 catches for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
On defense, Josh Seabolt has 85 total tackles, followed by Dominic Brown with 71 and Ryan Clark with 44. Seabolt has 7.5 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss, along with two fumble recoveries. Brown has three fumble recoveries. Clark has 10.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks. Trey Palmer has four interceptions.
Logan DeMond has hit four of five field goal attempts with a long of 31 yards. Francis is averaging 39.5 yards a punt.
“It’s nice to know we’ve secured a playoff spot and a share of the championship, or whatever you want to call it, but we hold the tie-breaker over Avila,” Harrison said. “We want to put our best product on the field every game. We haven’t beaten Kansas Wesleyan in the last couple of years since I’ve been here. The stakes are wanting to play well at home, leading into that three-week break where we find out who we play in the playoffs.”
Avila moved into sole possession of second place in the KCAC with a 29-27 win over Southwestern two weeks ago, moving up three spots to 20th in the NAIA poll. Ottawa fell to Tabor 17-13 last week.
Avila needs to win out, with some help, to get a chance at an NAIA playoff berth.
Avila is led by John Jacobs III with 1,290 passing yards and 15 touchdowns and 462 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Malik Nesbitt has 802 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Devin Senerius has 435 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Ottawa is led by Derrick Curtis with 858 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, Bailey Shire with 571 yards passing and seven touchdowns and Dylan Foos with 311 yards receiving and five touchdowns.
#23 Southwestern (5-2) at Friends (2-5)
Southwestern bounced back after its loss to Avila with a 47-15 win against Sterling last week. Southwestern dropped two spots in the NAIA poll to 23rd. Friends last played in November, falling to Bethel 34-22.
Southwestern’s playoff hopes are hanging by a thread, needing a lot of help to get an at-large bid.
Brad Cagle leads Southwestern with 1,347 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. Keyshawn Wyatt has 888 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Keyshawn Jones has 741 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
Dan Dawdy leads Friends with 1,220 passing yards and 12 touchdowns. Juan Salazar has 511 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Cade Nagy has 404 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Mark Schnabel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org