Five teams are tied for the lead with one loss. They are Kansas Wesleyan, Ottawa, McPherson, Friends and Tabor.
It has been an exciting first half with close games and bizarre finishes. So far, five KCAC teams have been ranked in the NAIA top 25 poll.
This week Tabor and Friends are ranked No. 24 and No. 25. Kansas Wesleyan rose to No. 20 before last week’s loss to Tabor. Ottawa (No. 11) and Bethany (No. 24) opened the season in the rankings.
Kansas Wesleyan’s four KCAC wins have all been by four or less points. Saint Mary won a 21-20 overtime thriller over Sterling.
Two games left fans, players and coaches shaking their heads of how it ended. Friends nipped McPherson 18-17 with the game-winning touchdown scored by an offensive lineman.
McPherson led 17-11 with nine seconds left when a tipped pass by a defensive lineman ended up in the hands of a Friends offensive lineman, who scored a touchdown.
The other was Ottawa’s 100-yard fumble return by Donald Anderson to give the Braves a 25-21 win two weeks ago.
The standings may have a different look at the end of today. McPherson (3-2, 3-1) plays 7 p.m. today at Ottawa (3-2, 3-1) with the loser falling a game behind the pack.
Other games pit Friends at Southwestern, Tabor at Bethany, Sterling at Bethel, William Penn at Saint Mary, and Southern Nazarene at Kansas Wesleyan.
Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger said the Braves will have their hands full with McPherson, which is coming off a bye week.
“This is one of those games where you will see two heavyweights going toe-to-toe,” he said. “Their one loss came on a fluke play. One of our wins was on a fluke play. It is going to be a good matchup.”
Both offenses have playmakers. McPherson’s offense is led by senior quarterback Jake Snodgrass, who leads McPherson in rushing (58 yards per game) and passing (235 yards passing). Julius Record averages nine catches per game, which is second in the NAIA, for 101 yards per game (seventh in the NAIA).
“Snodgrass is being extremely efficient in running their offense,” Kessinger said. “We will have our work cut out for us. This is one of the best teams I’ve seen that we will have played. They do so many things well and very solid in what they are doing.”
Ottawa’s offense is led by senior quarterback Shane Gimzo, one of the most unique athletes in the NAIA.
He averages nearly 300 yards of offense per game. The past two games, Ottawa’s passing game has come alive.
“We did a lot of play-action passing,” Kessinger said. “It is something we have worked on. We did a good job of playing pitch and catch. We have a good group of receivers out there.”
Other interesting connections include a homecoming for McPherson senior offensive lineman Isaac DeLaTorre, a former Central Heights star.
McPherson’s first-year head coach played for Kessinger at Augustana.
“It will be interesting,” Kessinger said about coaching against his former pupil. “We definitely want the teacher to outdue the student this week.”
Greg Mast can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @ottawasports1