Sophomore Gene Dydell, who is an Ottawa High School graduate, will receive his first start in the 1:30 p.m. game at Peoples Bank Field. He will be backed up by freshman Tanner Staats. Dydell has 10 carries for 32 yards in limited action, while Staats has no carries as he switched between receiver and running back.
“He runs the ball pretty hard,” Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger said of Dydell.
Kessinger said Dydell’s strength is running inside from tackle to tackle.
“This will be a good game for him [to play],” Kessinger said. “With the 3-4 front, it is familiarity for him.”
Ottawa runs the same defensive front as has several Braves’ opponents.
Ottawa’s running game has been slowed down the past couple of games by McPherson and Sterling, which left the passing game open.
The Braves took advantage by passing for more than 300 yards in both games. Senior quarterback Shane Gimzo was 31 of 42 for a career-best 378 yards and five touchdowns against Sterling.
Kessinger said defensive coordinators have to make a decision to either try to stop his running or throwing.
“You have to pick your poison,” Kessinger said. “You can’t take both away.”
Gimzo, who has more than 500 yards rushing, used his legs to buy time the past couple of weeks to complete big pass plays.
“He is extending plays ... that is when we become really dangerous,” Kessinger said.
The receiving core is coming into its own. Jon Hilliger caught a school-record 18 passes against Sterling. Kessinger said the best thing is how the receivers play off each other and Gimzo takes what is open.
Ottawa used the diversity to score 34 points a game, which ranks No. 21 in the NAIA and leads the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. Ottawa also is No. 21 in total offense at 415 yards per game.
Bethany (2-6, 1-5) has struggled this season after last year’s run for a KCAC crown fell just short. Kessinger, who is a former Bethany football player and the son of the legendary Bethany coach Ted Kessinger, views this as another game after nine years at Ottawa.
Kessinger said Bethany will not lay down for Ottawa.
“They will give us their best effort,” Kessinger said. “They will give us everything they have. They want nothing better than to knock us off.”
Ottawa has to guard against any letdown with a big game looming next week against Friends. The Braves, who have won five straight games after opening with two losses, have worked their way back into the NAIA poll this week at No. 24.
Ottawa’s conference championship and playoff hopes hinge on winning the rest of the games.
“This week it is all about us,” Kessinger said. “It has been a topsy-turvy [season]. There is a lot of parity in our conference. Anybody can beat anybody.”
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