The Bethel College football team will face its biggest challenge of the season, hosing seventh-ranked (NAIA) Kansas Wesleyan at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Joe W. Goering Field.
Bethel is 2-5 overall and in the conference after falling to Southwestern 45-14 last week. Kansas Wesleyan is 8-0, 7-0 in KCAC play, after a 76-38 win at McPherson.
“We had a good practice yesterday,” Bethel coach Terry Harrison said. “The guys have responded well after a tough loss to Southwestern. We feel like this is a great opportunity for us, hosting a top-10 team.”
A Coyote win, coupled with an Avila loss to Bethany, would clinch a tie for the conference title for KWU. Kansas Wesleyan enters the game leading the nation (NAIA) in pass efficiency (217.9), scoring offense (480) and points per game (60.0). The team is second in total offense per game (580) and first downs per game (28.9). The team is third in rushing offense (2,245 yards), rushing offense per game (280.6) and opponent’s fourth-down conversions (16.7 percent).
“That’s crazy,” Harrison said of KWU’s scoring average. “But we feel like our defense has gotten better every week. We’re going to have to create some turnovers and we’re going to have to play as a team. We need to keep our offense on the field, getting some first downs, if we are going to have a chance to win.”
Kansas Wesleyan quarterback Johnny Feauto has hit 131 of 187 passes for 2,345 yards with 31 touchdowns and just one interception. Demarco Prewitt has 215 carries for 1,254 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns. Charlie Simmons has 36 catches for 757 yards and eight touchdowns, followed by Trenton Poe-Evans with 37 catches for 656 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The KWU defense has forced 11 interceptions, led by Scott Helsper and Bryan Pascual with three each. Rashaan Broomfield and Pierce Williams each have two interceptions each. Broomfield returned one for a touchdown. Mitch Persinger returned a fumble for a touchdown.
Warren Singletary has 60 total tackles, followed by Williams and Zeriam Jackson with 40 each. Shaq Bradford has 13.0 sacks. The team has 28 sacks and given up just 10.
K.C. Carr has 250 yards in kickoff returns with a touchdown and a long of 82 yards.
“They are solid,” Harrison said. “But there are still some match-ups that we like out there. They don’t show a lot of weaknesses. They take care of the ball well. Their quarterback has thrown 30 touchdowns and just one interception. They have done a good job of building their team the last three to five years, getting the type of kids they want, and they are reaping the benefits this year.”
Harrison said the Coyotes like to establish the run early and then throw over the defense for long passes. The team runs out of the spread.
Bethel’s Zach Esau has hit 39 of 75 passes for 801 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. Esau also leads the team in rushing with 124 carries for 594 yards and five touchdowns. Camryn Harrison has 48 carries for 444 yards and three touchdowns. Braedon Starlin-Driver has 321 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Gary Jolivet has 319 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
Tanner Galliart leads the receivers with 389 yards on 17 catches with four touchdowns.
Jordan Bell leads the defense with 70 total tackles, followed by Joshua Seabolt with 59. Curtis Bell has 5.5 sacks. Khalif Maijed has three interceptions.
“I think our kids will be ready to compete,” Harrison said. “We haven’t had to worry about them not being ready to compete. They have shown up ready to play each week. We’re excited to host a top 10 team. I think this is a great opportunity for our kids.”