Saturday’s showdown in Salina may be the KCAC’s biggest game thus far in 2018.
In a match of unbeatens, the Ottawa University football team (3-0) hits the road to play at No. 16 Kansas Wesleyan (3-0). The Braves haven’t beat Kansas Wesleyan since 2014.
The Coyotes have been nothing less than dominant in their three wins this season. They have outscored opponents 167-14, including a 42-7 shellacking of No. 25 Sterling College this past Saturday in Sterling. Brad Coombs, Coyote senior defensive lineman, earned Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Defensvie Player of the Week honors, racking up nine tackles (1.5 for a loss) in Saturday’s win. Kansas Welseyan’s defense kept Sterling to just 259 total yards of offense.
“This one is really big for us and I’m sure it is for Kansas Wesleyan too,” Kent Kessinger, OU head football coach, said. “This is one that kids and coaches kind of dream of going against the best in the conference.”
Ottawa will be without starting quarterback Connor Kaegi (concussion), junior, after he took a nasty hit late in the third quarter of this past Saturday’s game at Bethany College. Fellow junior Spenser Lewis will take the reigns.
“I’m very confident in what [Lewis] can do,” Kessinger said. “Connor kind of got the surge at the beginning of the year, but there is no drop off between him and Spenser.” Both quarterbacks are first-year transfers into the Braves football program.
Kickoff is at 5 p.m. at Graves Family Sports Complex, 231 E. Cloud St., Salina.
OTTAWA 42, BETHANY 35
LINDSBORG — The Braves fended off a late Bethany College rally to stay undefeated this past Saturday.
OU built a 26-7 lead after Kaegi capped off a nine-play, 54-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run and 7:36 left until halftime.
The Swedes took momentum at the break thanks to a six-yard touchdown pass from Isiah Salazar to Dalton Goodwin with 30 seconds left. Following a pair of three-and-outs by both teams to start the second half, Salazar found Peter Garza for a 39-yard touchdown to make it a one-score game, 26-21.
Following a blocked field goal on Bethany’s next offensive possession, the Ottawa offense drove deep into Swede territory. Kaegi ran for 14 yards down to the Bethany 10-yard-line, but was injured after the Swedes’ Javon Moore hit him on a slide attempt. Backup quarterback Spenser Lewis, junior, finished the drive by punching the ball in from five yards out on third-and-goal.
Trey Wheeler, sophomore defensive back, picked off Salazar on Bethany’s ensuing offensive possession, ending a drive that got down to the Ottawa 28-yard-line. Wheeler’s interception return of 20 yards set up OU inside opponent territory where Lewis found Darrion Dillard, senior wide receiver, for a 32-yard touchdown pass. It marked Dillard’s fifth touchdown catch of the season. A blocked extra point made it 39-21 Braves.
On its next possession, the OU offense once again drove down the field, leaning on the ground game. The drive stalled inside the 10-yard-line and Nicholas Rodriguez, senior kicker, booted a 24-yard-field goal to make it 42-21.
Salazar tossed touchdowns of 12 and 42 yards on Bethany’s next two offensive possessions, making it 42-35 with 1:43 left. Ottawa’s Dylan Foos, sophomore wide receiver, recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt, and the Brave offense ran out the clock for the win.
Ottawa gained 262 yards on the ground to Bethany’s 91. James Reeder, sophomore running back, had 114 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. Corben Chambers, freshman running back, had 101 yards on 21 attempts and a touchdown. Kaegi finished 10-22 passing for 176 yards and a touchdown. Lewis was 1-3 for the 32-yard score.
On defense, Jacob Garcia, sophomore defensive lineman, had three of the team’s five sacks.
Bethany’s Salazar finished 24-41 passing for 377 yards, five touchdowns and a pick. The Swedes had three receivers gain more than 100 yards — Goodwin eight catches for 154 yards and two scores; Jafar Thomas seven catches for 112 yards and a score; Peter Garza five catches for 107 yards and a score.