NORTH NEWTON — The Ottawa Braves football team got off to a strong start Saturday in KCAC play against the 24th-ranked Bethel Threshers, but some second-quarter miscues turned the tide as Bethel claimed a 78-28 win.
It was the largest margin of victory for the Threshers over Ottawa and the second-highest scoring game in Bethel history, five points shy of the record set Oct. 3 against MidAmerica Nazarene.
"We’re playing, even though it was our third game, it was like our second game," Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger said. "We took a month off. Last week, we were just getting into it. That’s where we should be getting healthy. We should be traveling 75 and we had just 56. We have to regroup and get healthy. There will still be a lot of guys in the training room this week."
Bethel, 5-0, was led by quarterback Zach Esau with 164 yards passing and three touchdowns, along with 97 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He broke the Bethel career rushing touchdown record with his 33rd score in the third quarter. Rudy Juarez III, Landon Barnes, Tanner Galliart, Mason Murray and Amondr’e Shumpert-Street each added a rushing touchdown. Brayden Francis caught two touchdown passes and Camryn Harrison also caught a pass for a score.
Ottawa, 2-1, was led by Bailey Shire, who passed for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Derrick Curtis rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown. Dylan Foos and Greg McMahon each caught a touchdown pass. Curtis came out of the game at the half with an injury.
Colton Davis, who played at nearby Newton High School, led Ottawa in receiving with 107 yards. He also rushed for a touchdown.
"We suited up 56 guys," Kessinger said. "We weren’t very deep today."
Up 14-7, a pair of key miscues turned the tide against Ottawa — a fumbled kickoff that gave the Threshers the ball at the OU 15, scoring three plays later; and a 40-yard interception return by Trey Palmer for a touchdown three plays into the following Ottawa drive.
"Three things really hurt us," Kessinger said. "The pick-six, the fumbled kickoff and the fact they had an opportunity to run a play with the clock at zero (at the end of the first quarter) and converted on third down, when it shouldn’t have been a play. Those things caused a steam roll that really changed momentum for us."
Ottawa would fumble another kickoff in the fourth quarter.
Bethel’s final touchdown appeared to come on an apparent "fifth-down" play late in the fourth quarter.
Ottawa goes on the road next week against 0-2 Saint Mary at 1 p.m. Saturday in Leavenworth. The Spires fell to Southwestern 59-3.
"We have a lot of football, and our guys will bounce back," Kessinger said. "I don’t know if the score was indicative of the two teams. I think what you saw in the first quarter was the strength of both teams. Bethel has a good football team. I think we’re going to be a good football team. We just have to be a little more consistent."
1q. B Harrison 15-yd. pass from Esau (DeMond kick) 13:18
1q. O McMahon 3-yd. pass from Shire (Corrales kick) 6:17
1q. O Curtis 16-yd. run (Corrales kick) 1:22
2q. B Schumpert-Street 10-yd. run (DeMond kick) 13:37
2q. B Francis 14-yd. pass from Esau (kick failed) 12:07
2q. B Palmer 40-yd. interception return (DeMond kick) 11:03
2q. O Foos 4-yd. pass from Shire (Corrales kick) 4:07
2q. B Juarez III 37-yd. run (Galliart pass from Esau) 3:01
2q. B Galliart 26-yd. run (DeMond kick) 1:31
3q. B Esau 34-yd. run (DeMond kick) 11:53
3q. B Francis 23-yd. pass from Esau (DeMond kick) 10:00
3q. O Davis 3-yd. run (Corrales kick) 5:40
4q. B Esau 1-yd. run (Francis run) 13:13
4q. B Murray 6-yd. run (DeMond kick) 6:48
4q. B Barnes 29-yd. run (DeMond kick) 3:41
Time of poss.;29:21;28:19
RUSHING — Ottawa: Curtis 21-86, Gee 8-32, Snell 2-4, Davis 2-0, Shite 4-(-7), Sainterling 2-(-17). Bethel: Esau 13-97, Scurry 14-45, Juarez III 2-44, Christiansen 10-42, Barnes 1-28, Galliart 1-26, Harrison 4-23, Murray 5-22, Delancy 4-15, Schumpert-Street 2-15.
PASSING — Ottawa: Shire 13-19-2, 163 yards; Sainterling 4-9-0, 48 yards. Bethel: Esau 6-9-1, 164 yards.
RECEIVING — Ottawa: Davis 5-107, Foos 5-53, McMahon 2-31, Doles 2-11, Snell 1-9, Gee 1-2, Mabry 1-(-2). Bethel: Harrison 1-85, Galliart 2-42, Francis 3-37.
Missed field goals — none.