Allsman, Coyotes ready for challenge from Friends in season opener

Nick Allsman (SO/Belleville, Kan.) is more than ready for Kansas Wesleyan’s 2022 football season to begin.


“This week has felt like it’s taken forever because we’ve been playing the same guys for six months now,” said Allsman, a senior tailback. “We didn’t have an offseason with that (2020) COVID spring we played through. This is the first true offseason we’ve had and have really worked against each other. I’m just chomping at the bit to hit someone that’s not in a purple jersey.”


Allsman and Co. will get their chance Saturday when the No. 12-ranked Coyotes play Kansas Conference foe Friends (1-0) in the season opener. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Graves Family Sports Complex.


Allsman is the lone returning starter in the backfield after rushing for 760 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021 when KWU finished 10-3 overall and shared the Kansas Conference title with Southwestern and Bethel at 9-1. The Coyotes advanced to the NAIA playoffs for the third time in four years.


But there’s a lot of new this fall starting with head coach Matt Myers, who replaced Myers Hendrickson, and new coordinators James Bauer (offense) and David Leonard (defense). Myers was KWU’s defensive coordinator last fall and was the NAIA/AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year before being promoted in December.


Allsman is one of 14 returning starters (six offense, eight defense). He said the Coyotes have spent considerable time watch video of Bethel and Friends in preparation for the game.


Terry Harrison, who coached Bethel last season, moved to Friends during the offseason and took a lot of what he did in North Newton with him, including the Flexbone option offense and a unique defensive scheme.


Allsman says the Coyotes are ready, though.


“A lot of things we got this week will help us as for when they’re going to do certain blitzes, certain packages they bring in,” he said. “Just being able to recognize and know what’s going to happen before it happens is going to be a big benefit for us.”


Allsman said KWU’s offense will look similar to last year with a few wrinkles.


“There’ll be some differences in the way the game is called and maybe the pace of play or the personnel we use might be different than years past,” he said. “You’ll still see a Coyote offense that’s trying to get up and down the field and put up a lot of points.”


Allsman has been impressed with quarterback Tony White (SR/Cincinnati, Ohio), who was the backup last season and played well in the spring scrimmage. Most notably he likes White’s versatility.


“The guy is going to show up and he’s going to make plays,” Allsman said. “I think the one thing that a lot of people are going to see is Tony White‘s legs and how athletic and how fast and big and strong he is. That puts a lot extra stress on defenses.”


Allsman is joined in the backfield by a plethora of other backs that includes Mark Benjamin (SO/Houston, Texas) and Steven Harvey (SR/Oakland, Calif.), who saw duty last year.


“We have a stable of running backs,” he said. “We’ll be able to put guys in and pull guys out and not be any drop off in the level of play.”


The offense will be spearheaded by a veteran line that includes four senior returning starters in left tackle Jake Balderrama (SR/Moreno Valley, Calif.), guards Jarren Hightower (SR/Oklahoma City, Okla.) and Nolan Harris (SR/Lexington, Mo.) and center Trace Ott (SR/Orange Beach, Ala.).


“We’ve played with each other for three years,” Allsman said. “A big part of that’s communication and we know how each other moves and what we’re going to do.”


Friends defeated Oklahoma Panhandle 31-14 in its non-conference opener last Saturday in Goodwell, Okla. The Falcons surrendered the first 14 points then scored the final 31. Panhandle finished with 290 total yards while Friends had 349.


Friends had 338 yards rushing led by Zach Dressler with 165 yards and two touchdowns. Quentin Owens had 70 yards and quarterback Jack Mullen 32 yards and a TD. Mullen was 1 of 7 for 11 yards passing.


Allsman said it’s up to him and his teammates to make things work Saturday.


“This is going to come down to us focusing on what we do really well,” he said. “We know we’re going to get everybody’s best every single time. They want to come in here and knock us off. I think as long as we show up, do our own thing and focus on ourselves will be just fine.”