Freshman Fernando Avila-Castro kicked a 24-yard field goal with 47 seconds left to capture Bethany’s first win of the season in their home opener, 31-28, over the Bethel Threshers.
Bethany found themselves down, 7-0, 28 seconds into the ballgame after Bethel’s running back Braedon Starlin-Driver, a Junior transfer from Independence Community College, took the opening play from scrimmage 60-yards to the endzone. After a quick three-and-out from Bethany, the Threshers would put together a 5:25 drive on their next possession capped off by a 5-yard touchdown run from Senior Gary Jolivet. Bethel led, 14-0, with 6:41 left in the first quarter.
Senior Quarterback Isaiah Salazar started to find a rhythm offensively for the Swedes late in the first quarter, putting together a seven play, 69-yard drive finishing with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Senior Peter Garza to bring the Swedes to within seven with 2:21 left in the opening quarter, 14-7. The touchdown would be the first of three through the air for Salazar. Salazar led the way for Bethany throwing for 394 yards while completing 35-of-43 passes.
Swedes would tie the game up, 14-14, with 2:21 left to go before the break when Freshman running back Quaylon Jones ran it in from 11 yards out. Bethel would drive all the way downfield to inside the 5-yard line with less than a minute to go with first-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Bethany’s defense put together a huge goal line stand, eventually forcing a fumble on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line with 11 seconds remaining before the half. The halftime score remained 14-14.
Bethany started the second half with the football, and 10-plays, 67 yards later, the Swedes captured their first lead of the season at the 11:35 mark of the third quarter on a 3-yard touchdown throw from Salazar to Senior Michael Milbourne. Bethel would answer back on their following possession. The Threshers faced a fourth down from the Swedes’ 11-yard line when Sophomore Quarterback Zach Esau broke off a tackle and rushed it in to tie it up with 7:37 left to go in the third quarter, 21-21.
Bethel recaptured the lead under three minutes into the fourth quarter following Starlin-Driver’s second rushing touchdown of the game; this one from 8-yards out to put the Threshers up, 28-21.
Swedes thought they had tied the game up with five minutes remaining when Salazar connected with Senior Dalton Goodwin, but Goodwin would fumble right before crossing the goal line and the ball would roll out of the endzone for a touchback. However with the next play from scrimmage, the Bethany defense would force one of their three fumble recoveries to give the Swedes another chance to tie the game. Bethany would capitalize just 47 seconds later on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Salazar to Senior Jafar Thomas with 4:07 left to go to even the score, 28-28.
Avila-Castro’s kick put the Swedes up, 31-28, but Bethel would move downfield in 43 seconds to set up a potential game-tying field goal from 41-yards out. Freshman kicker Brayden Francis would push the kick to the left to end the game.
Bethany finished with 484 yards of total offense with 394 coming through the air. Goodwin led the team in receptions, catching 10 passes for 95 yards. Milbourne hauled in nine receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown, while Thomas caught seven passes for 94 yards and a score. Jones led the Swedes in rushing with 17 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown. The defense forced four turnovers, three fumbles and an interception.
Bethel had 466 yards of total offense with 366 yards gained on the ground. Starlin-Driver carried it 20 times for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns. Sophomore Camryn Harrison rushed it 12 times for 96 yards, while Esau kept it on the ground 18 times for 66 yards and a score. Esau finished 6-for-10 for 100 yards passing with an interception.
Swedes move to 1-2 on the season and host Ottawa University next Saturday night.