Any concerns Kansas Wesleyan’s football team might be rusty after a 115-day layoff were quickly and decisively squashed.
Showing the offensive balance and firepower they did during the fall coupled with a stellar defensive effort the No. 21-ranked Coyotes steamrolled Sterling 69-14 in a Kansas Conference game Saturday night at Graves Family Sports Complex.
The game was the first of the three during the spring portion of the schedule after KWU posted a 5-2 record during the fall – the unique split season necessitated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Coyotes (6-2 overall, 5-2 KCAC) amassed a whopping 677 total yards – 284 rushing and 393 passing – and limited Sterling to 257 total yards.
Quarterbacks Isaiah Randalle (JR/Sacramento, Calif.) and Dylan VanBoxel (JR/Green Bay, Wis.) were a combined 35 of 47 passing and three touchdowns; running backs Quincy Sandoval (SO/Salt Lake City, Utah) and Nick Allsman (SO/Belleville, Kan.) combined for 211 yards rushing and four receivers caught at least five passes.
“We’ve been working on a lot of things over this time since COVID and stuff,” said wide receiver Stevie Williams (SR/Los Angeles, Calif.), who caught nine passes for 138 yards. “We felt like we needed a big win to let everybody know we’re here and we’re not going anywhere.”
It didn’t take long for the Coyotes to drop the hammer on a young Sterling team that was 0-4 during the fall. They scored on five of their seven possessions the first half possessions and led 34-7 at the break.
Three more touchdowns in the third quarter gave them an insurmountable 55-14 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
“All three phases – offense, defense, special teams – I thought we executed at a really high level,” KWU coach Myers Hendrickson said. “We handled adversity in every way at an extremely high level and we responded to the opportunity to play here tonight. It’s all about the players and they executed at a really high level.”
The primary adversity came on the second play of the second quarter when Randalle was injured at the end of a 10-yard scramble. He was replaced by VanBoxel, who was making his KWU debut after transferring from Rochester (Minn.) Community College last summer.
VanBoxel drove the Coyotes the remaining 32 yards for a touchdown after Randalle was hurt – the final 10 yards on a touchdown pass to Eren Jenkins (SR/Chicago, Ill.) that gave them a 27-7 lead. On his second series VanBoxel led a 14-play, 68-yard scoring drive that culminated with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Sandoval.
Randalle returned for the third quarter and VanBoxel reentered the game late in the fourth quarter. He was 12 of 17 for 105 yards, two touchdowns and twice for 23 yards while Randalle 23 of 30 for 288 yards and one TD.
“He’s always ready,” Williams said of VanBoxel. “Whenever it’s his time he steps up to the plate and takes on the challenge head-on. That’s what I love about him, he’s always ready. When Isaiah went down, he came in and went right to work.”
“He has an incredible football mind, he’s a sponge in the meeting room and he took those QB reads out there and executed perfectly tonight while going into the game and not being the starter,” he said. “That’s what’s really, really special about Dylan VanBoxel – he prepares every day like he’s the starter and always stays ready.”
The passing attack benefitted from a running game that welcomed Sandoval back after he missed the last two games of the fall season with an injury. He finished with 140 yards rushing and three touchdowns and caught five passes for 47 yards and another TD.
His best run was a 53-yard touchdown jaunt late in the first quarter in which he bolted off left tackle, weaved his way through the Sterling defense and sprinted down the sideline into the end zone. He also scored on runs of six and 10 yards and caught a seven-yard scoring pass from VanBoxel.
Allsman also ran for three touchdowns that covered two, one and 21 yards.
“I thought Quincy had a remarkable game and I thought Nick Allsman came in and ran really hard and looked very good,” Hendrickson said. “We’ve got multiple backs we feel good about.”
“I felt like Allsman and Quincy did a super, super, super good job running the ball today,” Williams said. “Even Steve (Harvey, four carries for 17 yards) when he got in. It was good seeing those guys run the ball.”
Hendrickson praised the big guys up front for making it happen.
“Offensive line-wise you saw some new names across the board and I’m just so proud of the group,” he said. “Coach (Mike) Hall and the offensive line group does an incredible job and you’re talking about different people not skipping a beat. We’ve got five offensive linemen playing as one already. They’re playing together, they’re gelling.”
Meanwhile the defense made life miserable for Sterling’s offense. Quarterback Ethan Richardson was 10 of 18 for 159 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and was sacked three times. The Coyotes also recovered a fumble.
“Defense played incredible football,” Hendrickson said. “The whole night they were putting pressure on Sterling’s offense and I was really pleased with how the defense played together getting to the football, getting some takeaways and putting a ton of pressure on them. They played great team defense all night.”
Not to be outdone special teams also excelled highlighted by Drevon Macon (JR/Compton, Calif.)’s 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Sterling scored on a touchdown pass from Richardson to Chance Whitehead and on the ensuing kickoff Macon caught the ball at the 7-yard line, sprinted up the middle of the field and raced untouched into the end zone 12 seconds after Sterling’s score.
KWU has more time off – three weeks – before a showdown with unbeaten KCAC leader and No. 9-ranked Bethel on March 27 in North Newton.
“Beating Bethel’s always in the back of our minds,” Williams said. “We’re going to be ready, and I know they’re going to be ready. It’s going to be a good game to watch.”