Melinda Nguyen likes the direction her Kansas Wesleyan flag football team is trending as the regular season winds down and with good reason.
The Coyotes’ 51-12 Kansas Conference rout of Cottey on Saturday afternoon at JRI Stadium and the Graves Family Sports Complex was their fourth consecutive victory and eighth in their last nine games.
They play Saint Mary at 1 p.m. Sunday at JRI Stadium in their last regular season game before competing in the KCAC Tournament April 28-29 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
“We’ve had a great season and are clicking at the right time,” said Nguyen who has led KWU to an 11-3 record (7-2 KCAC) in her first season. “I’m very excited to see what the KCAC brings and after that the NAIA (Flag Finals in Atlanta).”
Saturday’s conquest – the second lopsided victory over Cottey this season – featured a familiar theme. Quarterback Brianna Hernandez-Silva (SR/Las Vegas, Nev.) was superb once again and the defense squelched everything the Comets’ offense at every juncture.
Hernandez-Silva was 13 of 23 passing for 213 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. She also rushed for a team-best 23 yards on eight carries and a touchdown. Angel Roman (SO/Jacksonville, Fla.) caught five passes for 65 yards and two touchdowns and had two interceptions, one that she returned for a TD.
“Brianna, awesome job,” Nguyen said. “Good job scrambling, her runs are great. Her balls, her long balls especially, hit the mark. The receivers caught the ball when they needed to. Angel Roman had one heck of a game on both sides of the ball.
“The players executed and that’s about all you can ask for.”
Nickayla Howard (SO/Las Vegas, Nev.) caught four passes for 34 yards and Ciaran DeCuir (SO/Las Vegas, Nev.) three for 86 yards.
Hernandez-Silva threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to DeCuir to open the scoring with 6:45 left in the opening quarter. Hernandez-Silva ran two yards for a touchdown with 9:23 left in the half making it 13-0.
Roman scored the next three touchdowns. She caught back-to-back 19-yard passes from Hernandez-Silva at the 7:37 and 15 second marks of the second quarter as the Coyotes took a 27-0 lead into halftime. She struck again on the first play of the third quarter when she intercepted a pass and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown that extended the lead to 33-0.
Jazmine Whitfield (FR/Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Hernandez-Silva that upped the advantage to 39-0 at the 6:14 mark of the third quarter. DeCuir scored her second touchdown on a 17-yard pass from backup quarterback Emilee Buhl (SO/Willis, Texas) with 4:13 remaining in the third quarter and KWU led 45-0 entering the final 12 minutes. Buhl was 8 of 15 passing for 58 yards and an interception.
An 18-yard touchdown pass from Hernandez-Silva to Howard gave the Coyotes a 51-0 lead with 11:51 left in the game.
KWU finished with 300 total yards and limited Cottey (5-11, 4-6 KCAC) to 87 that included a minus-11 yards rushing. Leila Casillan (FR/Las Vegas, Nev.) had four more sacks while Lexi Marquez (SO/Las Vegas, Nev.) and Alexis Jimenez (SO/Miami, Fla.) had six pulled flags apiece for Wesleyan.
“The defense has been outstanding the past few games, I think it’s really clicked for them,” Nguyen said. “We’ve been working on different concepts and really drilling it and they’re starting to move and groove. They understand what they’re seeing, what’s coming out and how to attack that.”
While pleased with her team, Nguyen says there’s always room for improvement.
“I can be a bit of a perfectionist,” she said. “We’re striving towards perfection; we’re not striving to be perfect but as close as possible. We need to get into a little bit more of a rhythm. I think tougher competition in the KCAC Tournament will bring out another edge for us.”