Matt Myers doesn’t need to look at the records to appreciate the challenge his Kansas Wesleyan football team faces.
The No. 15-ranked Coyotes (4-1) play unranked Avila at 1 p.m. Saturday at JRI Stadium in the Graves Family Sports Complex. The Eagles are also 4-1, a 24-21 loss to No. 6 Southwestern in Winfield the only blemish on their slate in a game they led 21-10 with under four minutes left.
Historically KWU and Avila have gone toe-to-toe and have had some epic battles. The Coyotes won 30-20 last season in Kansas City, Mo., but lost 46-38 in 2020 in Salina. They prevailed 48-47 in 2019 in KC and 34-31 in 2018 in Salina.
Myers expects more of the same this time.
“They’re very athletic on offense and defense,” he said. “Their skill position guys are very talented, their tailback’s really good. They got two quality quarterbacks, their D-line’s athletic, linebackers can run. I think Saturday will be a test to see if we can execute and stay disciplined.”
KWU walloped Saint Mary 39-13 last weekend in Leavenworth. Quarterback Tony White (SR/Cincinnati, Ohio) had a near-perfect day completing 17 of 19 passes for 306 yards and three touchdowns. The defense limited the Spires to 116 total yards and the Coyotes notched two safeties, one on special teams thanks to a bad snap on a punt in the end zone and one on defense.
KWU linebacker Ricardo Garcia (JR/Reno, Nev.) was the KCAC Defensive Player of the Week. He had eight tackles, five solo, and a strip sack against Saint Mary.
Avila, though, is a different beast. The offense is led by freshman quarterback Eli Williams, a transfer from TCU who has thrown for 720 yards, eight touchdowns, one interception and has rushed for 306 yards and four more scores. Tailback Malik Nesbitt, a two-time NAIA All-American, has 337 yards rushing and five TDs. Receivers Melvin Reid and Andrew Williams have a combined 23 receptions for 339 yards and six touchdowns.
Avila thumped Sterling 44-14 last Saturday in Sterling as Williams threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 85 and two more scores.
“Williams is pretty tall, big and he can run for sure,” Myers said. “They’ve got two backs (Jahkese Watkins and Nesbitt) that run hard and are athletic guys. You think they throw the ball a lot but they’ve run the ball a lot too. I’d say they’re pretty balanced, it’s not just all dropped back. They’ll do both.
“I think it’ll be very telling how well the defensive line plays and we get the quarterback on the ground. Usually, teams are getting the ball out much more quickly against us so the challenge is there but there’s also an opportunity.”
Sterling finished with just 213 total yards against the Eagles last week.
“Their D-line is good to be honest,” Myers said of Avila’s defense. “They’ve got a couple of good linebackers – their front seven’s good. They got they got some talented dudes.”
White has completed 67 percent of his passes for 899 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions for KWU. He also has 181 yards rushing and two TDs. Allsman has 401 yards rushing and Mark Benjamin (SO/Houston, Texas) 317; they also have five touchdowns apiece.
Myers says the offense should be ready.
“We’ve been doing this for several weeks, since camp,” he said. “We’ve had enough repetitions in what we do so it’s quite literally just executing up front and making the right decisions at the quarterback spot and making plays with our skill guys.”
Southwestern scored 16 points the final 3:53 of the game against Avila – two touchdowns and two two-point conversions. Williams threw for 233 yards and a touchdown.
“You have to continue to play the game no matter what happens – up, down, big play, negative play, doesn’t matter,” Myers said. “It just needs to be the next rep and we’ll see what happens.”