The start of the Myers Hendrickson era of Kansas Wesleyan football looked impressively similar to the end of the Matt Drinkall era.
Led by several stars from last year’s epic effort the No. 4-ranked Coyotes pummeled Texas Wesleyan early and often and en route to a 48-24 non-conference victory before a near-capacity season-opening crowd of 1,276 Saturday night at Graves Family Sports Complex.
Coming off a historic 13-1 season in 2018 under Drinkall, who’s now an assistant at Army West Point, the Coyotes continued their dominance for Hendrickson, who was offensive coordinator at Division II Northern State last fall.
Quarterback Johnny Feauto (SR/Boulder, Colo.) threw for 215 yards and five touchdowns, tailback Demarco Prewitt (SR/Menifee, Calif.) ran for 127 yards and two scores, and Shaq Bradford (SR/San Diego, Calif.) produced 4.5 sacks – all in just two and a half quarters of play.
KWU’s starters scored on six of the first seven possessions, took a 41-3 lead into the locker room at halftime, scored on the first possession of the third quarter then watched the rest of the game from the sidelines.
“Coming into this game we felt very confident and very relaxed, and that first half just showed you what we can do,” said Feauto, who was 13 of 21 passing and had 52 yards rushing on five carries. “As an offense we felt very comfortable and we were clicking on all cylinders. It felt like we picked up from last year and took it to another level.”
Prewitt, who led the NAIA in rushing yards, rushing attempts and 41 touchdowns last season, had 149 total yards on 24 carries and one pass reception. Richard McCauley (SR/Edmond, Okla.), who played for KWU last season, caught four passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, newcomer Stevie Williams (JR/East Los Angeles, Calif.) had four receptions for 77 yards and two TDs, and returning tight end Trenton Poe-Evans (SR/Needles, Calif.) three catches for 20 yards and two scores.
“I’ve been throwing to Stevie a bunch,” Feauto said. “He’s so fast, I thought I overthrew him twice and he just ran and got the ball.”
Hendrickson was thrilled with the way his team played from the start.
“The first game of the year there’s going to be some sloppiness and some things happen that you’re not planning but that wasn’t the case for us,” he said. “The way we started I felt like we hit on all cylinders on offense and defense. Our guys executed at a really high level and set the table for this game.”
KWU amassed 432 total yards – 248 passing, 184 rushing – while TWU had 318 total yards that included just 68 rushing.
Senior quarterback Donovan Isom was 20 of 33 for 282 yards and two touchdowns. He had 108 yards passing in the fourth quarter when the Rams scored three cosmetic touchdowns.
Isom was sacked five times the first half, 4.5 attributed to Bradford, who had an NAIA-best 22 sacks last season.
“We wanted to make it very uncomfortable and difficult him,” Bradford said. “We have a lot of skilled athletes on the perimeter.
“I’m a little stronger this year and my IQ’s gone up tremendously. Just getting a good feel for the game early and not starting off slow. As a defense we wanted to dictate the game and come out with the first hit instead of waiting for the offense.”
Feauto threw touchdown passes of 15 yards to Poe-Evansan, 3 yards to McCauley, and Prewitt ran 13 yards for a score as the Coyotes led 20-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Feauto hit Poe-Evans again for a 2-yard touchdown on the sixth play of the second quarter, found Williams on an 8-yard scoring strike and capped the half with a 25-yard TD pass to Williams that he ran under and caught in the back of the end zone.
Prewitt’s 4 yard run into the end zone with 7:08 left in the third quarter made it 48-3 and was final play of the game for the offensive starters.
Texas Wesleyan’s defense stacked the line of scrimmage in an attempt to slow Prewitt but the strategy failed, thanks primarily to Feauto.
“In the run game they do stack the box and we had to get the ball out on the perimeter and get the ball down the field a little bit,” Hendrickson said. “Johnny Feauto loves to do that and made some big time plays. He ran it really well, too, and is just a playmaker. When the ball’s in his hands he can make some electric things happen and he did that tonight.”
Hendrickson also praised Bradford’s play.
“He changes the game singlehandedly because the quarterback can’t get comfortable when Shaq Bradford’s on the field,” he said. “He brings great effort and intensity every single day and that showed again tonight.”
Hendrickson was happy to be back at Graves Family Sports Complex for his first game as a head coach. He was an assistant under Drinkall when the facility opened in October, 2015.
“It was fun and exciting to be back here on Bissell Field,” he said. “It makes it really special to be here at home. I’m just lucky I get to coach these players and work with this staff. It was a lot of fun.”
The Coyotes begin Kansas Conference play against Tabor at 6 p.m. next Saturday at Graves Family Sports Complex. The Bluejays opened the season with a 40-20 road victory over Southwestern Assemblies of God (Texas) on Saturday night. SAGU defeated Texas Wesleyan 53-46 last season.