WINFIELD – Kansas Wesleyan built a 13-point halftime lead but couldn’t hang on in the second half in a 26-20 Kansas Conference loss to No. 10 Southwestern on Saturday afternoon at Richard Jantz Stadium.
The No. 25 Coyotes conclude the season with an 8-3 record, 7-3 in the KCAC – the three setbacks by a total of 16 points.
KWU got touchdowns from its defense and special teams – Cleon Hamilton (SR/Hinesville, Ga.) returning an interception 32 yards in the first quarter and Cole Parker (SR/Corning, Calif.) scooping up a blocked field goal attempt at the 10-yard line and returning it 90 yards in the second quarter.
Aaron Main (SR/Tulsa, Okla.) kicked field goals of 32 and 20 yards as Wesleyan took a 20-7 lead into the locker room halftime but the Coyotes faltered in the third quarter.
Southwestern (9-1) scored on the first play of the second half on Sommarra Hunter’s 67-yard run making it 20-14.
KWU drove to the Moundbuilders’ 6-yard line on the next possession but Main’s 27-yard field goal attempt was blocked and the Moundbuilders took the lead seven plays later on Brad Cagle’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Jones. They converted a two-point conversion when holder Joseph Perez corralled a bad snap and ran into the end zone for a 22-20 lead.
The Coyotes were pinned back at their 8-yard line starting their next drive and quarterback Richard Lara (SO/Bakersfield, Calif.) was sacked twice, the second time in the end zone for the first of two safeties the final 30 minutes.
Linebacker Ricardo Garcia (JR/Reno, Nev.) sacked Cagle, jarred the ball loose and recovered at the Southwestern 47 early in the fourth quarter. The Coyotes drove to the Moundbuilders’ 12-yard line but Nick Allsman (SO/Belleville, Kan.) was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-one.
The KWU defense forced Southwestern to punt on its next possession but the ball was downed at the 1-yard line and Drevon Macon (JR/Los Angeles, Calif.) was tackled in the end zone on the next play for the second safety that made it 26-20 with 2:10 remaining.
Penalties also hurt the Coyotes – eight for 78 yards, two of them negating touchdowns.
“The opportunities were there, we just didn’t execute at the right times,” KWU coach Matt Myers said on his postgame radio show. “We needed touchdowns instead of field goals and we had a field goal blocked (in the third quarter). We had some big plays called back and then you’re swimming because instead of six points it’s like second-and-17. It’s not ideal.
“It’s unfortunate, I’d like to have seen these (32) seniors get out with a win but it didn’t happen today. The outcome of games isn’t what defines me or the guys on our team. It’s the process, the protocols and everything they do outside of football and that’s what’s important. I’ll miss all these guys.”
The Coyotes finished with 232 total yards – 163 passing and 69 rushing on 32 attempts. Lara was 12 of 23 passing, no touchdowns or interceptions and was sacked three times. Allsman had 53 yards rushing on 16 carries.
DeVante’ Gabriel led the defense with 13 tackles while Lucas Rockford (SR/Springfield, Ill.) had nine.
Southwestern, which shares the KCAC title with Bethel and Avila, had 337 total yards – 193 passing, 144 rushing. Cagle was 13 of 26 for 193 yards, one touchdown, one interception and was sacked once.
“We were 16 points away from being undefeated,” Myers said. “There’s X amount plays in the Bethel, Avila and Southwestern games that go a different way and it’s us celebrating on the field and going to the playoffs. Didn’t happen this year, unfortunately. Obviously, you want to win, we just didn’t pull some of these close ones out.”