Football ready for tough task against No. 22 Bethel



Matt Myers knows his Kansas Wesleyan football team will face adversity at some point this season.


The ninth-ranked Coyotes posted lopsided victories over Friends and Sterling in their first two games winning by a combined score of 119-0. It’s a trend that won’t go on forever, though, and Myers is okay with that.


“If we think we’re just going to roll the ball out there every week and shut people out it’s not going happen,” he said. “That’s not how football works, that’s not how life works. It has to happen. We need to find out who we are when something goes bad and see how we respond.


“It might happen this week.”


KWU plays Kansas Conference foe and No. 22-ranked Bethel (2-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday in JRI Stadium at Graves Family Sports Complex. The Coyotes have won the last 13 games against the Threshers but it hasn’t been easy of late.


Wesleyan won 28-21 in 2020 and 31-24 last season. The Coyotes trailed at halftime in both contests that were played in North Newton.


Bethel has a new head coach in A.B. Stokes but returns several players who were part of the 2020 and 2021 teams that won 18 games. The Threshers opened 2022 with a 14-13 victory over McPherson at home and defeated Friends 28-16 last week in Wichita.


“I think they’ll come in and will play us much tougher than last few teams just based on their experience in college football and that’s my message to the team,” Myers said. “They have men playing on that team, 23-year-old men that are COVID seniors. It won’t be like last week or the week before. Scheme doesn’t matter, you’re playing against men.”


Bethel doesn’t runs the flexbone offense it had in the past but is triple option-based led by quarterback DJ Ciers, who has a team-best 178 yards rushing and four touchdowns and has thrown for 117 yards and a score. Kashius McCray has 103 yards rushing and veteran back Chance Scurry 81.


“It’s a spread triple option just like everyone else is in the country,” Myers said. “A lot more power read. The quarterback is fast, very fast so I would say if they have success, it’s him running the ball. Their backs are tough dudes.”


The Threshers are averaging 21 points and allowing 14.5 per game.


Bethel’s defense is more conventional this year – a 4-2-5 alignment – but is still effective.


Wesleyan’s offense has been a juggernaut, averaging 59.5 points and 502.5 yards – both second in the NAIA. The ground game has been particularly effective at 323.5 yards per contest.


“You ask yourself every week ‘what do we need to do to win?'” Myers said. “If that requires us running the ball 60 times that’s what we’re going to do. If it requires us to drop back and pass 60 times, we’ll do that.


“However, if you can run the ball 60 times for 300 yards you will almost always win that game. If you drop back and pass 60 times for 300 yards it will almost always be questionable whether you’re going to win that game.”


Quarterback Tony White and a committee of running backs led by Nick Allsman and Mark Benjamin have been sensational, averaging 5.8 yards per carry as a group. Allsman has 198 yards, Benjamin 180, White 91 and Tyler Boston 83.


“It’s very important for us to keep our guys fresh and healthy and that’s what we’re doing,” Myers said. “The tailback rotation, those guys are buying into it. We brought in three fresh guys in the second half last week and they ran super hard and were very productive.”


White is 18 of 30 passing for 258 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Backup QB Richard Lara is 5 of 9 for 100 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Three receivers have at least 70 yards in receptions – Drevon Macon 74, Rhadarious Spivey-Lomax 71 and Woody Banks 70.


Defensively KWU hadn’t posted back-to-back shutouts in 20 years but this year’s squad has been suffocating allowing an average of 156 yards per game.


Myers saw room for improvement after last week’s victory at Sterling, though.


“We did a bad job of adjusting to motion shifts and traits,” he said. “They had some opportunities to stretch our defense laterally which we fixed so we’ll see how it goes.”


Myers has a checklist for Saturday’s game.


“Keep the quarterback in the pocket, do not give up 20-plus-yard plays on defense; be fast, efficient, proficient and deliver the ball to our athletes on offense and we’ll be alright,” he said.