Avila’s ball control offense, two safeties and slew of yellow flags conspired to stall Kansas Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles won the time of possession by a 2-to-1 margin that allowed them to play keep-away long enough for an 18-14 Kansas Conference victory over the No. 15 Coyotes at JRI Stadium in the Graves Family Sports Complex.
Avila (5-1) had the ball for 39 minutes, 42 seconds and KWU just 20:12. The Eagles ran 77 plays and finished with 279 total yards – just 3.6 yards per play. The Coyotes had 226 total yards on 56 plays – an average of 4.0.
“The major metric we didn’t win,” KWU coach Matt Myers said. “Usually, you’d think you’d come out with a win on that one but unfortunately that’s not what happened today.”
The Coyotes (4-2) led 14-9 at halftime after scoring twice in the second quarter, the touchdowns just 1:11 apart.
Tony White (SR/Cincinnati, Ohio) threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Paden Hazuga (SR/San Diego, Calif.) with 13:42 left in the half capping a seven-play, 56-yard drive. The Coyotes struck again three plays later when Shaun Browder (SR/St. Louis, Mo.) intercepted an Eli Williams pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown with 12:31 remaining.
The Eagles pulled within 14-11 when Nick Allsman (SO/Belleville, Kan.) was tackled in the end zone for their second safety with 1:27 left in the third quarter.
Avila returned the ensuing kick to its own 47 and began the drive on the KWU 48 after an off-sides penalty on the Coyotes on the kickoff. Seven plays later Williams threw his second scoring pass of the day to Robert Brooks III – a 22-yard toss that made it 18-14 with 13:37 left in the game.
The Coyotes’ final drive stalled at the Avila 27-yard line when quarterback Richard Lara (SO/Bakersfield, Calif.) threw an incomplete pass on fourth down with 5:16 left. Avila held the ball the rest of way, embarking on a 12-play drive to the KWU 1.
Lara replaced White in the fourth quarter. White was 7 of 11 for 90 yards with a touchdown and interception while Lara was 4 of 12 for 44 yards.
“Tony’s a really good quarterback and had a great week last week (against Saint Mary),” Myers said. “We were looking for a spark and wanted to see if Lara could make something happen. He has a live arm and throws a nice ball.”
Myers was not pleased with one statistic in particular – 11 penalties for 102 yards.
“We’ve got to be disciplined and be consistently disciplined,” he said. “The penalties are a concern. You can’t do that, especially offensively when you’re backing yourself up and putting yourself behind the (first down) chains. It will be an emphasis this week and something we’ll have to iron out.”
The Coyotes had 92 yards rushing on 33 attempts – 2.8 per play – and 134 yards passing. Allsman led the ground attack with 60 yards on 14 carries; Hazuga was the leading receiver with three catches for 55 yards.
For Avila, Williams was 17 of 26 passing for 140 yards, two touchdowns, the interception and had 43 yards rushing while running back Malik Nesbitt had 97 yards rushing. The Eagles had 132 yards rushing on 50 tries – an average of 2.6 per carry.
Wesleyan punter Miguel Millan (JR/Lodi, Calif.) had spectacular day averaging 44 yards on seven punts, four inside the 20-yard line – the longest 58 yards.
“That’s a weapon right there,” Myers said of Millan. “He’s a very good punter.”
Defensively linebacker Lucas Rockford (SR/Springfield, Ill.) had game-best 15 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss for KWU. The Coyotes also recorded three sacks, two by Andrew Sorenson (SR/Manhattan, Kan.).
Wesleyan plays McPherson at 1 p.m. next Saturday in McPherson. The Bulldogs (2-3) defeated Friends 31-22 Saturday in McPherson.