STERLING – Kansas Wesleyan’s challenge against Sterling is a stark contrast to what the Coyotes faced last week against Friends in their season opener.
Friends utilized the flexbone offense, a triple option ground attack that featured 51 running plays and just seven passes. KWU’s defense rose to the occasion in grand style limiting the Falcons to 150 rushing yards on 51 attempts and 166 total yards in a 70-0 victory at JRI Stadium in the Graves Family Sports Complex.
This week’s task against at 6 p.m. Saturday in Sterling is wholly different, though. Quarterbacks Daniel Jackson and Rocklin Baptist combined for 42 passes and the Warriors finished with 166 yards passing but only 72 rushing on 30 attempts in a 37-11 road loss to Saint Mary last week in Leavenworth. Wide receiver TC Smith had nine catches for 117 yards.
Thus, Wesleyan’s preparations were different but the stress level again manageable according coach Matt Myers.
“The good thing about our defense is (coordinator David) Leonard and I have molded it into something that can defend the triple option while also marrying in with everything else we’ll do throughout the year,” he said. “We didn’t have to re-game plan or put in different calls for Friends last week, we didn’t have to take eight days out of our fall camp to prepare outside of what we were already doing.
“It’ll be important to see how we react to four wide receivers this week. The DBs (defensive backs) can play the pass a little bit more.”
Pass defense, of course, starts up front with pressure on the quarterback and is something the Coyotes excel at with a deep and experienced group of linemen and linebackers.
DeVante’ Gabriel was named the KCAC Defensive Player of the Week after recording eight tackles that included a strip sack and two fumble recoveries, one of which he returned 56 yards for a touchdown.
“We’ve got six seniors in the defensive line,” Myers said. “We are very deep and talented up front with some young guys that are coming.”
Avoiding big plays is the goal every week.
“Analytically as long as you don’t give up 20-plus yard plays on a drive the chances of them scoring are much lower,” Myers said. “We win the field position battle and we’ll be alright.”
Offensively the 12th-ranked Coyotes unleashed a balanced attack that churned for 562 total yards – 334 rushing, 228 passing. Senior quarterback Tony White (SR/Cincinnati, Ohio) was 7 of 12 for 172 yards, one touchdown and one interception and also ran 50 yards rushing on nine carries.
“Tony is efficient with the football, he takes care of it really well,” Myers said. “We only threw the ball 16 times (between three quarterbacks) but he can run. He lost a lot of weight in the offseason, he’s very fast and highly intelligent.”
KWU’s success running the ball wasn’t an anomaly and will be closer to the norm. Nick Allsman (SO/Belleville, Kan.), the conference’s Offensive Player of the Week, led a parade of backs with 98 yards on eight carries and three touchdowns while Mark Benjamin (SO/Houston, Texas) had 96 yards on 13 tries and one score and Tyler Boston (JR/Dixon, Calif.) eight carries and 53 yards.
“Strategically I want to make sure everyone’s fresh,” Myers said. “We have to run this back for 11 weeks; we don’t have a bye week, we don’t have an extra week to get healthy so I’m more concerned about health and managing that health.
“If you have the ability to put the ball into four different guys hands I don’t see that being a detriment to our long-term plan of winning the conference and making a run in the playoffs.”
Saint Mary had 241 total yards that included 123 yards on 25 carries – 4.9 per carry against Sterling. The Spires led 34-3 at halftime and coasted in the second half.
The Warriors are led by first-year head coach Darren Jackson. He replaced Chase Hanson who resigned in January after four seasons.
Myers would more than happy Saturday to see more of the same from last week’s inaugural showing.
“Fast and efficient on offense, take care of ball,” he said. “Don’t give up any massive plays on defense and make sure we are getting plays in the backfield – zero to negative yard gains.”