HILLSBORO – Perhaps no team in the NAIA will be more disappointed to see the unprecedented 2020-21 football season end than Kansas Wesleyan.
Despite the disjointed split fall/spring sessions that included postponements, cancellations and last-minute additions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic the Coyotes managed to play 10 games – winning eight – and were able to restock the talent pool after losing 19 starters from the 2019 team.
Whether their 49-19 Kansas Conference rout of Tabor on Saturday was the season finale remains to seen. But if it was the end the Coyotes will enter the offseason feeling mighty good about themselves and brimming with confidence about the future.
The victory was their third in a row this spring (3-0) and fifth overall after starting 3-2. They’re 8-2 overall record and 5-2 in the KCAC.
Isaiah Randalle (JR/Sacramento, Calif.) had yet another gargantuan game throwing for 313 yards and four touchdowns – three to Steve Williams – Drevon Macon (JR/Compton, Calif.) caught a school-record 14 passes for 160 yards, Quincy Sandoval (SO/Salt Lake City, Utah) rushed for 111 yards and the revamped and rejuvenated spring defense limited Tabor 315 yards – just 83 rushing – and six second-half points.
“We’re undefeated in 2021 and that was really what was laid out in front of us,” KWU coach Myers Hendrickson said on his postgame radio show. “We challenged ourselves and said ‘what can we do? We can win out. Control what you can control.’
“We looked at ourselves over winter break, self-scouted us, worked hard as a team and came back together decided this is all we can control – the three games on our schedule right now.”
KWU was slated to play Saint Mary next Saturday but the game has been cancelled. Hendrickson said the Coyotes will continue to work next week until their status for the rest of the season is determined.
“We’re going to prepare as if we have another game,” he said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen quite yet with the (NAIA) playoffs. It’s out of our hands.”
One week after dominating No. 11 and previously unbeaten KCAC champion Bethel 28-21 in North Newton the Coyotes resumed the onslaught against Tabor. Sandoval scored from the 1-yard line on their first possession of the game and moments later Julian Urioste (FR/Portales, N.M.) returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown, giving KWU a quick 14-0 lead with 7:20 left in the first quarter.
“One of the biggest plays in the game that helped us get that fast start was that pick six,” Hendrickson said. “That changed everything.”
Tabor (3-6 overall, 1-5 KCAC) scored on the last play of the quarter but Randalle found Williams on a four-yard TD pass making it 21-7 with 9:23 left in the half. Another touchdown got the Bluejays got within 21-13 with 7:39 left but Randalle and Williams struck again, this time on a 14-yard touchdown pass that gave Coyotes a 28-13 lead just 29 seconds before the break.
Both second quarter touchdowns came after 14-play drives.
Wesleyan scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter to end any suspense. Randalle capped an 11-play, 67-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to Williams then connected with Eren Jenkins (SR/Chicago, Ill.) on a 28-yard scoring play for a 42-13 advantage with 6:18 left in the quarter.
Nick Allsman (SO/Belleville, Kan.) ran 12 yards for a touchdown with 3:36 left in the game for the final score.
Randalle was 30 of 39 passing, the four touchdowns and had three interceptions. Williams caught eight passes for 62 yards and Jenkins five for 59 in addition to Macon’s 14 grabs.
“Fourteen’s a lot,” Hendrickson said, with a laugh.
Hendrickson was pleased with the offensive production, particularly the ground game after KWU gained just 19 yards rushing against Bethel.
“We really thought we could run it and we executed it,” he said. “We did some different things spreading them out and the O-line played great, Quincy Sandoval and Nick Allsman ran the ball really, really well. Quincy was ready to roll. You could tell he had a different gear a couple of times on those runs.
“Isaiah made some great decisions and put us in spots where we could be successful. Overall, as an offensive unit we played really well.”
Urioste led the defense with eight tackles, while Linebacker Zyair Velazquez (SR/San Diego, Calif.), the KCAC and NAIA Defensive Player of the Week last week, and Lane Peters (JR/Scandia, Kan.) had seven apiece.
“I’m really proud of how we performed in all three phases,” Hendrickson said.
Up next for the Coyotes is the dreaded waiting game.
“We’re excited about whatever comes next,” Hendrickson said. “If we get to play again now or if we are getting ready for fall season, we’ll keep getting ready because we feel good about the way we played this spring.”