Johnny Feauto (SR/Boulder, Colo.) wasn’t about to let something like an injury to his throwing hand slow him down.
Feauto, Kansas Wesleyan’s standout senior quarterback, suffered the injury when he was tackled on the Coyotes’ second possession of the game. Trainers and doctors examined him on the sideline and gave him OK to return – the searing pain notwithstanding.
He responded by inflicting his own brand of pain on the Baker Wildcats’ defense.
Feauto threw for 327 yards and five touchdowns, and added another 62 yards rushing as No. 3 KWU rolled to a 42-7 victory in a first-round game of the NAIA Football Championship Series before a record crowd of 2,150 at Graves Family Sports Complex on Saturday afternoon.
Next up is a quarterfinal game against Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) at noon next Saturday at Graves Family Sports Complex. Lindsey Wilson defeated Saint Francis (Ind.) 30-26 Saturday and is 11-0 on the season. The Blue Raiders trailed 26-16 after three quarters before outscoring Saint Francis 14-0 in the final period.
Feauto, the NAIA’s total offense and passing leader, said it was a matter of ignoring the pain and playing through it.
“It was hard to throw but after a little bit it went numb,” he said. “I had to stick it out for these guys, I know every single one of them would do the same for me. I love this team and pain is temporary. I had to gut it out and that’s what I did.”
Down 7-0 in the first quarter Feauto, who was chosen the Offensive Player of the Game, led KWU on an 86-yard, 11-play drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Richard McCauley (SR/Edmond, Okla.) – the first of three scoring passes to him.
Two possessions later KWU went 74 yards on six plays, Demarco Prewitt (SR/Menifee, Calif.) scoring from the 2 and giving KWU a 14-7 lead with 7:03 left in the half.
It took the offense just four plays to go 63 yards on the next possession, Feauto hitting Stevie Williams (JR/East Los Angeles, Calif.) with a 23-yard touchdown pass, making it 21-7 with 3:59 before the break.
Feauto threw three more touchdown passes the second half, the first two on the two initial possessions of the third quarter – 31 yards to Williams and 5 yards to McCauley. Feauto capped the scoring with a 4-yard TD pass to McCauley on the third play of the fourth quarter.
He finished the day 17 of 27 passing and one interception. He carried the ball 11 times in gaining the 62 yards.
“He’s remarkable,” KWU Coach Myers Hendrickson said of Feauto. “He’s been dealing with a hand bruise and he’s just so tough that he played all the time. It doesn’t surprise me, that’s just his mindset and that’s his attitude. He’s the leader of our team.”
Feauto’s first pass of the day was intercepted by Bryson Briggs at the KWU 23-yard line. J.D. Woods ran for a touchdown on Baker’s first play, giving the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead just 4:48 into the game.
It also awakened two sleeping giants – the Coyotes’ offense and defense and resulted a 42-0 blitz.
KWU had 547 total yards on 77 plays – an average of 7.1 yards per play. Trent Poe-Evans had five grabs for 122 yards and McCauley four for 34 yards and the three scores. Prewitt rushed for 107 yards on 22 carries before exiting midway through the third quarter with an injury.
“(Our receivers) were awesome,” Feauto said. “If I just put the ball up to those guys I know they’re going to go make a play. I’ve just got to get it around them and let them go it. And the O-line did a great job pass blocking, they played outstanding.””A messed up hand isn’t going to stop Johnny,” said Williams, who had another monstrous game with six catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns. “He’s the type player that will just keep going and keep aspiring to be greath, and I’m glad he did that today.”
Feauto also had high praise for the defense, which turned in its best performance of the season.
“Our defense played incredible, they played unbelievable,” he said. “If it wasn’t for that pick it would have been a shutout. All we had to do was score 14 points to win this game.”
Baker (9-3) was averaging 441 yards total offense, including 209 rushing, but had 275 total and just 37 rushing. Woods, who was averaging 128 yards rushing, had 28 on 11 carries and quarterback Marco Aguinaga was 22 of 39 for 238 yards and an interception.
“Our strategy was aggression,” said linebacker Charles Barnes III, who had six tackles, including 3.5 for loss and was selected the Defensive Player of the Game. “Every play aggression, be more aggressive than them and keep giving it to them every play.”
Linebacker Warren Singletary (SR/Hawkinsville, Ga.) had a team-best eight tackles and the Coyotes had seven tackles for loss for a minus-28 yards. Takota Anderson (SR/Ellsworth, Kan.) also snagged his eighth interception of the season.
Hendrickson said the defense had never been better than it was Saturday.
“It was a shutout in my mind,” he said. “The one (touchdown) they got was on a short field, the defense was lights out. (Woods) was the best running back we’ve seen all year, the best offensive line we’ve seen all year, good football team and defensively we dominated.”
Feauto said the Coyotes tuned out the chatter during the week about facing another team from the highly-regarded Heart of America Athletic Conference. Baker was making its sixth consecutive playoff appearance and was the runner-up in 2016.
“We’re (the No. 3 seed) for a reason,” he said. “We believe in ourselves and we focus on that. If we believe that’s really all we care about.”