Neither a lengthy rain delay at the start, thick fog in the second half, three turnovers, an early deficit, a large and loud Ottawa crowd or Connor Kaegi could stop the Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes from their appointed conquest.
Demarco Prewitt (SR/Menifee, Calif.) rushed for 142 yards and three touchdowns, Johnny Feauto (SR/Boulder, Colo.) threw for 257 yards and two TDs, and the defense turned in another superb effort as No. 4 KWU held on a 38-21 Kansas Conference road victory over Ottawa on Saturday night.
The No. 4 Coyotes improved to 5-0 overall, 4-0 in the KCAC, in their toughest challenge to date. They’re tied for first with Bethel in the conference standings after the surprising Threshers defeated previously unbeaten Sterling 31-26 Saturday in North Newton.
Wesleyan’s game at AdventHealth Field in Ottawa was scheduled to start at 6 p.m., didn’t begin until 8 because of heavy rain and lightning. It was the Braves’ home opener after two road games.
The Coyotes immediately fell behind 7-0 as Kaegi, Ottawa’s talented 6-foot-7 senior quarterback, threw 29-yard touchdown pass to Karim Powell on the game’s opening drive.
The next 24 points belonged to KWU, though.
Feauto hit Trenton Poe-Evans (SR/Needles, Calif.) with a 33-yard touchdown pass; Prewitt scored from the 2-yard line two plays after Charles Barnes III blocked a Kaegi punt and recovered it at the Ottawa 4; Feauto hit Stevie Williams (JR/East Los Angeles, Calif.) with a 15-yard scoring pass; and Juan Herrera (JR/Salinas, Calif.) kicked a 30-yard field goal that gave KWU a 24-7 halftime lead.
Kaegi struck again with a five-yard touchdown pass to Santino Gee with 8:55 left in the third quarter but Wesleyan responded five players later when Prewitt scored from the one. The touchdown came one play after a 50-yard flea flicker pass from Feauto to Williams.
Prewitt scored his third touchdown on a three-yard with 26 seconds left in the third quarter for a 31-14 lead.
Kaegi made it close again with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Colton Davis on the second play of the fourth quarter but the Coyote defense put the clamps on the Braves the rest of way.
Following a Feauto fumble that Ottawa recovered at the KWU 29-yard line, the defense held on downs at the 31.
The Braves (1-2 overall and KCAC) returned the favor, holding the Coyotes on downs at their own 25-yard line and Kaegi promptly drove them to the Wesleyan 2. Ottawa managed a minus-1 yard on the next four plays, though – Kaegi’s pass into the end zone falling incomplete on fourth down with 1:39 left.
“Resiliency is what I saw,” KWU coach Myers Hendrickson said. “I saw resiliency overcoming adversity, our players kept playing.
“There were things that happened that were out of our control but we control what we can control. We beat a good team on the road … and we overcame a lot to come out on top tonight.”
Cornerback Tevin Jones (SR/Jonesboro, Ark.) led Wesleyan’s defense with 10 tackles, two for loss, while linebackers Jasper Chavez (SR/Rosemead, Calif.) and Warren Singletary (SR/Hawkinsville, Ga.) had nine and seven stops, respectively. Singletary had 3.5 tackles for loss and Chavez 1.5.
“The defense played amazing the whole night all the way down to the very end,” Hendrickson said. “The goal line stand I thought that was huge. Offense put the defense in some tough spots and all the defense did was continue to respond and keep playing.
“Tevin played a fantastic game, Jasper played a fantastic game. Our secondary played great because they were up for a big challenge. (Kaegi) is a special player. I think it starts up front, we made him uncomfortable but our secondary did a great job.”
Hendrickson said the contest swung in KWU’s favor on Barnes’ blocked punt.
“Special teams were huge all night but that’s the one that changed the entire game,” he said. “Huge special teams play, huge momentum swing and really kind of settled us on both sides of the ball and we played Coyote football the rest of the half.”
Wesleyan’s offense was balanced, finishing with 467 total yards, 210 rushing and 257 passing, while Ottawa had 370 total yards, 240 passing.
Kaegi, the NAIA’s second-leading passer, was 27 of 45 for 240 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and 25 yards rushing. Feauto was 11 of 29 for 257 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and 40 yards rushing.
The Coyotes are idle next Saturday and return to action October 12 when they play Saint Mary for Homecoming. Kickoff is 2 p.m. at Graves Family Sports Complex.