Randalle stellar again, defense dominates as KWU tops Spires

Isaiah Randalle (JR/Sacramento, Calif.) is on a hot streak few quarterbacks have enjoyed at any level, any time.

Through Kansas Wesleyan’s first five games Randalle has thrown an NAIA-best 23 touchdown passes, is averaging a whopping 321 yards a game and has completed 65.6 percent of his passes. He surpassed 400 yards in back-to-back contests against Bethel and Bethany and had six TD passes against the Swedes on September 25.

His aerial artistry continued Saturday afternoon as he threw for 256 yards and six more scores in leading the No. 10 Coyotes to a 49-7 Kansas Conference victory over Saint Mary at Graves Family Sports Complex.

That’s 12 touchdown passes in two games for those keeping track.

“It starts with practices and everybody’s just coming out there and doing their job and I’m getting them the ball,” said Randalle, who was 14 of 19 and two interceptions during three quarters of work. “Everything was opening up to me.”

An effective running game enhanced Randalle’s effectiveness. C.J. Fluker, who had been out an injury, returned and had 62 yards on 17 carries.

“It gets the weight off me a little bit because running the ball opens up the pass game,” said Randalle, who admitted his confidence level is soaring.

“I’ve set some high standards to get to that, to be No. 1 in the nation and No. 1 in my conference,” he said. “I see the difference between last year and this year. I’ve definitely grown, everybody’s trusting me way more this year. My first year and I was new and now it’s just all coming together.”

Saturday, Randalle continued what he started against Bethany. He staked KWU to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter with touchdown passes to Fluker (18 yards), Eren Jenkins (FR/Chicago, Ill.) (4 yards) and Jake McClure (JR/Wichita, Kan.) (2 yards).

He tacked on scoring tosses to Stevie Williams (SR/East Los Angeles, Calif.) (16) and Jenkins again (78 yards) in the second quarter and the Coyotes (5-0) led 35-0 at intermission. Randalle finished with a 38-yard strike to Williams in the third quarter that made it 42-0.

“Isaiah’s a really smart football player, he’s an incredibly intelligent person,” Wesleyan coach Myers Hendrickson said. “He’s a sponge in the meeting room so you can show him a clip, show him a film … and he takes that practice rep and that film rep and carries it over to the game.

“He’s been on the money in his reads, he knows how to throw before it happens and gets it out fast. Our offensive line played great and protected him really well so he could see a clean picture of the field.”

Randalle’s performance was at least matched by another dominant effort by the defense. The Coyotes limited Saint Mary (1-3) to 279 total yards but more impressively forced six turnovers – four interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

The group also posted a shutout for the second week in a row – Saint Mary’s touchdown coming on Domingo Dahn’s 97-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.

Kumari Bennett had two interceptions and Cleon Hamilton (JR/Hinesville, Ga.) and Justin Sullivan (SR/Salina, Kan.) one each. Spires’ starting quarterback Jalil Grimes was 10 of 23 for 104 yards and three interceptions.

“First game of the season I should have had two interceptions but that just comes from continuing to work hard,” Bennett said. “I knew they were going to test us and today I made a statement.”

Bennett said the goal is to get the ball back for the offense.

“Me, I don’t honestly care about interceptions, I just care about getting the ball,” he said. “Today I had the opportunity to get two interceptions and I thank God for letting me get two interceptions.

“It’s fun to play with his (secondary). I’m a freshman so I’m learning how to function and they’re giving me opportunities to go make plays with them.”

Hendrickson had a feeling the defense might have a big day.

“We’ve been playing such good defense we felt like we were due for a big game of takeaways,” he said. “We were going to play an athletic quarterback, had to get him on the ground, had to take the ball away from him.

“Our defense is playing lights out football and really excited about that.”

Wesleyan plays No. 24 Avila in a pivotal KCAC game at 1 p.m. next Saturday in Kansas City, Mo. The Eagles (4-1) rallied for a 34-31 road victory over Sterling on Saturday. Avila defeated the Coyotes 46-38 last season in Kansas City.