Shavers, Coyotes hold on to top Spires 17-14 on Homecoming

Artaveon Shavers sure knows how to take advantage of an opportunity.Shavers, a seldom-used backup fullback in Kansas Wesleyan’s first seven games, was inserted into the starting lineup against Saint Mary on Saturday night. He wasted no time going from non-factor to deciding factor.Shavers caught a 13-yard pass from Byron McNair – his fifth reception of the game – on a fourth-down-and-3 play with just over two minutes left in the game.The resulting first down allowed the Coyotes to run out the clock and hang on for a 17-14 Kansas Conference and Homecoming victory on Gene Bissell Field at JRI Stadium and the Graves Family Sports Complex.KWU won its fifth consecutive game and improved to 6-2, 2-0 in the Gene Bissell Division.“I knew I had to run my route, I knew I had to go to the flat and if the ball came to me, I had to catch it,” said Shavers who replaced injured fullback Luke Armstrong. “I got my first chance to play a whole game, I’ve wanted to do this for so long. I really wanted to show what I could do and I feel like I did that tonight.”He certainly did.Shavers entered Saturday’s game with two receptions for 15 yards on the season. His five catches led the team and totaled 88 yards – an average of 17.6 yards per catch. He had receptions of 15, 25, 6, 29 and 13.Tipping the scales at 250 pounds, getting Shavers to the ground once he caught the ball was no easy task for Saint Mary defenders.“(McNair) rolled out and had a run-pass option and Shavers was wide open,” KWU coach Matt Myers said. “It was good to see, I’m happy for Shavers.”Myers said Shavers performed the way he and the coaching staff expected him to.“It’s just the next man up, we expect him to be able to do the same stuff Armstrong does,” Myers said. “It’s super important for us to put faith in these guys so when their number’s called, they go out perform and Artaveon did.”Shavers, who hasn’t yet had a rushing attempt, said he didn’t catch a pass in high school and prefers blocking – at least for now.“I love blocking, I love opening holes for our running backs and saying ‘my block did that,'” he said. “But any opportunity – running, receiving, blocking – I’m going to do my thing.”The Coyotes led 17-7 at halftime but didn’t score the second half. Their best opportunity came early in the fourth quarter when they drove to the Saint Mary 6-yard line but stalled and Talon Cope’s 23-yard field goal attempt was blocked.Saint Mary responded with a 90-yard, 13-play drive that ended with Erick Covington’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Michael Gazzana and made it 17-14 with 4:32 left in the game.The Spires’ (2-6, 0-2 Bissell Division) offense never got back on the field, though, as the Coyotes held the ball the rest of the way, picking up three first downs – Shavers catch the final nail.KWU outgained Saint Mary in 423-238 in total yards but was hampered by penalties and dropped passes.McNair was intercepted three times the first half, the first two the result of balls glancing off of or going through Coyote receivers’ hands, but was also 10 of 14 passing for 235 yards and a touchdown – a 67-yard catch and run by Jacquante Pitts with 1:38 left in the half. Pitts finished with four receptions for 133 yards.McNair was 14 of 22 for 292 in just his second career start.Myers was pleased with his young quarterback despite the interceptions.“We trust Byron, he made a lot of really good decisions, made some big plays with his legs, gave us opportunities to convert some third downs,” he said. “He made a lot of really good decisions, threw the ball down the field and had a couple of explosive plays. As he learns he’s going to get better.“We just need to find ways to finish drives and make sure when the ball’s up in the air that we’re coming down with it and not them.”Nick Allsman led the ground attack with 47 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown – a 6-yard run on the fourth play of the game that gave KWU a 7-0 lead. Tyler Boston had 41 yards on 18 carries and Mark Benjamin 34 yards on nine attempts.The defense was sensational once again. Saint Mary (2-6, 0-2 Bissell Division) had 238 total yards but just seven rushing on 25 attempts.Covington was 18 of 31 for 223 yards, two touchdowns and an interception but was sacked five times – Shaylan Lewis getting to him twice. The Coyotes also had 12 tackles for loss with Lewis notching three.Lewis and Julian Urioste finished with seven tackles apiece and Ricco Moore and Ricardo Garcia six each.“We got the win and that’s most important,” Myers said.The Coyotes play Tabor at 1 p.m. next Saturday in Hillsboro. The Bluejays (2-6, 1-1 Bissell) lost to Avila 35-17 Saturday in Hillsboro.