No one has questioned Kansas Wesleyan’s passing prowess. With Isaiah Randalle (JR/Sacramento, Calif.), Stevie Williams (SO/East Los Angeles, Calif.), Eren Jenkins (FR/Chicago, Ill.), Drevon Macon (JR/Los Angeles, Calif.) and others on the field the Coyotes are as good as anyone in the NAIA.
Running the football, though, was a bit of a question mark. Not that they weren’t effective or efficient but the ground game was considered their second-best method of moving the ball.
Until Saturday night.
Led by a relentless push from the offensive line and stellar efforts from tailbacks CJ Fluker (FR/Defiance, Ohio) and Steven Harvey (JR/Berkeley, Calif.), KWU unleashed a punishing rushing attack that bulldozed Sterling’s defense and paved the way to a 31-7 Kansas Conference victory at Graves Family Sports Complex.
Wesleyan (2-0) finished with 273 rushing yards on 64 attempts (4.3 per carry) and was led by Fluker with 113 on 32 carries while Harvey had 91 on 15 tries.
The dominance was reflected in time of possession – 40 minutes, 26 seconds for KWU compared to 19:34 for Sterling.
“I felt like our running game really came into its own tonight,” KWU coach Myers Hendrickson said. “We had a game plan but it’s really the offensive line and the tailbacks executing it.
“Overall, I thought the O-line played great football and all of our backs collectively ran the ball extremely well. I’m really excited about how we played as a unit and really built off one another’s success.”
With Sterling’s defense forced to focus on the run Randalle had a spectacular night, completing 24 of 29 passing (82.7 percent) for 257 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Williams.
Randalle also had a rushing touchdown in the second quarter. Flushed out of the pocket on a pass play he took off around left end and ran 17 yards untouched for the score that made it 17-7 with 4:35 left in the half.
Williams and Jenkins had monstrous games for the second week in a row, Williams catching eight passes for 101 yards and Jenkins seven for 97 yards.
“We came in knowing the type of defense they were going to play so we were just reading off that one linebacker,” Williams said. “If he kept coming in (to the line of scrimmage) then we threw the ball.”
Williams’ two touchdown receptions were from 2 yards out in the first quarter and 3 yards in the third quarter. Between those he had success making the catch, spinning and heading up field for big chunks of extra yardage. He averaged 12.8 yards per catch while Jenkins averaged 13.9 yards.
“Coach (Hendrickson) always tells us catch the ball, don’t get tackled,” Williams said. “Just keep your feet moving and get extra yards, as many yards as you can. That’s what I tried to do tonight.”
“We always talk about expect not to get tackled,” Hendrickson said. “So, our players expect to catch it, not get tackled and go make a play. I thought we had that mentally tonight. I loved the energy we played with, I thought Isaiah made good, quick decisions and got it to those receivers early and the receivers did the rest. That was fun to watch.”
Williams dedicated his first touchdown to Brandon Baker, aka Dean McQueen, who passed away in June. Baker was KWU’s Director of Player Morale and a beloved figure in the football program and on campus for several years.
Baker’s jersey No. 1 that he wore during spring scrimmages was retired during a ceremony Saturday night. Williams wore No. 1 until this season but switched to 0 this fall in honor of Baker.
“He was part of our program,” Williams said. “I talked to him every day when I came in for practice. He was just that type of guy that makes you feel good. We retired his number and it was wonderful.
“My first touchdown, I gave that to Dean.”
Defensively, KWU was dominant for the second week in a row. Sterling finished with 189 total yards – just 34 rushing on 17 attempts.
Cole Parker (JR/Orland, Calif.), an end, led the charge with sacks of Sterling quarterback Ethan Richardson on consecutive plays late in the second quarter.
“Defense was phenomenal,” Hendrickson said. “They were so, so close to a shutout. We were probably one play from a shutout, it was a dominant defensive performance. Coach (Matt) Myers (defensive coordinator) did a phenomenal job with the game plan and the defense played great.”
KWU led 17-7 at halftime on Williams’ first touchdown catch, a 33-yard Aaron Main (JR/Tulsa, Okla.) field goal and Randalle’s scoring run.
The Coyotes pulled away in the third quarter on Jenkins’ 18-yard touchdown reception and Williams’ second TD catch.
Penalty flags were virtually nonexistent. Sterling wasn’t called for a penalty the entire game and KWU was flagged twice for 20 yards.
Wesleyan goes back on the road for a marquee matchup against No. 12-ranked and defending KCAC champion Bethel at 6 p.m. next Saturday in North Newton. The Threshers (2-0) trounced Friends 59-3 Saturday in North Newton.
The Coyotes gave Bethel its only regular season loss last season, 28-21 March 27 in North Newton.
*PHOTOS BY TANNER COLVIN*