Kansas Welseyan head football coach Matt Drinkall only had one big message following the game Saturday night in Winfield, Kan.
“It’s nice to win a close game, huh?”
The Coyotes couldn’t have agreed more.
Junior safety Zeriam Jackson tipped away a pass in the back of the end zone, sophomore tailback Jerrod Ferguson plowed his way to a first down and Kansas Wesleyan found a way to edge the Southwestern Moundbuilders 34-29.
The Builders opened the game with a lengthy 75-yard drive, sparked by a huge run by running back Silas Jefferson. Later, quarterback Christian Gordon delivered a pass to running back Keyshawn Wyatt for a five-yard TD. SW went for two and Gordon saw safety Ka’Darius McQueen to make it 8-0 SW with 11:29 left in the first.
Kansas Wesleyan had the next two answers. Deep in his own end zone, Southwestern punter Mario Esparza shanked a kick to the 29-yard line of SW. Six plays later, KWU senior QB Kelly Cordova sprinted past the goal line for a three-yard score. Late in the first, Wesleyan senior corner back Brandon Napoleon snagged a Gordon pass for an interception, setting up the Coyotes at the Moundbuilder 49. Cordova took advantage of the opportunity, floating a 13-yard TD pass to sophomore back Demarco Prewitt, giving Wesleyan a 14-8 advantage after one quarter of play.
Southwestern roared back to grab the upperhand. Esparza made up for the bad punt with a 31-yard made field goal. Then linebacker Dallas Allen intercepted Cordova and brought the football back to the Coyote 30. Next play, Gordon lobbed a 30-yard pass to Wyatt for their second TD connection, putting the Moundbuilders ahead 17-14 with 7:10 to go in the half.
With 5:53 to go in the second, Cordova pinpointed a 17-yard TD pass to senior wide out Johan Velez. Esparza connected on his second FG try, this one for 29 yards to knot up the score at 20-20 with 2:45 remaining in the half. KWU would have the final answer, using a nine-play, 75-yard drive to end the half. Ferguson snuck in the end zone for a five-yard plunge, putting the Coyotes ahead 27-20 at the break.
The rest of the scores took place in the third. Esparza made it a four-point game with he drilled a 27-yarder four minutes into the second half. Wesleyan took to the air again for the response as Cordova hooked up with Velez on a 23-yard strike. Down 34-23, Southwestern used a 10-play, 74-yard drive to get its last touchdown. Gordon passed a 29-yard dart to receiver Carvontez Gates with 4:18 to go in the third.
Southwestern went for two, but KWU’s Jackson broke up the pass. With a little over five minutes to go in the game, the Moundbuilders marched down to the KWU nine. SW went with four passes, but couldn’t convert on any, and the Coyotes escaped the jinx.
Cordova was 23-of-38 passing for 271 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He added 82 yards and a score on 10 carries. Ferguson picked up his first rushing TD of his Coyote career, gathering 54 yards on 21 rushes. He also reeled in four balls for 58. Velez settled for three catches for 45 yards and two scores. Junior tight end Alex Kiriluk hauled in five catches for 47 yards. Defensively for the Yotes, Napoleon picked off two passes. Senior linebacker Garrett Updegraft recorded 19 stops.
For SW, Gordon finished 17-of-37 passing for 208 yards, three touchdowns and two picks. Jefferson had 17 carries for 131 yards.
Wesleyan (3-2, 2-1) returns home next Saturday for homecoming against McPherson (2-2, 1-2). Kickoff is slated for 6 pm with pregame at 5:30 on FM 104.9.