Wesleyan Stonewalls Friends 26-13

Over the years in the KCAC, the Friends Falcons have been known as a physical team.

Kansas Wesleyan is gaining the same respect.

Friends brought the ball inside the Kansas Wesleyan three-yard line four times, but only scored six points as the Coyote defense led the charge in a 26-13 victory at the Graves Family Sports Complex.

On KWU’s first offense drive, the Coyotes settled for a 43-yard field goal attempt for freshman Jhonatan Morales. He couldn’t connect, but the defense put Wesleyan in prime position to score. Junior safety Zeriam Jackson intercepted Friends freshman signal caller Dan Dawdy at the Friends 44-yard line.

Seven plays later, sophomore tailback Jerrod Ferguson sniffed out the end zone for a four-yard score, giving Wesleyan a 7-0 lead with 8:03 to go in the first.

The next Falcons’ next drive received a spark when Dawdy found senior Sam Camp for a 66-yard reception to the KWU six. Wesleyan’s defense stiffened, forcing Friends kicker Leo Sosa to boot through a 23-yard field goal with 3:16 remaining in the opening frame.

Kansas Wesleyan’s ensuing march lasted 16 plays, but didn’t result in six points. Instead, Morales drove through a 27-yard attempt to put KWU ahead 10-3 with 13:14 left in the second quarter. Senior corner Brandon Napoleon set up the next attacked, picking off a Dawdy pass at the Falcon 47. On a fourth-and-nine, junior quarterback Wesley Geisler rolled the dice and found sophomore tight end Trenton Poe-Evans for an 18-yard score, giving Wesleyan a 17-3 cushion with 9:26 to go in the half.

Friends had two more cracks at points with new freshman QB Kevin Folsom, but failed both times. Sosa missed on a 52-yard attempt, followed by a remarkable stand by the Coyote defense. With first-and-goal from the three, the Falcons went with four-straight running plays, none seeing the ball cross the goal line, leaving the score at 17-3 at halftime.

Sosa trimmed the margin early in the third with a 39-yard field goal. Friends’ next possession saw a punt blocked by KWU’s Kaleb Whitehair. The ball squirted into the end zone and out of bounds, handing the Coyotes a safety with 9:07 left in the third.

The first TD of the day for Friends came at the 5:22 mark when freshman running back Noah Diaz scored from eight yards out, slimming the deficit to 19-13. The Coyotes added another interception for good measure, the second one by Jackson at the Friends 41-yard line. Five plays later, Geisler lobbed a pass left to Poe-Evans with 1:38 remaining.

The Falcons tried for points two more times, but the Wesleyan defense rose to the occasion again. Friends couldn’t convert on a fourth-and-nine at the KWU 10. On the last drive, Diaz jumped in the air on a third-and-goal from the one, but lost the handle, recovered by the Yotes.

Kansas Wesleyan had 275 yards on 69 plays. The Coyotes haven’t been held under 300 yards since the contest versus Saint Mary back in 2014. Ferguson ran 26 times for 104 yards and a touchdown. Geisler was 15-of-29 passing for 157 yards and a pair of scores. Both receiving TD’s went to Poe-Evans, who also had 64 yards.

Friends ran for 225 yards, led by Diaz with 117 yards and a score on 29 carries. Folsom ended up with 85 yards on 13 rushes. Defensively for KWU, senior linebacker Garrett Updegraft had 11 tackles and a forced fumble. Senior safety Sam Pierce finished with eight tackles and a pick. Senior defensive end Christian McQueen racked up six tackles, three for loss and two sacks.

Kansas Wesleyan (5-2, 4-1) heads to Tabor next Saturday. The Coyotes are in a four-way tie with Tabor, Bethany and Sterling for the KCAC lead. KWU battles Tabor at 2 pm next Saturday.