For one game, old school was cool and the spread was dead.

 


For one game, old school was cool and the spread was dead.
McKendree University of Illinois came into McPherson Stadium Saturday armed with an offense that turned back  time and a swarming defense that seemingly had 15 players on the field, as it dominated the previously undefeated McPherson College Bulldogs 38-14 in the first round of the NAIA playoffs.
McKendree, making its ninth apparence in postseason play and last at the NAIA level as it’s going to NCAA Division II next year, takes a 9-2 record to No. 1 University of Sioux Falls on Saturday for the quarterfinals.
For the Bulldogs, the stinging loss ended the most memorable year in school history. Mac, 10-1, won its first KCAC championship in 58 years and posted its first-ever 10-0 regular season.
The Bulldogs simply didn’t have an answer on either side of the ball against the more physical Bearcats. McKendree’s ball-control, old-fashioned wing-T offense accounted for 429 rushing yards, 529 total yards and kept the ball much of the second half.
Mac, with its spread offense averaging 50 points and more than 500 yards, could muster just 242 yards, turned the ball over five times and scored just one offensive touchdown, as it was totally shut down for the first time.
MC’s Joe Bettasso, suffering his first career loss as a head coach, offered no excuses, as his team couldn’t match the Bearcats’ execution.
“We couldn’t give our offense a chance to get into a rhythm because we couldn’t get them off the football field,” he said. “We knew they were big and physical upfront and we were going to try and withstand the pounding. That whole league (Mid-States League) is a smash-mouth league, by and far.”
The Bearcats shocked the Bulldogs by scoring 14 points in the first six minutes on a pair of TD runs of 11 and 56 yards by Offensive MVP Jimmy Berezik, which left the partisan packed house silent.
McKendree was on its way to yet another score near the end of the first quarter, but quarterback Austin Fisher fumbled and KCAC Defensive Player of the Year Scott Jones picked it up and rumbled 66 yards to cut the lead to 14-7.
A potential turning point came on the very next play. The Bearcats’ Joe Beimfohr fumbled and Mac’s Cameron Smith recovered at the McKendree 20. But the Bulldogs couldn’t convert, as Ryan Keen picked off a Shane Mascarenas pass inside the 5.
“That hurt us a little bit,” Bettasso said. “That took the wind out of our sails. If we score, we’re right back in the ballgame.”
Another backbreaker came right before half, as the Bearcats scored with 30 seconds left on a Fisher TD pass of 13 yards to big tight end Byron Gettis, pushing the lead to 21-7.
Mac responded at the start of the second half with a slick 84-yard TD drive that lasted less than two minutes. Mascarenas scampered in from 15 yards and the Bulldogs were back in it at 21-14 with a lot of game left to play.
But with the run going nowhere, Mascarenas -- who was injured late in the first half but came back -- was forced to throw almost every down. The Bulldogs never seriously threatened again, while the Bearcats melted the clock with time-consuming drives. McKendree scored the game’s final 17 points on a 37-yard TD run by Marlone Chenault, a 41-yard field goal by Jordan Fark and an 8-yard flip from Fisher to Richard Bailey.
Mascarenas, who threw for 3,621 yards this year, was 22 of 44 for 202 yards, but was pressured throughout the day. Joe Middleton had six catches for 80 yards, but the ground game was stuffed, as Aaron Lafitte simply had nowhere to go, finishing with 37 yards on 13 carries, though he did go over the 1,000-yard mark for the year.
Berezik led McKendree with 171 yards on 22 carries, while Chenault and Larry Russell furnished 93 apiece.
The game was the last for 21 Mac seniors, who have poured the foundation of a program that has produced a 19-3 record over the last two years, two of the losses coming in postseason play.
“I was proud of the guys,” Bettasso said. “All we can do is try to get ready and come back here next year.”
Veteran McKendree coach Carl Poelker was thrilled with his team.
“The thing we wanted to do was keep their offense off the field,” he said. “I thought our defense really played well. They were flying around.”
And his offense was just was good, including a 66-18 advantage in rushing attempts.
“We’re a wing-T spread and we were a lot of wing-T today,” he said. “We used the clock and just moved the chains and that was it. It was that simple.”
STATISTICS
Mac Listed First
First Downs -- 14, 28. Rushes-Yards --18-40; 66-429. Passing -- 22-44-3-202; 7-12-09-100. Punts-Avg. -- 1-50.0; 0-0. Fumbles-Lost -- 3-2; 3-3. Penalties-Yards -- 2-15, 6-28.
INDIVIDUAL
LEADERS
Rushing
Mac -- Lafitte 13-37, Mascarenas 4-6, Skinner 1-(-3).
McKendree -- Berezik 22-171, Russell 19-93,  Chenault 13-93, Montgomery 1-51, Beimfohr 3-9, Fisher 4-9, Fohne 1-3, Bailey 1-3, Gettis 1-(-1), Team 1-(-2).
Passing
Mac -- Mascarenas 22-44-3-202.
McKendree -- Fisher 7-12-0-100.
Receiving
Mac -- Middleton 6-80, Lafitte 5-68, Ozbun 5-38, Skinner 4-9, Muor 2-7.
McKendree -- Mosher 2-45, Gettis 1-13, Jones 1-12, Russell 1-11, Hicks 1-11, Bailey 1-8.