It’s crunch time for the Bethany College Swedes.
The Swedes enter the meat of their football schedule beginning Saturday when they host the Friends Falcons at 1:30 p.m.
The 20th-ranked Swedes are 4-1 and tied for second place with Sterling in the KCAC, a game back of the Ottawa Braves, a team they host next Saturday.
But if Bethany can’t take care of Friends, a lot of the luster comes off that game.
“It’s a wide-open race with probably four teams that could contend,” Bethany coach Jamie Cruce said. “We hope after this weekend we are still in the discussion.”
Friends is 3-2 in the KCAC, 3-3 overall, but it had to forfeit a victory over Saint Mary for the use of an ineligible player. The only actual KCAC loss for the Falcons was a 31-17 setback at home against McPherson College.
Cruce said the Falcons are as physically imposing as any team in the conference.
“Friends University has a very impressive front seven on defense. Their defensive end is leading the nation in sacks and their defensive unit is leading the conference as well as being ranked second in the nation in run defense,” Cruce said. “It will be a challenge to establish a running game and it will be imperative for us to protect our quarterback when we throw the ball.”
Friends struggled offensively in the early stages of the season, but is getting better.
“Offensively, they are extremely patient in their T and Stack I formations,” Cruce said. “They will spread the field occasionally, but coach (Monty) Lewis has three talented running backs and they like to get them the ball in a variety of ways. The play-action pass is always something that they use to get a big play when your coverage starts creeping up to help in run support.”