McPherson College's football team is at Bethel Saturday.
This has been one of the most emotionally difficult weeks in McPherson College history.
Two deaths, one a Tabor College football player from an incident that occurred Sept. 16 in McPherson and the other a popular McPherson College student-athlete who was involved in a bicycle-vs.-vehicle accident, have rocked the campus. There has been much grieving and soul searching this week, and it will take a long time for the pain to subside.
Maybe, for the football team, getting back on the field will help with the healing process. The Bulldogs go back to work Saturday when they travel to North Newton to take on winless Bethel College.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs already were riding on a roller coaster of emotions, as they lost a heart-breaker here last Saturday to Friends, as the Falcons scored on a bizarre play with 9 seconds left for a numbing 18-17 victory, knocking Mac out of a share of the KCAC lead.
“I think we have a chip on our shoulder (going into the game),” said first-year Mac coach Pete Sterbick, who admits his team has experienced a trying week. “We felt like we should have won that game last week. It was kind of a fluke how they won. But we left the door open for them and they took advantage.”
The Bulldogs are 2-1 in the KCAC and tied for fourth place with Southwestern, trailing 3-0 Kansas Wesleyan, and 2-0 Friends and Tabor. Defending champion Ottawa is 1-1, as it’s still regarded as one of the teams to beat and will be facing an emotionally charged Tabor team Saturday.
The Bulldogs, 2-2 overall, certainly need no motivation. All they have to do is look back at last year’s game with Bethel when the Threshers, who came into the game an overwhelming underdog, shocked everyone with a 42-35 stunner at McPherson Stadium, the only on-field victory the Threshers came close to having last year.
“As a staff, we’re going to make sure we’re prepared to play,” Sterbick said. “This has been marked on the calendar for a long time. This is the biggest game of the year right now.”
Bethel, whose head coach Travis Graber resigned a month before the season and was replaced by interim head coach Jim Dotson, has had an extra week to prepare, as it had an open date last week. It is 0-2 in the KCAC, 0-3 overall, though it played Southwestern close, 27-13, and lost only 16-0 to Bethany, two teams the Bulldogs have defeated by double digits.
“With Bethel, the thing that has impressed us most is how hard they play,” Sterbick said.
The Threshers have struggled offensively, and it won’t help their cause that Mac possesses the No. 10-ranked defense in the country. Tyler Bruton led Mac last week with 10 tackles, five of them being solo. Jimmy Wilson, Trea Lott and Micah Roehl were all in on nine.
Offensively, the Bulldogs had their lowest yardage output of the season last week, but credit has to go to a very good Friends defense, though Mac won the statistical battle. Again, Sterbick said the Bulldogs must do a better job in the red zone, which has been a season-long problem.
The game marks the halfway point of the season for the Bulldogs, who have an open date next week before a key road game at Ottawa on Oct. 13.