McPherson College opens up KCAC play Saturday in what should be an emotional night at McPherson Stadium.
Not only is it the Bulldogs’ conference opener, it’s also the Blake Reed Memorial Football Game as Mac College will host an improved Bethel College team coached by first-year head coach Marty Mathis.
“They are better coached than last fall,” McPherson coach Pete Sterbick said, “and, after only two games, play with a better identity. This is not the same team as last fall.”
The Threshers have already improved upon last year’s record, as they picked up a 41-24 opening week win over Haskell Indian Nations University. Bethel then gave Central Methodist University a fight during last week’s KCAC/HAAC Challenge, though the Threshers lost in overtime 38-31.
Bethel (1-1) is averaging 420.5 yards a game on offense, good enough to rank third in the KCAC through two games. Quarterback Brandon Pratt has put up 425 yards through the air and has another 52 on the ground. The 6-foot-2 senior, one of the few holdovers from last year’s 0-10 team, has completed 37-of-77 passes. On the ground, the Threshers are led by true freshman Stephen Scott, who has 46 carries for 302 yards and a touchdown.
“With Scott averaging 150 yards a game,” Sterbick said, “their run game is strong. Their quarterback has thrown seven TD’s in the first two games, so they do have balance on offense. Our defense is excited about the challenge they represent.”
The Bulldog defense was certainly ready for the challenge of Graceland University last week, as they shutout the Yellowjackets 34-0 at McPherson Stadium.
Through two games, the defense is giving up an average of 336.5 yards per game, which has them ranked fourth in the KCAC. The Bulldogs are first in the conference in rushing defense, as they have only given up 71 yards total.
Phillip Wilson is leading the team in tackles with 21, 12 solo. He also has a sack for a three-yard loss. Chris Elliot leads Mac in that category with two, while a trio of Bulldogs have interceptions in Tyler Bruton, Trea Lott and David Anderson.
“We showed some flashes of what this team can be,” Sterbick said of his team’s progress through two games. “There are definitely areas that we have to improve, but have showed progress from game one to game two.”
McPherson (1-1) has had some issues moving the ball on offense, as they rank in the bottom half of the KCAC in rushing (136) and passing (198). Their total offensive output of 334 has them ranked fifth in the conference.
Quarterback Jordan Hoffman has completed 34-of-55 of his passes for 372 yards with four touchdowns. He had 199 of those yards last week against Graceland with two touchdowns, including a 59-yard missile to Tremon Robinson.
Page 2 of 2 - Hoffman looks to have another big game against a largely untested Thresher secondary, all of whom are listed as freshmen. Bethel has given up 1,071 yards in their first two games and has given up 62 points.
Despite their youth, the Bethel defensive backs had a strong showing against CMU, with three players tallying interceptions. Additionally, Josh Kaufman and cornerback Ja’Terious Pouncey also had fumble recoveries to go with their picks.
Pouncey, in particular, is becoming a force on the Thresher defense, as he is ranked nationally by the NAIA in the top ten in mutliple categories, including passes defended and total interceptions.
The Bulldogs will be in front of a home crowd for the third time this season, though this time will be a special occasion for McPherson, as it is the Blake Reed Memorial Game.
All gate receipts Saturday will go towards the Blake Reed Mac2Mac Scholarship, which this year has gone to senior linebacker Cole Long of Medicine Lodge.
Long, a major in sociology and psychology, has faced two surgeries during his time in a Bulldog uniform to repair torn ligaments and tendons in his arm and shoulder.
Kickoff from McPherson Stadium is set for 7 p.m.
Contact Chris Swick by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @SwickSentinel.