Senior Day didn't go as planned for the McPherson College football team on Saturday afternoon. While the Bulldogs are looking to end their season with a winning record under first-year head coach Jeremiah Fiscus, the Bethany College football team left McPherson Stadium with bragging rights in the county rivalry after pulling a stunning 32-31 overtime victory over the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs were coming off a 48-14 beatdown by Kansas Wesleyan University, and the Swedes, who were 2-6 entering Saturday's game, were in their second straight overtime appearance after loss to Friends University last weekend.
The Bulldogs had a 14-0 lead until Bethany shifted momentum late in the second quarter and throughout the third quarter after putting up 20 unanswered points. Even though the Bulldogs put up 577 yards on offense, they couldn't stay out of their way with mental mistakes such as 105 yards worth of penalties. The achilles heel for both McPherson and Bethany was the kicking game. Cole Schroeder was only 2-for-4 in PATs, and 0-1 in field goal attempts. Bethany's Wyatt Townsend was 3 for 5 in PATS and missed one field attempt as well.
"First off, we had too many stupid penalties on defense," Fiscus said. "And offensively, just missed executions. Really, just missed executions of two or three critical plays. And again, we struggled in our kicking game."
McPherson's quarterback, Ed Crouch, who was playing in his last home game, was not 100 percent healthy but fought off the pain while bringing the team back late in third quarter. Crouch tied the game by outrunning the Bethany defenders with a 53-yard run, which put him over 100 yards in rushing. LeMeshio Hill followed it up with a touchdown run in Bethany's territory to regain the lead.
As the game went into overtime, the Bulldogs were without Crouch as he was in crutches at the very last second in the fourth quarter. Nicholaus Santini, however, threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ben Nikkel to give the Bulldogs a chance to win the game, but the extra point was no good. Bethany needed all seven points to close the deal on McPherson, and that's exactly how it turned out. All it took was four plays, including a six-yard touchdown pass by Denson to Trey Mendoza. Towsend sealed the victory with a successful extra point. Denson threw the ball 65 times for 414 yards and four touchdowns. His go-to receiver, Rodney Molette had a big night as he finished with 14 catches for 207 yards.
"They did a good job adjusting in what we were bringing at them and getting the ball out on time," Fiscus said. "They just did a good job executing."
The Bulldogs will conclude their season at Avila University on Saturday at 12 p.m. Bethany will face Ottawa at home at 1:30 p.m.