LINDSBORG — Myers Hendrickson said his young Kansas Wesleyan team handled its first road test extremely well.
The sixth-ranked Coyotes gained momentum in the second half during Saturday’s Smoky Hill Showdown and cruised to a 59-34 victory over Bethany at Anderson Stadium.
Junior quarterback Isaiah Randalle went 21 of 29 passing for 392 yards and five touchdowns.
"He was incredible and remarkable of throwing the football," Hendrickson said of Randalle’s performance. "He can throw the ball and we have playmakers all over the place. The offensive line did a beautiful job of protecting, because (Bethany) mixed up their fronts.
"Isaiah Randalle’s putting the ball on the money. He’s playing really good football and throwing the ball with a lot of confidence, and our receivers are going up and getting it with a lot of confidence."
Randalle made his presence felt on the Coyotes’ first drive after junior Tony Brown left the game with an injury. Randalle threw his first touchdown pass to senior Stevie Williams for 35 yards pass with 7:51 left in the first quarter.
The Swedes had an answer on their first drive with Austin Denson scoring on a 1-yard run.
Senior Roy Sanders scored three consecutive rushing touchdowns of 2, 5 and 1 yards to make it 28-7 with 5:59 to go before halftime.
Bethany then scored on its next two possessions — a 1-yard run by Colione Evans and a 76-yard pass from Denson to Darren Rittwage — to pull the Swedes within a score with 1:14 left in the half.
But Wesleyan moved downfield in a hurry, producing a six-play, 62-yard drive, capped by a 47-yard Randalle strike to Williams that made it 35-21 at intermission.
"It was a broken play (and) just incredible effort by Isaiah Randalle and an incredible job by Stevie Williams coming up huge with that touchdown right before half," Hendrickson said. "The possessions were getting limited, because both teams were able to move the football a little bit at the beginning of the game. So we wanted to do everything we could to make them count, and felt we did that."
"It’s something we take a lot of pride in is finishing strong and finishing the first half strong."
After forcing Bethany to punt on its first drive of the second half, the Coyotes were capitalized with a 27-yard field goal by junior Aaron Main.
The Swedes came back and pulled within 11 on Denson’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Aderias Ealy.
The Coyotes then had an immediate response on a two-play, 50-yard drive, with Randalle finding Williams for the third time on a 47-yard score.
Randalle added two more touchdown passes in the fourth quarter — a 23-yarder to junior Charlie Simmons and a 10-yarder to Sanders.
Denson connected with Ealy once more with a 72-yard score with 4:03 left in the contest.
"I think we’re still learning how to be the team we want to be," Bethany interim coach Tyrone Carter said. "We took a big step. It was our first contest. Now, we’re going back to the drawing board.
"We don’t really have to reinvent the wheel, but we will fix some things. We missed on a couple of deep passes, and that’s it — that’s the big thing. They had a couple of more big plays than we did."
Hendrickson was pleased with the way his team’s second-half defense as the Coyotes allowed just 13 points after the break.
Williams was the Coyotes’ leading receiver with six catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns. It was Willliams’ ninth career game with more than 100 yards receiving. Simmons had six receptions for 127 yards and a score.
Sophomore Quincy Sandoval led KWU on the ground with 21 carries for 106 yards.
Denson was 16 of 40 passing for 274 yards and three touchdowns, plus ran for another score. Evans was the Swedes’ leading rusher with 128 yards and one touchdown on 18 attempts. Darren Rittwage led Bethany in receiving with six catches for 131 yards and a score.
Even with an extra week to get ready for the Coyotes, Carter was pleased with the way the Swedes were ready to go.
"The coaches did a great job of getting everybody ready and keeping them on task," Carter said. "All of the staff I really give kudos to for making sure everything the players needed before a game."
KWU (2-0 overall, 2-0 Kansas Conference) is idle the next two weeks after next Saturday’s home game with Ottawa was postponed until Nov. 14. They Coyotes, who already had a bye week Oct. 3, travel to Leavenworth on Oct. 10 for a 1 p.m. game against Saint Mary.
"The thing I told the team is, we don’t really know what the future holds right now," Hendrickson said. "Our focus was solely on Bethany (Saturday) and throughout the course of the week.
"Now the one thing I do know is that we can improve, and that’s all I told my team is like, ’Hey, there’s a lot of things going on, but all I know is that we can improve.’ That’s what we’re going to do this week."
Bethany (0-1, 0-1 KCAC) is scheduled to play at Southwestern at 6 p.m. Saturday.
"Every game is a chance to get better, and we’re going to get better," Carter said. "We’re going to be a better program (and) a better team next week."