At the halfway mark in this year’s football season, McPherson College has already won more games than they did all last year. The Bulldogs stand at 5-1 overall, 4-1 in conference play and are currently tied for second place in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.
It has been nothing less than an explosion of offense for McPherson this season. They currently rank fourth in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in scoring offense, averaging 48.8 points per game. The Bulldogs also boast a prolific passing attack, ranking fifth in passing offense per game and ninth in passing efficiency.
One of the biggest components of the Bulldogs’ success is Shane Mascarenas, junior quarterback, who has completed 64.6 percent of his passes and thrown has 21 touchdowns this season. Aaron Lafitte, junior running back, has also been a major contributor as the key to the Bulldogs’ ground game. Lafitte has rushed for 581 yards, 11 touchdowns and is averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
Last year, McPherson cruised over the Builders in a 41-7 victory on the Bulldogs’ home turf. Southwestern is looking to carry the momentum of their first win of the season on the road. It will take all of the offensive power the Builders can muster, though, to stay with the high-powered scoring of the Bulldogs. “The key for us is going to be keeping the ball in our hands, and keeping our defense off the field,” said Ken Crandall, head football coach. The conference rivals clash at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at McPherson Stadium.
After weeks of slow, but steady improvement, the Builders took on the Bethany Swedes Oct. 17 for this year’s homecoming matchup. Southwestern’s lone win last season came against Bethany.
The Swedes came into the game 4-1 and looked to get revenge on the purple and white.
The Builders had other plans.
Southwestern struggled in the early going. After the Swedes connected on a field goal on their opening drive, the Builders turned the ball over on a fumble at midfield by Lance Evans, freshman running back.
The Builder defense stayed strong and held Bethany to a three-and-out. Jess Maddox, junior linebacker, then muffed the ensuing punt and gave the ball right back to the Swedes at the Southwestern 6-yard line. The defense of the Builders once again came up big as they held Bethany to just a field goal to make the score 6-0 Swedes.
The Builders then took the ball 67 yards on eight plays, capping off the drive with an Evans one-yard touchdown run. The score gave Southwestern the lead with 2:00 left in the first quarter.
Bethany would come back with a drive off their own ending with yet another field goal to regain a 9-7 lead as time expired in the first quarter of action.
The Builders would go on to put up 20 points in the second quarter, with all three touchdowns coming off of touchdown passes by Jordan Barrett, freshman quarterback. The first was a four-yard pass to Jeff Schaefer, junior wide receiver with 10:09 left in the quarter. Two minutes later Barrett hooked up with Kelvin Chaplin, freshman defensive back, for a 59-yard touchdown strike. Finally, with 32 seconds left until halftime, Barrett connected with Dillon Fowler, freshman wide receiver, on a five-yard pass to give the Builders a comfortable 27-15 lead going into the locker rooms.
Southwestern’s success didn’t stop there. With 5:47 left in the third quarter, Barrett extended the lead on a two-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown to make the score 34-15 Builders. The score was the result of a well sustained 13-play, 82-yard drive.
The Swedes spend the rest of the game trying to catch up. The Builder defense, though, continued to make big plays when it mattered most.
With 8:54 remaining in the game, Bethany quickly drove the ball inside Southwestern’s 35-yard line. That is as far as they got, though, as the Builders forced three straight incomplete passes and the ball was turned over on downs.
Not much more than three minutes later did Bethany get the ball back and was once again threatening deep inside Builder territory. This time four straight incompletions lead to another big stop for the Builder defense.
Bethany would go on to score once more, but it was too little too late as a failed onside kick attempt sealed the Swedes fate. The Builders earned their first win of the season 34-21.
Southwestern easily had its best offensive game of the year. “We played together as a team real well,” said Evans. “The offensive line played really good and gave the quarterback time to throw the ball. It really opened up the long passes.” In total yards, the Builders outgained the Swedes 460-384. The purple and white also dominated in the first down category, picking up 26 first downs compared to Bethany’s 18.
Barrett finished the game completing 26 of 39 passes for 301 yards. He also threw three touchdowns with no interceptions. Barrett was chosen as the KCAC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts. Evans also had a big day anchoring the run game for the Builders with 38 rushes for 147 yards and a touchdown. Schaefer led the Builders in receiving with 7 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively it was a bend, but not break day for the Builders. “We played great,” said Josh Plummer, junior linebacker. “We gave up a lot of big plays, but we came up with a lot of big stops and interceptions of our own. We made plays when we need to.” Numerous times the Swedes were able to penetrate deep into Builder territory, and numerous times the Builders denied Bethany points. Southwestern also picked off Steven Baker, sophomore quarterback, twice. Both interceptions were made by Nick Koch, junior defense back, who was the KCAC Defensive Player of the Week.
The Builders have a lot on their plates as they head into this week’s matchup with McPherson. “They have brought in a lot of guys who have really helped them this year,” said Plummer. “If we play the way that we have been, we can beat them.” With the steady improvement it could be interesting to see how the Builders handle such a potent team.
Clint Dick is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.