Homecoming is a time of celebration, fun and tradition. It has also been custom for Southwestern to host a football game to cap off homecoming week. This year the Builders face off against the only team they defeated last year, the Bethany Swedes in a 12-7 affair.
The Bethany Swedes have made a drastic turnaround from last year, from a program that won two games last year, to starting 4-1. “They are a decent team,” said Ken Crandall head coach. “They are playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
The offense has been the biggest improvement so far this season for the Swedes. They are averaging 33.0 points per game. Steven Baker, sophomore quarterback, has been a big part of the Swedes success. He has thrown for 1,435 yards this season and 11 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions. His favorite target, Robert Anderson junior wide receiver, has caught 25 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns. “Obviously they must be doing something right,” said freshman Jordan Barrett, freshman quarterback. “We will have to come out and play our best if we want to win.”
Defensively Bethany has kept opponents out of the endzone just enough. Three of the Swede’s games have been won by a margin of six points or less. “We should be able to beat any team we face,” said Trevor Noel, freshman defensive back. “We should be able to beat them.”
The Builders traveled 262 miles to Goodwell, Okla. They quickly found out that they were not only up against the Division II Oklahoma Panhandle State University Aggies, but against the weather as well. “It made both teams a little off,” said Noel. “It was hard not to have the weather affect you because it was just so cold.” The temperature at kickoff time was 28 degrees with a light mix of freezing rain and snow. It would not get much warmer the rest of the game either. “It was tough field conditions in general,” said Coach Crandall, “Barrett had trouble getting a good grip on the ball because it became nothing more than a big ice chunk by the fourth quarter.”
OPSU opened the scoring on the first drive of the game as they took the ball 65 yards in 10 plays. The drive was capped off with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Vincent Gay, senior quarterback, to Doug Williams, junior wide receiver.
The Aggies increased their lead in the second quarter on a one-yard run by Darryl Brister, sophomore running back. The score was set up off of a botched snap on a punt by the Builders. The snap went over the head of Matt Tria, freshman punter’s, and was recovered by OPSU at the Builder 14-yard line.
Southwestern put their early game struggles behind them as Michael Coppock, junior running back, made one of the biggest plays of the season for the Builders. With 3:05 left in the first half, Coppock broke a 74-yard touchdown run right up the gut of the Aggie defense. Coppock’s carry narrowed the margin to 14-7 Aggies.
OPSU answered back as Gay rifled a strike down the middle of the field to Tyler Northcutt, sophomore wide receiver, who hauled it in and scampered the rest of the way into the endzone for a 50-yard touchdown with 1:43 left in the half. The score remained 21-7 as both teams headed into the locker rooms.
Offensively, both teams slowed down in the third quarter as neither side could get into the endzone. The Aggies continued to hold onto their two-score lead heading into the final quarter.
The Builders once again narrowed the margin down to seven early in the fourth quarter. Barrett connected with Alex Hutchins, junior tight end, for an eight-yard touchdown strike to keep the purple and white in the game.
Once again, though, the Aggies had an answer as Gay hit Shea Tarbet, freshman wide receiver, from 17 yards out to give OPSU a 28-14 lead.
One final chance for the Builders came up short as they drove down inside the Aggies ten-yard line with little time left on the clock. Barrett dropped back and fired a pass to the back of the endzone on fourth down, but Jeff Schaefer, junior wide receiver, could not haul it in. “That really hurt us when we drove into the redzone and came away with no points,” said Barrett. “Those are situations that you have to take advantage of.”
On the ensuing play for the Aggies, Gay hit Williams in the flat. Williams broke a few tackles and outran everyone to the endzone on a 93-yard touchdown catch and run. The play gave OPSU an insurmountable lead as the Builders fell to 0-5, losing 35-14.
The Builder offense had one of its best games of the season against the Aggies. The purple and white gained 323 yards of total offense, 144 coming from a relentless run game. Coppock led the rushing attack with 125 yards on 14 carries. Coppock then went down in the third quarter favoring his lower left leg. He had to be carried off the field on a stretcher and was loaded into the ambulance to be taken to the hospital in Guymon, Okla. The extent of his injury was not available at press time.
Barrett completed 15 of 32 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, while Hutchins led the Builders in receiving with four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
The defense gave up 428 yards of total offense to the Aggies, but stayed relentless all day. The entire defense played the Aggies offense evenly, especially the front four, who did a good job of getting a good push up front for the Builder defense. “The defense played good all day,” said Noel. “The only reason we were getting scored on was because of miscues and blown coverages in the secondary. One slip up and we would give up a touchdown.”
Despite the Builder’s steady improvement over the past few games, they will need to perform at their highest level against the Bethany Swedes. It will be the first home afternoon game for Southwestern. Kickoff starts at 1:30.
Clint Dick is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org