#24 Bethany rallies past Lions, 13-12
Late TD overcomes solid SAGU effort
Lions yield 238 yds, force four turnovers
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The hunger games of college football go beyond who is most hungry. Often it is who eats last.
In a battle against the #24 ranked Bethany College (Ks), Southwestern Assemblies of God University, on the strength of four James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) field goals, held a 12-7 lead heading into the final minutes of the season debut for both teams.
After being stifled the entire game by the Southwestern defense, Bethany took advantage of a few miscues that gave them possession of the ball on the Lions 35. From there they finished their plate.
Senior quarterback Darby House, from Skidmore, Texas, rescued the Swedes. He connected with wide receiver D’Andre Thompson, from Baytown, Texas, for a 33-yard scoring strike to reclaim the lead, 13-12, with 4:33 to play.
The 6-foot-4 Thompson ran a hitch pattern to beat the coverage in the secondary. House hit him in stride with an over-the-shoulder delivery. It was their longest play of the night.
Bethany forced a three-and-out and then ran out the clock, thanks to a SAGU penalty.
Just prior to the winning TD, SAGU was poised to ice the game.
Cade Lueschner (Waco, Tx / Robinson HS) broke loose for a 25-yard run to midfield. Sealing the deal went awry just as quickly.
Lueschner’s (LESH-nuhr) dash was nullified by a blocking in the back penalty, moving the ball back to the SAGU 13. An illegal procedure flag on the next play moved them back further.
A third down sack by Steven Williams forced a punt. It travelled 27 yards. The Swedes set up shop at the 35, their best starting point in the game. They capped a three play drive to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Southwestern actually had a final chance to get the ball back with a couple of minutes remaining. A pair of stops by senior cornerback Nick Ekanem (Richmond, Tx / B.F. Terry HS) brought up a fourth and one play.
An offside violation, the twelfth flag thrown against the hosts, advanced the ball five yards and gave BC a first down. House and his offensive comrades milked the clock to register their second straight season opening triumph over SAGU.
Last year in Lindsborg, Kansas, Bethany won by a 29-21 count.
The ability by the Swedes to finish the game offset an outstanding performance by the SAGU defense. They held Bethany to just 238 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers, three coming on interceptions. BC converted only 4-of-12 third downs.
The Lions offense also struggled. When they did assemble a productive drive, it came up short, leaving too much on the plate and 16-points on the field.
Playing without two injured running backs, then losing a starting lineman in the first quarter, junior QB Reid Golson (Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne Univ, Grandview HS) had only three returning starters on the field. Still, the Purple Pride had 260 yards and coughed the ball up twice.
The young line-up was cited for five infractions in the first half on false starts and delay of game penalties. In all, SAGU had 12 penalties for 77 yards. Bethany had two for 19.
Behind a solid effort by Lueschner (67 yards), SAGU outgained Bethany on the ground, 132-75. That total was reduced to 82 yards when subtracting the 50 yards the team lost on running plays and sacks.
Gish, a junior, split the uprights on all four of his kicks, one in each quarter, from 28, 39, 34 and 28 yards. The four drives amassed 177 yards on 32 plays.
Bethany’s two scoring marches, set up by an interception and a short punt, combined for 72 yards on nine plays.
SAGU played well enough to earn a win heading into the closing minutes. The closing scene put a damper on what could have been an upset win.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game came at the end of the first half. A 12-play, 63-yard trip reached the three yard line with nine seconds left.
Lueschner received a direct snap, darted forward and appeared to have scored before officials ruled he fumbled prior to crossing the goal.
After Zach Jackson (Wray, Col / Wray HS) recovered a first quarter fumble on the Bethany 12, the Lions gained one yard, settling for a Gish field goal. That possession began with a penalty on the first play.
Golson completed half of his 24 passes for 178 yards. His only interception bounced off a receiver’s hands. Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Seguin HS) was tops in catches with five for 27 yards.
Jeremy McDonald (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian) snared three for 63 yards, one for 45 yards. He also returned a kickoff 48 yards. Tight end Caleb Shelly (Cold Spring, Tx / Cold Spring HS) reeled in a 55-yard catch and run.
The had plenty of opportunities. Defining what transpired during them was a combination of a Swedes defense, led by Jeff Childs (nine tackles) and Williams (seven tackles), that made key stops, and a SAGU team whose first game jitters in the clutch proved to spell the difference.
While Bethany scored a pair of touchdowns, the Lions scored four times, but none involved the ball crossing the finish line.
The margin of defeat cannot be any closer than one point.
Of interest, that lone point of distinction was scored by a member of Bethany’s baseball team. Boston Draper, a senior pitcher, was signed to kick for the Swedes while they await the NAIA’s clearing two placekickers. His conversion point-after a 23-yard TD pass to Brandon Martino turned out to be huge.
There were many reasons to be pleased with the Lions defense. (For Head Coach Jesse Godding's views, read the article posted on-line at www.sagu.edu)
Freshman cornerback Shakeem Taylor (Mesquite, Tx / Poteet HS) made two interceptions, one on the SAGU 11 and the second in the end zone. Middle Linebacker Kendal Evers (Danbury, Tx / Danbury HS) also had a pick.
Mo Mansaray (Dallas, Tx / Conrad HS) and Ekanem led the team in solo tackles against an offense that averaged 32 points per game last year.
On Deck: Lions at Howard Payne Univ., Sept. 8
SAGU travels to Brownwood, Texas next Saturday, Sept. 8, where they will face Howard Payne University (NCAA Division III) at 6:00pm. The Yellowjackets lost their first game at 16th ranked Trinity University, 56-7.
Southwestern returns home on Sept. 15 to entertain Austin College (Sherman, Tx). The ‘Roos built a 16-3 lead against Texas Lutheran University on Saturday before the Bulldogs rallied for a 38-16 road win. TLU visits SAGU on Sept. 22.