For once, McPherson College football coach Paul Mierkiewicz and his Bulldogs would like to walk off the field being congratulated by the team they just vanquished.
It’s only happened once so far in six weeks as the Bulldogs are 1-5, but three of their losses are by a total of 11 points, including two by three points on late field goals.
The Bulldogs will try to reverse that trend on Saturday when they return to McPherson Stadium for the first game of a two-game homestand as they take on Friends in the annual homecoming game set for 1 p.m. A huge crowd is expected as a lot of alums make the trip back for a full weekend of activities.
Pre-game on 96.7 KBBE-FM is set for 12:45 p.m. Join Voice of the Bulldogs Matt Cole for the call.
Both teams had their hearts broken last week. The Bulldogs lost 55-52 to Ottawa on a Braves’ field goal with 7 seconds left in the game, which capped an Ottawa rally from a 14-point deficit. Friends lost 45-42 in the final seconds to nationally ranked Kansas Wesleyan, also on a field goal.
Which team can put the pieces of their heart back together quickest will probably emerge as the winner. Mac is 1-3 in the KCAC and can catch the Falcons in the standings with a win as they are 2-2.
Homecoming week always provides a lot of distractions, but Mierkiewicz and his team are dealing with that the best it can.
“There’s a lot going on, but we try to keep our schedule the same,” Mierkiewicz said. “The guys understand when they can turn it on and turn it off. I want them to be a part of homecoming, but at the same time as far as we’re concerned we’ve got to get ourselves ready to go.”
Despite their record, the Bulldogs are perhaps the most improved team in the KCAC. They went toe-to-toe with nationally ranked Kansas Wesleyan and trailed by only three points with 12 minutes to play. They had leads over Bethel and Ottawa in the fourth quarter, but simply ran out of gas defensively.
Friends comes in regarded as one of the most physical teams in the conference and there’s no tricks as coach Monty Lewis is old school, relying on running the ball and defense as the keys.
“They’ve gotten better,” Mierkiewicz said. “I don’t know if they were real healthy coming out (to start conference) play because their depth chart has changed a little bit. They are as good in the offensive and defensive lines as any team we’ve seen yet.”
The Falcons also have perhaps the best running back in the conference in Jesse Rogers, who sped up and down the field last week against Kansas Wesleyan and is leading the KCAC in rushing by a wide margin. The Bulldogs counter with quarterback Ed Crouch and running back Tyrone Campbell, both in the Top 10 in rushing and both have a shot at 1,000-yard seasons.
While the Bulldogs are much more competitive, Mierkiewicz realizes building a program practically from scratch takes time and that sometimes it can be a painful process.
“We’re a young football team,” Mierkiewicz said as the Bulldogs probably play more freshmen than any team in the KCAC. “At the same time they’d like to be walking off the field shaking somebody’s hand knowing they just got a little bit the best of them. Our kids have been working hard and they’re motivated, but it just hasn’t been happening for them in terms of wins.”