McPherson College’s Bulldogs are hoping the Saint Mary Spires will fall into their trap.
With a huge game looming next week against nationally ranked Sterling, the Spires must first get by the pesky Bulldogs when the teams play at 1 p.m. Saturday in a potential trap game at McPherson Stadium.
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Saint Mary is the surprise team in the KCAC as it’s tied with Kansas Wesleyan and Tabor for the lead at 4-1, its only conference loss coming to Tabor. It is 5-2 overall.
The Spires own key wins over Friends and Ottawa, but the game that turned their season around was a 34-33 win over Bethany in which they came back in the fourth quarter from a 16-point deficit.
The Spires certainly are well aware of the Bulldogs’ improvement, even if they’re just 1-4 in the KCAC and 1-6 overall. Four of their six losses have been by 5 points or less, including last week’s 21-19 loss to Friends, as well as 3-point losses to Ottawa and Bethel.
“One of the things they have done, and something we’re striving to do, is be consistent,” Mac coach Paul Mierkiewicz said. “They take of the football, are very solid on defense and great on special teams. Those things have helped them get to where they are. They’ve put a formula together that’s been very productive. Whereas we’ve lost some close games, they’ve won a lot of close games.”
The key has been defense. The Spires, led by All-American candidate safety Kenny Nez, are No. 1 in the KCAC allowing just 19.7 points a game. They are No. 7 offensively while the Bulldogs are No. 5.
Mac scored only 55 points all last season, but has 172 this season.
As usual, the Bulldogs will go offensively as Ed Crouch and Tyrone Campbell go. No team relies more on two players as Mac, as Crouch is second in the KCAC in total offense with 279 yard a game, while Campbell is on pace for a 1,000-yard rushing season as he’s fifth in the KCAC with 657 yards. He’s also been very good out of the backfield, catching three passes for 75 yards last week.
Travis Steenson, the reigning KCAC Player of the Week after a 24-tackle performance in the 21-19 loss to Friends, leads the defense. Dalton Whitfield, Michael Rabara and Braden Bush all have been outstanding and are candidates for postseason honors.
Saint Mary is led by quarterback Drew Cortez, who used to sling it all over the field 40 or 50 times a game, but has changed his M.O. this year. He has only 1,054 yards passing in seven games after being the KCAC’s No. 1 passer last year.
“I think this young man can really throw the football,” Mierkiewicz said of Coretz. “He makes a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage. He’s their offensive coordinator on the field. He’s a tough one to confuse. You can tell he’s a student of the game and makes good decisions with the football.”
The emergence of Easton Ridley at running back has taken the pressure off as he at one time was the KCAC’s top rusher, but is now No. 6.
The Spires also have a lot of speed at wide receiver, so the Mac secondary could be tested severely.
• KCAC STANDINGS •
Kansas Wesleyan, 4-1 (6-1)
Saint Mary, 4-1 (5-2)
Tabor, 4-1 (4-2)
Sterling, 3-2 (4-2)
Friends, 3-2 (4-3)
Ottawa, 3-2 (3-4)
Bethel, 2-3 (2-4)
McPherson College, 1-4 (1-6)
Bethany, 1-4 (1-6)
Southwestern, 0-5 (0-6)
• Saturday’s Schedule •
Saint Mary at McPherson College
Bethany at Kansas Wesleyan
Sterling at Ottawa
Southwestern at Bethel
Friends at Tabor