The last play of the 2016 football season unfortunately encapsulated McPherson College’s year.
James Augusta’s booming 46-yard field goal that had 10 yards to spare gave Bethany College a walk-off, come-from-behind 18-15 victory over the crestfallen Bulldogs, who had led much of the way and had a decidedly lopsided statistical edge.
Mac ended its year 1-8 in the KCAC and 1-10 overall. It is considered the ninth-place team in the KCAC by virtue of its head-to-head victory over Southwestern. Bethany, tied with Mac and Southwestern at the start of the day, finishes 2-7 in the KCAC and 2-9 overall.
Consider this: the Bulldogs lost by two points to Friends and by a field goal to Bethel, Ottawa and Bethany. They also lost a five-point non-conference game, which means half of their losses were by a total of 16 points. And still another loss was by 10 points.
But it doesn’t matter if it’s by 1 or 100, a loss is still a loss.
The Bulldogs appeared to be the team in position for a last-second win. A 36-yard pass from Ed Crouch to Anthony Schmidt moved to the ball to the Swede 32 with just over a minute to go. But on the next play, Bethany’s Rhett Mizer came up with a fumble recovery and the Swedes had a couple of big plays to move into field goal position. Augusta’s kick set off a wild celebration as he knew it was good from the time he hit it as it was a cannon shot.
“We felt like we had made a play (the pass to Schmidt) to get ourselves in position and couldn’t finish on that drive,” Mac coach Paul Mierkiewicz said. “Then we couldn’t get off the field and gave them an opportunity to kick a field goal at the end. I’ll give them credit, because he piped it right down the middle and it had plenty of distance.”
The Bulldogs had tremendous balance with 204 yards on the ground and 207 through the air. Crouch threw for a pair of scores, one to Brandt Wolters of 51 yards and the other of 36 yards to Schmidt, both in the first half as Mac led 12-7 at the break.
Calef Contreras kicked a 28-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter for a 15-7 lead, but that was a Mac drive that covered 18 plays and not scoring a TD proved to be fatal. Unfortunately, Mac running back Tyrone Campbell, who carried 10 times on the drive for 51 yards, was injured and did not return. He had pounded out 126 yards on 28 carries up until that time.
The Mac defense, with Travis Steenson leading the way with 11 tackles and Braden Bush coming up with a spectacular interception to stop a drive, was outstanding. It held Swede 1,000-yard rusher Nate Ocran to just 49 yards on 25 carries, but one of them was a 7-yard run that tied the game at 15-all as the Swedes were good on the 2-pointer. Bethany was held to 46 yards rushing and just 288 total.
Ocran’s TD was set up by a breakdown on Mac’s special teams as the Swedes swarmed a punt attempt and the Bulldogs never got it off. Bethany took over at the 19 and it appeared the drive was going to stall, but a pass interference call against the Bulldogs, which sent the Mac bench into a howling protest, allowed the drive to continue.
Mac graduates only four seniors — Kavoderic McIntyre, Michael Rabara, Justin Fagan and Landon Stang. Retention will be a key as Mac has a good base coming back and hopefully it can get the numbers up to where they need to be.
• STATS •
• Mac Listed First •
First Downs — 20, 17. Rushes-Yards — 51-204; 36-46. Passing — 10-25-1-207; 21-38-1-242. Punts-Avg. — 4-36.0; 6-38.0. Fumbles-Lost — 1-1, 1-0. Penalties-Yards — 5-48, 4-30.
• LEADERS •
• Rushing •
Mac — Campbell 28-126, Crouch 14-76, Melius 8-13, Garza 1-(-7).
Bethany — Ocran 25-49, Handcox 7-5, Goodwin 1-3, Wimberly 1-(-2).
• Passing •
Mac — Crouch 10-25-1-207.
Bethany — Handcox 8-13-0-78, Salazar 13-24-1-161.
• Receiving •
Mac — Wolters 2-87, Schmidt 2-77, Campbell 4-30, McNeal 1-9.
Bethany — Wimberly 10-121, Jackson 4-43, Durand 1-24, Goodwin 1-20, Jones 3-18.