As we head into the final month of the KCAC football regular season, it’s been a long time since there’s been so much hullabaloo.
Four teams — Bethany, Sterling, Tabor and Kansas Wesleyan — are tied at the top of the standings with 4-1 records. In fact, they’re the only teams with a winning conference record.
McPherson College, Friends, Saint Mary and Ottawa are grouped together at 2-3, then you have Southwestern at 1-4 and Bethel staring at a winless season at 0-5.
Here’s a look at the remaining schedules for the four teams:
• Tabor — Kansas Wesleyan, at Friends, at McPherson College, Bethany
• Kansas Wesleyan — at Tabor, at Bethany, Bethel, Ottawa
• Sterling — at Bethel, Ottawa, at Saint Mary, at McPherson
• Bethany — at Southwestern, Kansas Wesleyan, Friends, at Tabor
This week’s huge game is Kansas Wesleyan at Tabor. With the game being played in Hillsboro, you’ve got to like the Bluejays’ chances as they rarely lose at home.
Here’s how I’d rate the remaining schedules, from easiest to hardest:
1. Sterling — The Warriors are done with the other three contenders. The only drawback is they play three of their last four on the road and that Saint Mary game could be one to watch since nobody likes to make the long trip to Leavenworth (other than Ottawa).
2. Kansas Wesleyan — These next two games determine the Coyotes’ fate, playing both Tabor and arch-rival Bethany on the road. And that last game against Ottawa is never easy as the teams built a great rivalry when Dave Dallas used to coach at KW after he had started his career at Ottawa.
3. Tabor — The Bluejays have both Kansas Wesleyan and Bethany left, but both are at home. Friends generally plays the Jays tough in Wichita, while McPherson College has not lost at home so far and is showing improvement.
4. Bethany — The Swedes have a meatgrinder. For whatever reason, they have struggled in recent years playing at Winfield, so this week’s game with the Moundbuilders is no gimme. They also have to play Kansas Wesleyan and Tabor, while the game with Friends is no bargain.
If I had to venture a guess, my gut tells me Tabor and Sterling are going to wind up sharing the championship, which would give the Warriors the tiebreaker since they won the head-to-head meeting 23-21.
It will be interesting to see which of the four 2-3 teams jumps up and earns that fifth spot. McPherson College plays two of them, but both are on the road as they play this week at Friends and then head to Saint Mary the following week. While the Bulldogs are perfect at home this year, they’ll be a decided underdog against Tabor and Sterling the final two weeks.
Yet, the Bulldogs are trending in the right direction. They won just one game last year after being winless the year before. Mac coach Paul Mierkiewicz is in a similar situation as KU’s David Beaty as he basically had to build the team from scratch as he had only two dozen holdovers when he took over in 2015 and had to start almost all freshmen and sophomores that year.