Considering the road trips of the first two weeks, Saturday’s 25-miler to North Newton is going to seem like a walk across the street for McPherson College’s football team.
The Bulldogs play the third of three straight road games to open the season Saturday when they take on Bethel in the KCAC opener for both teams.
Pre-game starts at 6:30 p.m. on 96.7 KBBE-FM with Nick Gosnell. He’ll be joined on the game call at 7 p.m. by Steve Sell.
The Bulldogs opened the season with a 560-mile round trip to Muskogee, Okla., losing 24-7 after the game was tied at 7-all after three quarters.
Last week, the Bulldogs made the 360-mile rounder to Olathe to play MidAmerica Nazarene, charging back from a 31-7 halftime deficit only to lose 34-28.
Both teams had national-ranking potential. Bethel definitely does not.
The Threshers, 2-9 a year ago and 1-8 in the KCAC, were the overwhelming choice to finish in last in the preseason polls. However, they opened the season with a 37-6 victory over Haskell before losing 41-24 last week to Avila in the KCAC-Heart of America Challenge. The Threshers scored the final 21 points for cosmetic purposes.
Mac first-year coach Steve Fox said his team is in no position to take the Threshers for granted and added this Bethel team is a huge upgrade over last year’s.
“It’s like a new season is starting,” Fox said. “They’ve got a new offensive coordinator and they’re a little different, though people in the stands might not notice it. Defensively they’re the same with (head) coach (Marty) Mathis. He’s a great coach and has done a lot of great things in his career.”
Mathis was the defensive coordinator at national power Marian University before taking the Bethel job, so it had to pain him last year when teams basically used his team as a doormat as the Threshers gave up huge numbers. However, Fox said they’re much better this year and this is a game that should be highly competitive.
The Bulldogs are hoping that quarterback JT Levenseller, who breathed new hope into an offense that was moribund the first week, will be ready to go. Levenseller, who accounted for nearly 300 yards of total offense last week, has been down and out with flu-like symptoms. If he can’t go, Cody Graff has moved up to the No. 2 quarterback spot as he’s worked hard in practice.
The Mac defense probably is ready to go up against an offense that doesn’t possess as many weapons as both Bacone and MidAmerica had. The Threshers do have one of the KCAC’s premier receivers in Tommy Alexander, an All-KCAC preseason pick. He was held to one catch last week, though it was good for 49 yards. New running back Robert Smith has been a revelation, going for 124 yards last week.