LINDSBORG — Contenders or pretenders?
That’s what we’re going to find out about the Bethany College football Swedes the next two weeks.
The Swedes, 3-2 in the KCAC and 4-3 overall, are right there in the conference chase. They are one game back of co-leaders Friends and Ottawa, while tied for third with Tabor and Sterling.
The Swedes have a chance to throw the race into even more of a hullabaloo when they travel Saturday to Wichita to take on Friends.
Kickoff at Adair Austin Stadium is 1:30 p.m.
The Swedes have proven they can play with the big boys. They gave Ottawa its only KCAC loss and had Sterling beat, only to give it away late. They host Tabor next week, so their destiny is in their own hands.
Bethany took apart arch-rival Kansas Wesleyan 42-10 last week in a game that could have been even worse. Friends finally scored its first quality victory by emerging from a defensive slugfest with a 14-11 win over Tabor, which knocked the Bluejays out of a share of the lead.
The game could come down to self-discipline. Some conference insiders say the Swedes may be the most athletically gifted team in the conference, but they’re last in the KCAC in penalties and turnover margin. Bethany is a minus-11 in turnovers, while they’re averaging more than 100 yards a game in flags, many of them of the personal foul variety. Sometimes a team gets a reputation and officials tend to look at it more closely to keep it under control.
If the Swedes can control the Falcons’ combination of Aaron Hansen to Chris Allen they could pull it off. Allen has a pedestrian 39 catches, but they’ve gone for 1,030 yards and 15 touchdowns as he’s a potential first-team All-American.
But the Friends defense has plenty to worry about. With quicksilver Virgil Bridges at the helm due to a Jake Umphreyville suspension, the Swedes pounded away for 370 yards rushing against Kansas Wesleyan. Friends, though, is far and away the most athletic defensive team in the KCAC.