NORTH NEWTON, Kan. - The Bethel Threshers football team opened their season last night at Joe W. Goering Field, when they hosted the Dordt Defenders as part of the KCAC-GPAC Challenge. This was the first time the Threshers and Defenders had ever played against each other in their program histories. Dordt finished last year as the 5th ranked rushing offense in the entire NAIA, and put it on display for Bethel. The quick-tempo offense of Dordt and mistakes made by Bethel combined to give the Defenders the advantage. The final score was 44-10, as Bethel will have a bye-week to prepare for the start of conference action against currently 10th ranked Tabor.
The KCAC-GPAC Challenge is in it's second year of existence. These two conferences matchup games against each other based on the previous season's rankings. Last season Bethel made the trip up to Midland University, and this year it was Dordt's turn to come down to North Newton.
The Threshers' pass defense in 2016 was one of the strongest in the NAIA, but lacked a bit when it came to stopping the run. This weakness was put on display early last night, as it took Dordt only three plays to march down the field and score a touchdown. On 2nd and 7 Dordt QB Brock Lamle kept it and was able to pickup 30 yards, reaching the Bethel 42 yard line. Running the triple-option, Dordt spent their time confusing the Threshers and setup their passing game effectively. On the next play, Lamle was able to find his receiver down field and they scored the first of four passing touchdowns on the night.
Dordt was able to convert their two-point conversion, and took an early 8-0 lead. It was Bethel's turn to see what their offense could do. With junior-college transfer Dominc Webb in as the starting quarterback, it took the Threshers a little bit of time to get their bearings together. Bethel was unable to put points on the board on their first two drives, and after a Dordt field goal they faced an 11-0 defecit.
After the ensuing kickoff, Bethel began to show some life. Using a combination of Webb and running back Tyshawn Simon, the Threshers were able to run the ball into Dordt territory. Webb was able to connect with receivers Montero DuBose (SR/Indianapolis, Ind.) and Ben Marshall (SR/Lakewood, Calif.) on consecutive plays to reach the 28 yard line. Simon was then able to break off a 27 yard run right before the horn sounded for the end of the first quarter.
Simon wrapped up the drive on the first play of the second quarter by punching it in the end zone. Mathis connected on his extra point, and Bethel had shrunk the defecit 11-7. Unfortunately the Dordt offense had answer, and closed out the second quarter with a touchdown and field goal, extending their lead to 22-7.
The second half played itself out much like the first. Dordt continued to carve up the Thresher defense with long runs, and passing touchdowns in the red zone. Dordt running back Keithen Drury finished with 198 yards, most of these coming off runs straight up the middle of the field. Mathis was able to tack on a 38 yard field goal for the Threshers, but with the quick-tempo Dordt offense it was just a slight bonus.
Bethel will need to trim down on their turnovers for the rest of the season, as they gave Dordt five opportunities to score off fumbles and interceptions. Two of these interceptions did come during what was essentially meaningless time in the fourth quarter though. Those were off the hand of local product Zach Esau (FR/Hesston, Kan.), who saw his first collegiate action late in the game.
The combination of Webb and Simon in the running game did prove to be successful. Webb racked up 87 yards with 128 passing yards, while Simon tacked on 56 yards and the lone touchdown of the game. Montero DuBose led the Thresher wide receivers, as he had five catches for 60 yards.
The Bethel defense was led by RoShawn Brown (JR/Fairfield, Calif.), who was in on nine total tackles. Close behind was newcomer Keondre Churchwell (JR/Phoenix, Ariz.), who's eight tackles included a big sack to crush Dordt's momentum on a drive in the first half. Joseph Winfield (SO/Edmond, Okla.) and David Wullf-Cochrane turned in seven tackles a piece, while Darius Jackson (SR/Macon, Ga.) had five to go along with an interception in the Bethel endzone to save a potential touchdown for Dordt.
Bethel (0-1) now has a week off to prepare for their rivalry matchup with Tabor College on September 16th in Hillsboro.