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No. 13 Kansas Wesleyan pulls past Waldorf

Waldorf Warriors LogoBy: Matt Oliver

SALINA, Kansas – Kansas Wesleyan University relied on a balanced attack to pull away for a 28-18 win over the Waldorf University football team on Saturday.

The Coyotes (2-0) entered the night ranked No. 13 in the latest National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) poll, but the Warriors (1-2) never showed signs of backing down.

“I’m pleased, because we’re starting to see some development of leadership and the way we handle adversity better,” Waldorf coach Kent Anderson said. “We did not quit. We played very hard and fought through some things.”

Kansas Wesleyan racked up 460 yards of total offense, accounting for 246 yards on the ground. The Warriors also displayed the ability to move the ball as they generated 418 yards of offense.

Quarterback Hilton Joseph led Waldorf, completing 23-of-38 passes for 294 yards while rushing for 37 yards and three touchdowns.  It was the first career start for the 6-foot, 170-pound redshirt freshman from Miami.

“He gives us a different dimension with his feet,” Anderson said. “He’s just going to get better and better.”

Freshman Darryel Bethune provided 83 rushing yards on 27 carries for the Warriors.

Waldorf’s Michael Payton turned in 88 receiving yards as the redshirt freshman hauled in three catches. Senior LaRyan Fletcher added 56 yards on five receptions, redshirt freshman Cameron Newsome contributed a 37-yard reception and redshirt freshman Benjamin Mau caught three passes for 31 yards.

Dual-threat quarterback Kelly Cordova led the charge for the Coyotes. Cordova went 18-of-33 passing for 214 yards, three TDs and an interception. He also ran for 103 yards and a TD.

Kansas Wesleyan’s Demarco Prewitt powered forward for 68 rushing yards, while Tyler Welch tacked on 60 yards on three carries. Prewitt finished with 32 yards on four receptions.

Mitch Kufahl was Cordova’s top target, ending the night with 91 yards and a TD on four receptions. Jacob Tatge pulled down three passes for 35 yards.

Senior Rigo Verdin led the Warriors with 10 tackles, and senior Trent Jones recorded eight tackles. Freshman Marcel Lindner and senior Jeffrey Heflin collected five tackles apiece. Sophomore Jacob Louisius made four stops. Junior Wisley Jean contributed three tackles and recovered two fumbles.

“Defensively, I thought we played great,” Anderson said.

Waldorf sophomore Dubem Awuzie snagged his second interception of the season. Despite forcing three turnovers, the Warriors were unable to capitalize.

“That’s a sign of a team that still has some things to do,” Anderson said.

Opportunity knocked for Waldorf throughout the game. The Warriors finished 3-for-5 on red-zone conversions. They came up empty on fourth-and-goal situations, missed a point-after attempt and fell short on a pair of two-point conversions.

“There were opportunities all over the place,” Anderson said. “When you look at the kicking game, the PATs and the two missed opportunities, it might have been different.”

Joseph couldn’t connect with his receivers on a few passes and also saw two of his passes intercepted by the Coyotes.

“The interceptions, he’ll clean up, because he’s a competitor,” Anderson said. “We have to clean up those little things with missed receivers, and he knows that. He’s just going to get better.”

Cordova put Kansas Wesleyan in front, firing an 8-yard scoring strike to Kelton Evans. Michael Pursley, who converted on all four of his PATs, split the uprights to give the Coyotes a 7-0 lead with 12 minutes, 48 seconds to go in the first quarter.

Joseph found the end zone on a 7-yard run with 9:29 left in the opening quarter. Lindner’s PAT was no good as Kansas Wesleyan held onto a one-point edge.

Tatge caught a 20-yard TD pass from Cordova to push the Coyotes to a 14-6 lead with 49 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Cordova ran five yards to pay dirt with 7:53 to play in the second quarter, boosting Kansas Wesleyan to a 21-6 advantage it would take into halftime.

Joseph scored on an 8-yard run with 3:32 left in the third quarter. The two-point conversion fell short.

Cordova delivered a 66-yard TD pass to Kufahl with 14 seconds remaining in the third, sending the Coyotes to the fourth quarter with a 28-12 lead.

Joseph would find the end zone one last time on a 3-yard plunge with 8:52 to play in the game.  The Warriors were denied on the two-point conversion.

Despite falling in a hard-fought loss, Waldorf displayed an all-out effort and the will to win.

“That’s the first time I’ve seen a team really try to play to win instead of trying to keep from getting beat,” Anderson said. “We went out and tried to play the game to win.”

The Warriors now set their sights on next Saturday when they take on Dakota State University (2-1) in a 6 p.m. nonconference matchup at Madison, South Dakota.

Dakota State, which fell to Waldorf in a 24-17 loss last year, has knocked off two ranked opponents this season. The Trojans rank seventh in the nation in total offense with 542 yards a game and are coming off Saturday’s 62-48 win over No. 24 St. Ambrose University (0-2).

“They’re going to be dangerous,” Anderson said. “It’s a team that we beat last year, and they’re going to be excited to play us. They have a very good offense. It’s a good matchup, and we’re looking forward to it.”