BY KYLE FRANKE Staff Writer
Until their loss this Saturday at the hands of first place University of Indianapolis, the McKendree Bearcats Football team had won 10 games in a row dating back to last year.
Prior to the 10-game win streak was a 0-6 start to the season, a season in which they had four preseason All-Americans to start the year. Ferris State handed the Bearcats a 75-15 beating in the very first game of the year.
“It wasn’t the start we were looking for, starting the season with a loss like that just kind of demoralized us,” said wide receiver Mike Thompson. The football team was the joke of the campus.
“It wasn’t fun. We just had to block out all of the haters and stay focused,” says tight end Austin Applebee. “They were the fuel to our fire.”
Questionable coaching decisions late in games even led some to wonder whether change was coming at the head coaching position. McKendree still ended up salvaging the season running off 5 wins in a row to finish the season 5-6. The offense finally started coming together, and the secondary, which had been a major weakness, started stepping up and making big plays at big times.
It wasn’t until another blowout loss coming at the hands of University of Indianapolis 52-7 that the team finally turned things around. “We just got tired of losing, the loss to U Indy was really embarrassing,” said Applebee.
Even while finishing with a losing record, the Bearcats had three players win first team all GLVC honors. Defensive end, Lucky Baar, became the first Mckendree football player to win a major post-season award after being awarded the GLVC Defensive Player of the Year. His play greatly influenced McKendree’s turnaround. During the 0-5 start, Baar only registered 1.5 sacks, but would finish the season with 18. Baar led the NCAA with 1.64 sacks per game.
Fast forward to today and the Bearcats are 5-1, sitting in second place in the GLVC one game behind the University of Indianapolis, the team who handed them each of their last two losses dating back to last year. Junior wideout Shawn Dowling says that the team chemistry is better than it has ever been.
“We saw what we were capable of at the end of last year and it really carried over,” he says. “Everyone worked really hard in the offseason, and we had a great spring. We have playmakers on both sides of the ball who want to win and be the best we can be. We’re all giving more effort into the little things, and it’s showing by winning some games this year.”
After struggling to really get the offense going last year, McKendree is currently leading the GLVC in total offense. They are averaging 486 yards and 36 points per game both first in the conference. In the first game of the year, they shut out College of Faith 68-0. Senior Quarterback Issac Fisher is leading the conference in passing and recently won GLVC player of the week honors for his performance in McKendree’s homecoming win over Southwest Baptist. Lucky Baar also won defensive player of the week.
McKendree hired a new defensive coordinator in the offseason, and the bearcats now lead the conference in sacks. The Bearcats have five remaining games this season, two of which are at home. Hopefully they can bounce back after their first loss of the season when they travel to Saint Joseph College next Saturday.