By Dylan Powell, Head Sports Writer
Photo from plus.espn.com
This past Saturday, McKendree found their first win of the season on the road against Walsh University in Canton, Ohio. The Bearcats improved to 1-3 on the season in the final non-conference game of the 2021 season. Larry Davis, a redshirt sophomore offensive lineman for the Bearcats, shared, “When it comes to winning a game in football it takes more than one or two people, it takes an entire team, and this weekend that is exactly what happened. The Bearcats drove out to Ohio to play Bearcat Football as a team.”
The team scored a season-high of 24 points, racking up 355 yards on offense, with senior running back Jace Franklin VI leading the way on the ground, gaining 84 yards while redshirt freshman Brady Feldmann had 68 yards. In the air, redshirt sophomore Turner Pullen returned to the lineup this week and passed for 135 yards, completing 15 of 28 passes on the day, with all players on offense staying turnover free.
Two more stellar performances came from wide receivers Jacob Bachman and Steven Towns Jr., combining for 11 receptions and 119 yards. Towns Jr. scored the first touchdown of the game just minutes after it started. Bachman gained yardage in the air and on the ground, returning three kickoffs and rushing two times during the game. He ended the day with 181 total yards in both phases of the offensive and special teams attack.
Not only did the offense have a successful game, but the defense did as well. “The main goal of the defense going into the game was playing with ATF. ATF stands for ‘attitude,’ ‘tenacity,’ and ‘finish.’ We focus so much on those because we need to have a positive attitude going into the game. When talking about Tenacity we make sure we achieve our goals relentlessly and that’s to make sure we do our 1/11. Finish is making sure we are never giving up on the play no matter how tired we are. We also have been struggling playing like how we normally play for a full 60 minutes,” says Jamari Johnson, redshirt junior defensive end for the Bearcats. The Bearcat defense held Walsh University’s offense to 10 points on the day, only allowing 192 passing yards and 39 yards rushing by their primary running back. The defense ended the game with five total sacks, headlined by Michael Tucker and Sidney Houston with three of those sacks. Redshirt junior Tony Pisoni had an interception near the end of the game off of a pass thrown by Tom Vatter to help seal McKendree’s win. Tackles made on defense were highlighted by redshirt sophomore KeShon Spraggins and sophomore defensive back Drew Crooks, both with five.
When asked about facing adversity throughout the game, Johnson said, “Responding to adversity throughout the game, we made sure that we cheered one another on at all times even when something didn’t go in our favor at times. If there were players who messed up on a play we all made sure that we told them that everything is good and told them what they should do next time that happens in the game. The main thing was that we never gave up on each other and showed support at all times.” This is what helped drive the success on the defensive side of the ball throughout the whole game.
The Bearcats will return home this Saturday, October 2nd at 1:00 p.m. to begin the GLVC conference play against William Jewell College, who will travel from Liberty, Missouri. Historically, McKendree has fared very well against the current 0-4 Cardinals, going 8-0 in all matches since October of 2012. The Bearcats and Cardinals last played each other in the 2019 season, with the Bearcats winning the game 42-12 on the road. Davis mentions, “My expectations for Jewell is to go out and defend Leemon by playing Bearcat Football. We have to just be the better team on the field. It’s as simple as that.”
The next game’s theme is ‘pink-out’ in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is October. Everyone come out and support our Bearcats as the team looks to continue its winning ways!