Not even spotting the Avila Eagles two touchdowns could spoil the day for the Bethel College football team in a 34-24 win Saturday in the season opener at Thresher Stadium.
The combination of Chantz Scurry and Zach Esau allowed the Threshers to overcome the deficit. Scurry rushed for 122 yards on 28 carries with a touchdown. Esau rushed for 67 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns and hit three of four passes for 70 yards and a score.
Scurry also led the Threshers’ ball control efforts in the second half to control the clock.
"That’s what we preach," Scurry said. "We work really hard and our O line was really great. We practice really hard, and when something bad happens, we try to make something good happen. We were down at first, but we really turned it around."
"I don’t even remember the first quarter at this point," Bethel coach Terry Harrison said. "It was a lot of first-game stuff. We’re getting into the flow of stuff. We’ve been practicing with bags lately and we play such a physical brand, that’s what took us so long to get going. I’m proud of the kids for picking it up."
Scurry said the loss of spring football and the disruptions of COVID-19 make it difficult in the off-season.
"It was pretty rough with the gyms being closed," Scurry said. "I found a way to work out."
Bethel’s Amondr'e Schumptert-Street had just two carries, but finished with 80 yards rushing.
Avila was led by Tristan Askan, who stepped in for projected starter John Jacobs III, who didn’t play. Askan hit 21 of 35 passes for 261 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Malik Nesbitt had 14 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown. Nesbitt added seven catches for 91 yards. Devin Senerius had seven catches for 113 yards.
Bethel fell into a hole early. The Threshers picked up a fumble in the red zone when Jesse Garcia grabbed the ball out of the quarterback’s hand, but two plays later, a Bethel fumble was returned 80 yards by Ryan Petitfrere for a touchdown. Avila then mounted a long drive that ended with a Nesbitt 11-yard run.
The rest of the half belonged to the Threshers. A drive aided by a 46-yard Trey Palmer kickoff return ended with a one-yard Scurry run. The PAT kick was missed. Bethel then scored on a pair of one-yard Esau runs. Bethel got a Logan DeMond kick and a Camryn Harrison two-point conversion run. A Steven Marks interception set up the third BC score.
A bad punt snap early in the second half gave Bethel the ball on the Avila 34. Six plays later, Camryn Harrison scored on a three-yard run.
Avila stayed in the game with a 32-yard Kaivon Mortazavi field goal, the first for the Eagles since Nov. 3, 2018.
Bethel replied in three plays on a 49-yard pass from Esau to Brayden Francis. Again, Bethel missed the PAT kick. A 15-yard penalty on the kickoff set up an eight-yard touchdown pass from Askan to Christian Hopkins.
Bethel got the ball to the Avila 2, but fumbled it away. Avila was given a penalty after the play with the ball put on the one.
Bethel forced a punt to get the ball back and worked almost four minutes off the clock before losing a fumble at the Avila 36. A Davon Mason interception got Bethel the ball on the Thresher 25 with 2:39.
Bethel plays at 6 p.m. Saturday at McPherson. The Bulldogs opened the season with a 58-40 win over Sterling College, which received votes in the NAIA pre-season poll.
"I think they’re going to be really good," Harrison said. "I think McPherson is going to be one of the sleeper picks in our conference. They did a good job of recruiting. We’re going to have to watch the film on them."