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Turnovers, penalties, injuries plague Bethel in home loss

Keven Scrutchins
Bethel's Jesse Tucker (12) fires a pass to Harrison Thomas (5) Friday night against the visiting Christian Heritage Crusaders.

BETHEL ACRES - The Bethel Wildcats entered Class 2A-3 district play with a perfect 3-0 against the visiting Christian Heritage Crusaders Friday night and came out of it on the wrong end of a 25-20 decision.

Bethel out-gained the visitors, but the turnover, penalty and injury bug bit the Wildcats hard.

“I don’t even know how many turnovers and penalties we had,” said Bethel coach Joey Ginn. “I do know that it was way too many.”

The problems for Bethel started early. On the first play from scrimmage, Bethel’s quarterback Jesse Tucker was intercepted by Crusader Connor Kufahl which set up Christian Heritage withits initial drive in Wildcat territory.

Three plays later, Kye Davis found an open Nate Nuthman behind the Bethel secondary for a 43-yard score. The Crusaders led 7-0 with 10:23 left in the first, quieting the Bethel homecoming crowd.

The Wildcats, two possessions later, got their offense moving in the right direction and scored with 2:02 left in the opening quarter on an eight-play, 55-yard scoring drive. Tucker was 4-of-4 and found Drae Wood on back-to-back throws for the score. He first found Wood for a 31-yarder to get the Wildcats to the Crusader 5-yard line, then connected with Wood for the 5-yard score as the score was tied 7-7.

The second quarter turned ugly, for both offenses. Penalties and turnovers took control and Bethel got the worst of it. The Wildcat defense stiffened time and time again as the second quarter was played, primarily in Bethel territory.

The Wildcats, with 3:02 left in the first half, had a 3-and-20 from their own 6-yard line and were looking to get a positive play for some much needed breathing room. Instead, the Crusader’s brought the house on a blitz and tackled Tucker in the end zone for a 2-point safety. Christian Heritage led 9-7 at the half.

In the half, Bethel lost a fumble, had three interceptions and lost two receivers to injury. Harrison Thomas and Wood were both lost for the remainder of the contest.

“We just have to play better in the first half,” said coach Ginn.

In Bethel’s first three wins, two of the games started out very sluggish for the Wildcats, but overcame with big second halves.

The Wildcats were looking to do that again on Friday.The Crusaders had a different plan and scored two plays into the third quarter. Davis hooked up with Nate Jines who found an opening in the Bethel defense and cruised 60 yards for the score. Davis ran the ball in for the 2-point conversion to give Christian Heritage a 17-7 lead with 11:28 left in the third quarter.

Bethel just couldn’t maintain drives in the third quarter as two drives ended with punts and another on a turnover on downs. All seemed lost when Christian Heritage went up 25-7 on the second play of the fourth quarter when Bethel lost another fumble on their ensuing drive.

The Wildcats turned the ball over five times during the contest and were penalized for 115 yards.

After a Bethel defensive stop, on its own 39-yard line, the offense found some life in running back Dez Loving and receiver John Gordon.

Loving ran the ball four times during the drive for 28 yards, while Gordon caught two balls for 19 yards and completed the scoring drive from 10 yards out off a pass from Tucker. That cut the Crusader lead to 25-13 with 4:47 left to play.

A perfectly executed onside kick set the Wildcats up with a first down from the Crusader 44-yard line. It took Bethel just two plays to get another score and tighten the game even more at 25-20 with 4:06 left to play. Tucker found an opening up the middle of the Christian Heritage defense, then danced and dragged his way into the end zone from 39 yards out for the score.

Once again, the Wildcats defense was called upon to make one final stop and get the ball back to their energized offense. The Crusaders managed two first downs and burned all of Bethel’s timeouts on their next drive and punted to the Wildcats with :27 left in the game.

Bethel completed a 7-yard pass and Tucker ran for nine yards, but that was all they do in such a short time against the Crusaders prevent defense.

“They (CHA) were more disciplined than we were tonight,” said Ginn. “ We (coaches) will get back to work this weekend and the kids will go back to work on Monday. Hopefully, we will learn from this and get better – we still everything to play for.”

The Wildcats, 3-1, will face a stiff challenge Friday night when they travel to face the Washington Warriors.