Football Struggles: Falls to McPherson
Sterling, Kan. - McPherson College handed the Sterling College Warrior football team their second loss of the season on Saturday afternoon by a score of 31-21. The #7 ranked Bulldogs used the passing game and key runs by Aaron Lafitte to keep the Warrior defense off balance and control most of the game. A late push by the Warriors was not enough to overcome the hole from the first three quarters of play.
Sterling went three and out on their first possession, and then fumbled on a fake punt attempt. As a result of the play, McPherson started their first possession at the Sterling 41 yard line. The Bulldogs looked primed to score until quarterback Shane Mascarenas threw an interception to Sterling cornerback Michael Talton. Unfortunately for the Warriors, Talton fumbled on the return, giving the ball back to McPherson at the Sterling 31 yard line. The Warrior defense stepped up, forcing a field goal attempt which McPherson kicker Travis Eason missed wide left. Both teams battled over field position for the rest of the quarter and were tied 0-0 at the conclusion of the first quarter.
McPherson would own the second quarter. Lafitte would score for McPherson only 2:10 into the second quarter to give McPherson the lead early in the quarter. Following a Sterling three and out possession, Lafitte would score again, this time on a three yard run. With the 14-0 lead, the McPherson defense would force the Warriors into another three and out possession. On their following possession, McPherson would get to the Sterling 30 yard line but would be stopped on fourth down conversion attempt. With the chance to make a late second quarter scoring drive, the Warrior offense would go three and out again and be forced to punt the ball back to McPherson. McPherson would use the remaining 2:06 to drive all the way to the Sterling four yard line and kick a field goal as time expired. The Bulldogs went into halftime leading the Warriors 17-0.
Doug Dunn, Sterling College's kicker, got his first action of the game when he kicked off to start the third quarter. The Warrior defense would hold, forcing McPherson to punt on their first second half possession. Sterling's offense would show signs of life, gaining one first down before being forced to punt the ball back to the Bulldogs. McPherson would drive into Sterling College territory on their ensuing possession but would be thwarted by Sterling safety Brock Frank. Frank would force a fumble that would be recovered by Sterling linebacker James Morley. With the new momentum on their side, the Warriors would start a successful drive. After a big gain by running back Rashard Colquitt, quarterback Keoki Burbank would gain seven yards on a quarterback keeper. Fifteen yards would be tacked on to the end of the play when a McPherson College player hit Burbank after the whistle. Burbank was injured on the play, putting a hiccup in the Warrior drive. Without Burbank, the Warriors would fail to convert on a third down at the McPherson 20 yard line. Coach Lambert would decide to gamble on fourth down, playing back-up quarterback Joey Garcia as a running back and putting in third string quarterback James Mahla. The gamble would pay off when Mahla would complete a 20 yard touchdown pass to Matt James in the corner of the end zone, bring the score to 17-7 in favor of McPherson. McPherson answered with a long drive that was capped off with a Mascarenas touchdown pass to Joe Middleton as the third quarter expired. After three quarters, the Warriors still trailed 21-31.
Sterling would score on the opening drive of the third quarter. Shane Engelken would score on a three yard rush, pulling the Warriors within ten. Eason would miss another field goal for McPherson on their ensuing possession, giving the Warriors a chance to cut the lead down to one score. Sterling would attempt another fake punt on a fourth and 13 but would fumble, giving McPherson excellent field position. Scott Thibodeaux would capitalize on that position for McPherson, scoring on a five yard rush to push the lead back to 17 points. Sterling would use Rashard Colquitt to lead a drive down the field that was capped off by a Burbank rushing touchdown. Trailing 21-31 with 2:53 left to play, the Warriors were forced to attempt an onside kick. It originally appeared that the Warriors recovered the kick, but the recovering player was ruled to be out of bounds, giving the ball to McPherson. The Warriors would be unable to get the ball back and McPherson would hold on for the win 31-21.
Rashard Colquitt had a big game for the Warriors on the ground, carring the ball 19 times for 115 yards. "Rashard played his best game of the season today and really led us back into the game," said Sterling Head Coach Andy Lambert.
McPherson dominated all statistical catagories in the game, including having 523 yards of total offense compared to 196 for Sterling, getting 31 first downs compared to Sterling's 17, and throwing for 340 yards compared to Sterling's 70 yards.
Mascarenas was the star of the game for McPherson, completing 28 of 50 passes for 340 yards one touchdown and two interceptions.
The loss drops the Warriors below .500 in conference to 1-2 and Sterling is 2-2 overall. Next week, Friends University comes to Sterling for a 1:30pm kick-off. The weekend is Sterling's Homecoming Weekend and will be a chance for the Warriors to beat a team that typically finishes in the top of the conference every year.