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Football Cats Look to Continue Momentum in 2022

The Bethel University Wildcat football program got back on the upswing in 2021 finishing with a 7-4 mark. The Cats hope to continue that momentum this fall. The 2022 schedule will as always be tough in what many believe is the toughest NAIA football league in the nation. Bethel competes in the rugged Bluegrass Division of the Mid-South Conference.

Six MSC teams were mentioned in the NAIA Football First Down PlayBook Top 25 Postseason Poll this past fall.

Lindsey Wilson was picked third in the poll. The Blue Raiders earned 381 points in the poll while going 12-1 and reaching the NAIA FCS Semifinals.

Keiser was No. 7 in the poll after receiving 306 points. The Seahawks were 9-3 and reached the FCS Quarterfinals.

Reinhardt was the last MSC team in the top ten of the postseason poll. The Eagles were slotted ninth and earned 289 points in the poll. Reinhardt went 9-3 and made a postseason appearance.

Georgetown was No. 16 in the poll. The Tigers received 184 points in the poll and were 8-2. Faulkner is the final conference team in the top 25. The Eagles were No. 24 after earning fifty-one points and going 8-2.

Southeastern was mentioned in the receiving votes section with three points.

The Wildcats face four of those teams this upcoming season.

The Wildcats will play six home games and five road games this fall. Bethel plays four of its first six games at home.

The Cats open the season at home against Arkansas Baptist on August 27. It will be the first ever meeting between the Buffaloes and the Wildcats. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. in Wildcat Stadium. The game will be the 478th game in program history. Bethel is 184-285-8 all-time.

Second week action will find the Cats visiting the No. 9 Reinhardt Eagles in Waleska, Georgia. It will be the eighth meeting between the two with RU holding a 5-2 advantage in the series. The September 3rd kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT.

The Cats return home to battle Point University on the 10th. The game begins at 1 p.m. with Bethel holding a 1-0 margin in the series.

After an open date, the Wildcats return to action at home on September 24th. The UPIKE Bears will come calling with the kickoff at 1 p.m. After Bethel’s win last year, the series is tied at 4-4.

The Cats hit the road the following week traveling to Georgetown on the first day of October. GC leads the series 12-3. The Wildcats and Tigers will kick off at 12:30 CT. It marks the first time Bethel will play a Tiger squad not coached by GC legend Bill Cronin. Cronin retired as head coach of the Tigers after the past season.

The Patriots of the University of the Cumberlands will be in McKenzie on October 8th. It will be a night game slated for 7 p.m. UC leads the all-time series 8-3.

On October 15, the Cats travel to Taylor County, Kentucky, to face the Tigers of Campbellsville at 12:30 p.m. CT. The Tigers lead the series 10-8.

The Cats will face Thomas More the following week, playing host to the Saints on Homecoming at 1 p.m. The series is tied 2-2.

Bethel goes back to the Commonwealth on the 29th. Kickoff in Columbia against the Lindsey Wilson Blue Raiders is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. CT. LWC has a 6-2 advantage in the series.

The last regular season game will be a home game on November 5th. Faulkner will be in the house for Senior Day beginning at 1 p.m. Bethel has a 5-4 lead in the series.

Bethel closes out the regular season on November 12 at Cumberland University. The programs have met 33 times with Cumberland holding a 20-12-1 lead between the two. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. in Lebanon.

The Wildcats will need to replace several program record setters. De’Ontay Tate finished with 1,098 rushing yards last year. He became just the 13th Wildcat to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. He finished his career with 3,427 yards which is fourth all-time in Wildcat history. Tate had 13 rushing touchdowns on the season. Tate was a first team MSC All-Conference performer.

Quarterback Nolan Chowbay threw 30 touchdowns last year. He passed Sam Castronova who had 28 in 2018. Chowbay finished the year with 3,232 passing yards which is the most in a single season in Wildcat history. Chowbay was named to the MSC All-Conference second team.

The Cats will also need to replace key members in Mike Malone, Dieuly Aristilde, Riley Wood, Hayden BrophyMichael McClainAustin BrockKeyshawn Brummett, and Jared Gentry. Gentry played only eight games because of injuries but still had an all-conference season. He had 29 total tackles with 7.5 of those being tackles for losses. Gentry also had a fumble recovery during the season. Aristilde and Gentry signed pro contracts earlier this year.

The Wildcats have several key performers returning. Wide receiver James Dixon was the Bluegrass Offensive Freshman of the Year. Dixon led the Bluegrass Division and ranked sixth in the NAIA with 1,116 receiving yards. He averaged 101.5 receiving yards per game with 14 touchdown receptions, which also led the Bluegrass last year. Before the season only one Wildcat had 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. Isaiah Hookfin had 1,052 in 2003. Dixon finished with the year with 1,116. Dixon had 14 touchdown receptions on the year which is second only behind Hookfin who had 15 in 2003. Dixon was also named to the MSC Champion of Character team. Dixon was named to the first team as a wide receiver.

Prior to last season only three Wildcats finished their career with 300 or more total tackles. Tyler Murray and Jeremy Beaulieu were tied at No. 1 with 325. Hunter Pingston finished his hall of fame career with 318. Bethel junior linebacker Jakobe Griffin began the year with 209. He finished the season with 311 career stops. Griffin already holds the single season record with 126 tackles in 2019. He had 102 this past season. Freshman Brody Franks  had 99 tackles on the season.

Defensive back Vonte Bates is back after an outstanding season. Bates had 99 total tackles on the season. Bates also had three interceptions and was named first team All-Conference.

Devious Christmon is back after having five interceptions last year. He was a first team all-conference selection. Christmon moved to third on the all-time program list for career interceptions with 12. 

The offensive line returns several key members including Tyler McCoin and Cole Lyles. Lyles was a first team all-conference selection last year. 

Tight end Quashawn Ford was named to the second team all-conference squad. Other key veterans returning are D.J. James, Anthony Hughes and Stavonski Wilkes. 

Coach Jasper shared his thoughts on key returners, new faces, the schedule and season. “I am excited about our program and the opportunities that are ahead of us. We have some shoes to fill, but we also return a lot of really good ball players and some key role players that have been in the program, understand how we operate, and are eager to uphold the standard. We have added some great coaches and mentors to the staff which is going to really aid our guys in development as well as bring some new ideas to the table schematically, so that really excites me and the returners on the staff from last season. Our mid-year signees and summer transfers are going to have to come in and step up early. We saw some good things out of Joaquin Collazo, a quarterback from Tusculum College, and were able to add some weapons around him like Logan Davis at tackle, Kayvon Anderson at wideout, Terrance Roberts at running back, a stellar athlete in Cam Jordan from Navy, and several others on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively we have one of the best secondaries in the country and we were able to add some quality guys up front in Nick Andrews and Markel Crawford. We added some playmakers at linebacker in Jeremy Boyland and Gary Anderson. Our freshman class has some great additions as well. We have four TSSAA football state champions and several great young players from New York that have made their way down to the Southeast.” Coach Jasper summed up his thoughts. “I feel confident in the job the staff has done putting together a great roster and now it is up to us as to put them in position to be successful. It is no secret the Mid-South is the toughest small college football conference there is, so we will have our work cut out for us, but we have guys that are up for the task.”

Coach Jasper enters his fourth year as head coach of the Wildcats. Before becoming the head coach Jasper served as the Assistant Head Coach and worked with the defensive line. Prior to that he held the titles of Offensive Line Coach and Run Game Coordinator and oversaw the strength and conditioning program. Coach Jasper’s career record is 15-14 overall and 9-12 in conference play.

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