The McKendree Bearcats erupted for 41 first-half points on its way to a 41-23 victory Saturday afternoon at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo.
The Bearcats scored on their first six possessions on its way to a 41-10 halftime lead and never looked back in racing to its first 3-0 start since 2003.
McKendree, now 1-0 in the GLVC, will return home for its next two contests, beginning with another league game Saturday against Southwest Baptist University. Kickoff at Leemon Field is set for 1 p.m.
“This is probably the best first half we have played all season,” said McKendree coach Mike Babcock. “We moved the ball effectively on offense, but more importantly we were able to capitalize on miscues by the opponent. I really thought we had a solid all-around effort on special teams as well. It’s important to start conference play on the right foot, and we certainly did that this afternoon,”
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Senior quarterback Isaac Fisher continued the strong start to his 2015 season by throwing for 321 yards and three touchdowns at William Jewell. Fisher was 20-of-29 through the air, and all three of his scoring strikes covered at least 33 yards. A 75-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver Cameron James (Edwardsville H.S.) midway through the first quarter marked a career-long for Fisher.
James had a team-leading six receptions for 124 yards and became the program’s career leader in all-purpose yards. Between his receiving yards and 68 return yards against the Cardinals, James pushed his career total to 3,950 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Dustin Walls caught three passes for 72 yards, including TD grabs of 36 and 33 yards. Junior wide receiver Sean Dowling contributed four receptions for the Bearcats.
After stopping William Jewell (0-4, 0-2 GLVC) on its first possession, McKendree drove 63 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead. Fisher capped the drive with a 6-yard scoring run.
The Cardinals knotted the score on their next possession before McKendree took the lead for good. On the second play following the William Jewell touchdown, Fisher found James behind the Cardinals’ secondary for the 75-yard score, as the Bearcats went in front 14-7 with 7:06 left in the first quarter.
Sophomore linebacker Kyle Kirkpatrick (Civic Memorial H.S.) intercepted a pass near midfield moments later and raced 20 yards down the sideline to the William Jewell 25-yard line. Steven O’Block booted a 31-yard field goal on the ensuing drive to give McKendree a 17-7.
Near the end of the quarter, a high snap went over the head of the Cardinals’ punter, and the Bearcats were set up with a first-and-goal at the two-yard line. Two plays later, senior running back Treye Williams bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out with seven seconds left in the period for a 24-7 McKendree advantage.
Midway through the second quarter with McKendree in front 24-10, Fisher and Walls connected for touchdown passes on consecutive offensive plays to boost the lead to 38-10. First, with 9:31 left until halftime, Fisher found Walls for a 36-yard scoring strike. After a William Jewell punt and subsequent 42-yard punt return by James, Fisher hooked up with Walls on a 33-yard score on the next play to stretch the lead to 28-7. O’Block closed out the first-half scoring frenzy thanks to a 38-yard field goal 1:30 before intermission.
McKendree topped the 400-yard mark in total offense for the third straight game this season, piling up 439 yards. Fisher accounted for 362 of those yards, adding a team-best 41 rushing yards to his 321 through the air.
Junior linebacker A.J. Wentland senior defensive back Cruz Navarro and sophomore linebacker Austin Weltha each had a team-leading six tackles in the win for McKendree. Kirkpatrick finished with five solo tackles in addition to his interception, which was the lone turnover of the afternoon.