In a battle that went right down to the closing seconds, the McKendree University football team was defeated Saturday afternoon at Leemon Field by Truman State University, 45-38.
Andy Satulla’s two-yard touchdown run with 3:31 remaining broke a 38-38 tie and put the visiting Bulldogs in front to stay. McKendree got the ball back with a chance to tie after forcing a Truman State punt with just over a minute on the clock. However, Jordan Siegel stepped in front of a pass by senior quarterback Reece Metcalf with 33 seconds left to seal the win for the Bulldogs.
McKendree moves to 3-3 on the year and 1-1 in Great Lakes Valley Conference action. The Bearcats will hit the road for their next two contests, beginning with a trip to Bolivar, Mo., next Saturday (Oct. 13) to take on Southwest Baptist University. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
“I give a lot a credit to Truman for the way they battled today,” said McKendree coach Mike Babcock. “There were a lot of big plays and lead changes, but they kept coming at us. We were able to run the ball and get some guys in open space, but we just could not finish consistently.”
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For the first time in nearly three years, McKendree had two running backs top the 100-yard mark. Senior Preston Thompson (Hazel Crest, Ill./Tinley Park) led the way with 129 yards on 20 carries along with a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore Jace Franklin (Sherman, Ill./Williamsville) reached the century mark for the first time in a Bearcat uniform with 111 yards on 21 attempts. Senior quarterback Reece Metcalf (Mount Carmel, Ill./Mount Carmel) added two one-yard scoring runs – both of which came on fourth-and-goal plays.
Along with his two rushing scores, Metcalf was 24-of-38 for 258 yards in the passing department. Metcalf threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jalyn Williams (Carbondale, Ill./Carbondale) just under four minutes into action, giving him 21 TD tosses for the year. That matches the Bearcats’ single-season record established by Isaac Fisher back in 2015.
Senior wide receiver Josh Revay (Livermore, Calif.) hauled in a career-high nine passes for 89 yards, while Williams matched his career-best set one week earlier with eight grabs. Williams did establish a new personal mark with 138 receiving yards.
Saturday’s game also featured two weather delays that totaled just over 90 minutes. The last snap of the game came at 5:13 p.m., which was just over four hours after kickoff. It marked the first time that a McKendree football game was delayed due to weather at Leemon Field since the Bearcats returned to the gridiron in 1996.
McKendree scored on its first two possessions in building a 14-7 lead after one quarter of play. Metcalf’s 20-yard touchdown strike to Williams with 11:21 remaining in the period staked the Bearcats to a 7-0 lead. After Truman State (3-3, 2-0 GLVC) answered to knot the contest at 7-7, McKendree took the ensuing kickoff and marched 10 plays down to the Bulldogs’ one-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-goal, Metcalf took the snap and bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out to push McKendree back to a seven-point advantage.
Truman State tied the game in the later stages in the second quarter and used a 46-yard field goal from Josh Scheiderer with one second on the clock to take a 17-14 lead at the intermission. Shortly after the start of halftime, the first weather delay kept the teams in their respective locker rooms for slightly more than an hour.
When play resumed to begin the third quarter, both offenses began to warm up. Thompson pushed McKendree back in front at 21-17 when he plunged into the end zone from one yard out with 9:28 left in the period. Sophomore kicker Josh Lazaro (Bradley, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) then booted a 30-yard field goal to extend the margin to 24-17. Truman State answered with a scoring drive of its own to tie the contest for the third time at 24-24 with 2:01 left in the third quarter.
Metcalf gave the Bearcats a 31-24 lead early in the fourth quarter when he dove over the pile on a fourth-and-goal play for another one-yard scoring plunge. Truman State had an answer once again when Jordan Salima broke through for a 66-yard TD run just 18 seconds later to help the Bulldogs draw even once again at 31-31. Thompson then electrified the Leemon Field crown on the Bearcats’ final scoring play of the day, a 25-yard run with 9:53 on the clock to give McKendree a 38-31 advantage.
On the ensuing kickoff, Truman State’s Lawrence Woods fielded the ball and raced 89 yards for a touchdown for the last tie of the afternoon at 38-38 with 9:42 on the clock. The teams then retreated for cover for a second weather delay for just over a half hour before play resumed. After a McKendree punt on the first drive after the break, the Bulldogs drove 55 yards in nine plays to move back in front for good.
Salima led all players with 134 yards on 19 attempts for Truman State. Quarterback Jaden Barr accounted for 222 of total offense, including 91 on the ground while adding three total touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
Senior defensive back Blake Benoist (O’Fallon, Mo./Fort Zumwalt West) led the McKendree defense with 10 tackles, while freshman defensive back Kenneth Garrett (Walls, Miss./Whitehaven) added nine stops.