The McKendree University football team rolled up a season-high 574 yards of total offense on its way to a 47-31 victory Saturday afternoon on Homecoming at Leemon Field against William Jewell College.
McKendree averaged better than 10 yards per offensive play against William Jewell to improve to 5-4 on the season and 3-2 in Great Lakes Valley Conference play. Despite having the football for just over 21 minutes in the contest, the Bearcats ran 56 offensive plays for their 574 yards. Saturday’s win also helped McKendree to improve to 22-1 all-time in Homecoming games dating back to the 1996 season.
Two Bearcats etched their names in the McKendree record books during Saturday’s win. Senior quarterback Reece Metcalf (Mount Carmel, Ill./Mount Carmel) set a single-game standard by throwing for 391 yards against the Cardinals. He eclipsed the old mark of 375 yards set by Isaac Fisher against Tiffin University in the 2013 season-opener. Metcalf also became the Bearcats’ single-season leader in touchdown passes during the contest, throwing four to boost his season total to 25. Metcalf broke a tie with Isaac Fisher, who had 21 TD passes back in 2015.
Senior wide receiver Jalyn Williams (Carbondale, Ill./Carbondale) caught a 74-yard touchdown pass from Metcalf early in the third quarter, which was his eighth TD reception of the season. Williams broke a tie with Dewayne Gatti (2013) and Cameron James (2015) for touchdown catches in one year for a Bearcat player.
Senior running back Preston Thompson (Hazel Crest, Ill./Tinley Park) also joined in the fun for McKendree as he led the Bearcats with 105 yards on 20 carries with two rushing touchdowns. It marked Thompson’s fifth 100-yard game of the season.
“It was a great day all around,” said McKendree head football coach Mike Babcock. “We had a lot of alums come back and helped fill Leemon Field, and it was great to see our team come up with so many big plays today. I thought the effort and execution was there, and I’m pleased we were able to get the win.”
Metcalf only threw 24 passes against William Jewell, completing 17 to average a whopping 23 yards per completion. After William Jewell (1-7, 1-6 GLVC) took an early 7-0 lead, Metcalf’s third pass of the day resulted in the first points of the afternoon for the Bearcats. Metcalf found junior wide receiver Matt Cole (Chicago, Ill./Curie) wide open down the right sideline for a 48-yard touchdown pass, and sophomore kicker Josh Lazaro’s (Bradley, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) extra point to knot the score at 7-7. That touchdown pass was the 22nd of the season for Metcalf to put him atop McKendree’s single-season list.
Sophomore running back Jace Franklin (Sherman, Ill./Williamsville) put McKendree in front to stay with 11:01 left until halftime when he capped an eight-play, 74-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown run to boost the Bearcats’ lead to 13-7. Metcalf then engineered a scoring drive in the closing moments to stretch the advantage to 20-7. He went 5-of-8 on the drive, which ended with an 18-yard TD strike to senior wide receiver Josh Revay (Livermore, Calif.) with 30 seconds remaining in the half. A field goal on the final play of the first half enabled William Jewell to pull within 20-10 at the break.
On the Bearcats’ first drive of the second half, Williams caught a wide receiver screen from Metcalf, spun out of one tackle and found a seam down the sideline for his 74-yard touchdown catch to extend the McKendree lead to 26-10. Metcalf dialed long distance again later in the period when he connected with freshman wide receiver Steven Towns, Jr., on a 75-yard scoring toss to build the lead to 33-10 with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
Thompson scored both of his touchdowns in the fourth quarter for McKendree, first on a two-yard run with 10:48 left before finishing the day with a 10-yard scoring burst with just under two minutes on the clock.
Junior linebacker Ricco Gipson, Jr., (Godfrey, Ill./Alton) led the McKendree defense with 11 tackles, while sophomore defensive lineman Shelby Benn (Lansing, Ill./Brother Rice) and junior defensive lineman Michael Smith (Smithton, Ill./Freeburg) each chipped in with seven stops. As a team, the Bearcats registered a season-high 10 tackle for loss.
McKendree will wrap up its home slate next Saturday (Nov. 3) with a Senior Day contest against Missouri S&T. Kickoff for the GLVC contest is set for 1 p.m.