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Bethany College

This time last year, Bethany College was abuzz with optimism and high expectations; the Swedes were picked to finish second in the KCAC in the coach’s poll, and third in the media poll in August.  Unfortunately, 2012 turned out to be a perfect storm of unfortunate events for the Swedes football program.  Starting with the last minute departure of all-everything running back Junior Allen, and ending up with a dismal 2-7 KCAC record, and ultimately culminating in the resignation of 6 year head coach Jamie Cruce, to say that there was huge disappointment in Lindsborg in 2012 would be an understatement.

After a two and a half month search for a replacement, the Swedes brought aboard coach Manny Mastakis.  Mastakis brings to Lindsborg a long resume of coaching experience including stints as Head coach at Enka High School in North Carolina, Texas State University and Emporia State University.  He served in numerous other capacities at Capital University in Ohio, Texas Tech, University of Wyoming, Hofstra University, Kansas State University, Barberton High School in Ohio, and, most notably, in 2009, served as the running backs coach and offensive Coordinator of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.  As a collegiate head coach, Matsakis’ record currently stands at 30-26.  Along with his triple shoot offense, Coach Matsakis brings with him an entire new staff of assistants, and an abounding supply of energy and motivation. Players, students, fans and alumni are excited about the change.

So the rebuilding process in Lindsborg has begun.  Matsakis’ three goals going into spring ball were:  “to establish the practice tempo, improve fundamentals, and set up the depth chart for summer training camp.”  Without a doubt, one of Matsakis’ foremost priorities this fall will be radically increasing the output of last year’s #8 ranking offense.  The graduation of Kevin House and Brandon Martino, two of the Swede’s most potent offensive threats will certainly slow that process, but it may be just as well staring fresh with a completely new system.   Most notably returning on offense is first team all KCAC running back Tevis Linnebur from Cherryvale, KS.  Linnebur was the second leading rusher in the conference last year, gaining 1175 yards for an average of 106.8 per game.  Second team all-conference fullback Chad Wollenberg, Hesston, KS returns for the Swedes as well.  Up front, second team all KCAC selection Marcus Bradley from Shreveport, LA returns to anchor the O-line. 

Defensively, two honorable mention all KCAC defensive linemen, Rocky Castro, Santa Fe, TX, and Steven Williams, Huston, TX return to lead the charge up front.  McCracken, KS product Tayler Stull returns at the safety position after earning honorable mention all-conference honors in 2012.

The Swede schedule favors some early success, with the first game down in Texas vs. Southwest Assembly of God.  Then, they return home for a re-match with Avila University. Avila mustered only one win last season, which came via forfeit by CMU.   Avila forfeited two wins themselves for using an ineligible player, including their 35-19 win over Bethany.  Both games should be winnable for Bethany, which would be a great step in the right direction.

As is the case in any rebuild situation, the staff at Bethany is recruiting hard and heavy, looking for talent that matches their new system.  And recruit hard, they have; currently the Swedes list 57 freshmen on their spring roster and have announced 48 new players to the program.  The search is nationwide- the staff is turning over a lot of stones.  The most recent find is 2010 all-GPAC running back from Morningside College, Michael McNulty.  If he can shake off the cobwebs and become that productive again, the one two three punch he could provide with Linnebur and Wollenburg could be tops in the KCAC.

As one would expect, the first year of an entire new system will come with its growing pains.  However, it seems that the staff and players in Lindsborg are intent on accelerating that process as much as possible.  If those plans come to fruition, the Swedes return to the elite of the KCAC will come soon.