Bethel was a Mid-South Conference power for a decade, making the NAIA playoffs and the top-25 poll regularly in recent years.
Then there’s 2013. The Wildcats are rebuilding at 2-7 going into today’s 1:30 p.m. game against Cumberland at Nokes-Lasater Field.
“They lost several good players from last year – their quarterback, their running back, a couple of receivers,” Cumberland coach Donnie Suber said. “They’re kind of like we are. They’re banged up right now. They were on their third quarterback and they got their second-string quarterback back, he’s going to play against us.
“They’re struggling, but they’re also young, too. At this time of year, everybody is banged up a little bit.”
Bethel is coming off a 58-7 loss to Faulkner and a 35-24 setback to Pikeville. The Wildcats had won two straight prior, beating Reinhardt 41-25 to break an 0-5 start and Bluefield 41-25.
“Defensively, they’re pretty good,” Suber said. “They’ve given up some points, but it’s been against some good teams. We’re going to have to play hard to compete Saturday.”
Cumberland is coming off a 24-19 loss at Campbellsville last Saturday, dropping the Bulldogs to 4-4 for the season and 1-2 in the Mid-South Conference West Division.
“We had way too many penalties on both sides,” Suber said of last week. “They actually kicked off to us from the 35-yard line, which I’d never seen before. We played well on defense, played decent on offense. Turned the ball over too many times. We threw a pick-six, we had two fumbles coming out, which gave them short field position. Those are things we got to clean up.
“We just got to come out and play our game this week.”
Today is Cumberland’s last chance to make an impression on the home fans before the Bulldogs go on the road for their final two games. Twenty-three seniors will play their final home game in a CU uniform. In addition, four fourth-year junior receiver Dillon Kirkham, defensive back Clayton Anderson, offensive lineman Josh Workman, defensive lineman Sam Andrade and former Mt. Juliet running back Michael Nwokoji, who is out for the season with a foot injury which will require surgery, will also be in their final home game as they are on the verge of graduating despite having remaining eligibility.
“It should be an exciting day if we show up and play like we’re capable of playing and cut out some of the mental mistakes with the penalties and busts,” Suber said.
As for injuries, defensive tackle Simon Moriarty played about 25-30 snaps last week despite a cracked rib and a bad back. Linemate Devin Guthrie reinjured his shoulder last Saturday but had a shot on Tuesday, Suber said. Safety Anthony Knight was injured last week and hadn’t practiced during the week.