Wheaton dances past Benedictine at 'homecoming'
Homecoming came a little early this year at Wheaton College.
The Thunder welcomed back former offensive coordinator Josiah Sears as football coach of Benedictine University, handing him a 26-7 loss in his first game in charge of the Eagles program.
"It was a little weird," Sears said, "but once you get in the game and the snap goes, you're just playing football. You're working and you're calling plays -- I call all the plays -- so I don't have time to stop and think about all of that."
"It's always hard facing somebody who was sitting in your camp last year," added Sears' former boss, longtime Wheaton coach Mike Swider. "It's just a hard thing."
Eighth-ranked Wheaton -- which will play a more traditional homecoming game later in the season -- ran off the first 26 points of the game but led just 12-0 at halftime on a couple of Andrew Bowers touchdown passes.
"We just turned the ball over way too many times," said Swider, whose team lost 4 fumbles. "You can't turn the ball over that many times and expect to feel good about it. That leaves a sour taste in your mouth. You just can't do that."
The Thunder (1-0) pulled away midway through the third quarter. Stone Watson took an inside handoff and tore through the middle of the Benedictine defense for a 73-yard touchdown run. Fifty-two seconds later, taking advantage of one of three Eagles turnovers, Chase White caught a 37-yard TD pass from Bowers.
"They kept us in the game," Swider said of the Eagles. "I mean that first half they kept us in the game. And then those two big plays, the long pass and the long run really gave us some breathing room."
The Eagles (0-1) picked up 276 yards passing but only 22 rushing.
"We would have liked to score some more points, get some more yards, all those types of things, but we played a good football team today," said Sears, who renewed a few old acquaintances after the game. "We knew that going in. Obviously, I coached here the last three years, so I know a lot about these guys."
Despite the loss Sears sees good things ahead for his Eagles.
"I really like this team," he said. "We had a good scrimmage, played North Central last week and went neck and neck with them. For the most part of this game, I thought we were with Wheaton as well. They are two top 15 teams in the country. They have a lot of talent, they have a lot of good players. It's tough opening up with one of the best teams in Division III football."
Follow Orrin on Twitter @Orrin_Schwarz