LIBERTY — There’s a reason why the William Jewell football coaching staff was so high on its linebacking corps headed into the new season.
And it didn't take long for the group to prove itself.
A handful of Jewell linebackers led an impressive defensive effort as the Cardinals opened their season with a 29-9 victory over Southwest Baptist in a nonconference contest Saturday, Sept. 7, at Greene Stadium.
For Jewell, it was the first season-opening win since 2014, when the Cardinals also beat Southwest Baptist.
Five of Jewell’s seven leading tacklers were linebackers. Senior linebacker Brock Geisz led the defensive effort with 16 tackles, eight solo, and a sack. Classmate Antonio Wabanimkee tallied 10 tackles and a half sack, while three other linebackers posted seven tackles for the Cardinals — sophomore Zac Bayless, sophomore Cameron McKasson and freshman Mac Bowers. McKasson registered a half sack and a forced fumble.
Jewell cashed in on its first drive of the season, as junior Dalton Dye knocked through a 44-yard field goal with 11:57 left in the first quarter to cap a six-play, 36-yard drive. Early in the second, junior Ishmial Mitchell hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Will Schneider to give the Cardinals an eventual 9-0 halftime lead.
As Jewell’s defense continued to shine in the second half, Schneider, a junior and second-year starter, linked up with Hutchinson Community College transfer Jalik Jaggwe for a pair of scores in the second half, the first a 39-yard connection in the third quarter and the second an 80-yard pass-and-catch to make it 29-2 early in the fourth stanza.
Prior to Jaggwe’s second score, senior Rye’ll Dydell, the Cardinals’ returning leading rusher from last season, found the end zone on a 14-yard run for a 22-2 lead with 4:41 left in the third quarter.
Junior defensive backs Jack Gordon and Gianni D’Arienzo stuffed the stat sheet with 11 and 10 tackles, respectively. D’Arienzo also tallied three pass break-ups. Junior defensive lineman Darren Brown and sophomore linebacker Kole Wagener each had a half sack apiece.
Schneider was 10-for-23 passing for 173 yard and three touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Nick Allsman rushed for 79 yards on 11 attempts, while Schneider added 60 yards on the ground on eight carries.
Southwest Baptist scored its lone touchdown on a Curtis Cuillard 18-yard pass from Justin Wake with 2:38 left in the game. The Bearcats’ first points came on an Asa Carter 98-yard return after intercepting a pass on a two-point conversion attempt.
The Cardinals stay in nonconference play as they welcome in West Texas A&M at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, inside Greene Stadium.
West Texas comes in after winning its opener, 35-16 over Azusa Pacific. The Buffaloes went 6-5 last season and were picked to finish sixth in the Lone Star Conference this preseason.
Additionally, Jewell will recognize the 2019 Hall of Fame class, which will be officially inducted at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at the Mabee Center.
This year’s Hall of Fame class consists of five former student-athletes and two teams — football player Ken Clemens (1991), runner Larry Heaps (‘62), soccer and basketball player Nicole Revenaugh (‘08), baseball player Jeremy Strack (‘08), golfer Tim Wilson (‘92), the 2004 baseball team and the 2006 men’s soccer team.