McKENZIE, Tenn. - After spotting Faulkner a 13-point lead in the first half, 19th-ranked Bethel exploded for touchdowns on its first six possessions of the second half and cruised past the Eagles 62-48 here Saturday night in a Mid-South Conference West Division battle at Wildcat Field.
The Eagles (2-6, 0-4 MSC West) dominated the first two quarters, but only led 20-14 at the break. That's when the Wildcats' running game took charge, pounding Faulkner for 264 yards on the ground and four touchdowns in the final two quarters to race away with the victory.
Nathanial Brooks had 162 yards and a touchdown for Bethel (6-2, 4-1 MSC West), while Cordarious Mann added 120 yards and three scores. The Wildcats gained 492 of their 573 total yards after halftime. Bethel quarterback Wil Masoud complimented the Wildcat ground attack with 257 yards passing and three touchdowns.
The loss overshadowed another masterful offensive performance from Faulkner quarterback Josh Hollingsworth and the receiving corp of Courtney Pete, Chris Kordakis and Demetri Smith. Hollingsworth was 44 of 68 passing for 522 yards and five touchdowns, while the trio of receivers all eclipsed the 120-yard mark in catches. Pete followed up his three touchdown reception mark from last week with four against Bethel and finished with 129 receiving yards. Kordakis had 126 and Smith 123.
Faulkner led 20-14 entering the third quarter, but couldn't keep the pace with the suddenly-explosive Wildcats, who scored 27 points in the third quarter to take a touchdown lead into the final 15 minutes. The advantage ballooned to 21 points midway through the quarter before the Eagles scored the game's final touchdown in a game that lasted three hours and 41 minutes.
The teams combined for 1,244 yards of total offense, the most ever amassed in a Faulkner game. The Eagles ran 103 plays on the night for 671 yards.
Faulkner was in complete command of the opening half, outgaining the Wildcats 319 yards to 81. Brandon Cheatham's 4-yard touchdown run was sandwiched by a pair of Jacob Smith field goals to give the Eagles a 13-0 lead early in the second period. The kickoff following the second Smith three-pointer was returned by Bethel's Brooks 71 yards for a touchdown to pull the Wildcats to within 13-7.
Hollingsworth guided Faulkner 63 yards in eight plays to answer back with his 15-yard strike to Courtney Pete in the corner of the end zone capping the drive. Bethel had its only sustained drive of the half to bring Bethel closer right before the half, with Cordarious Mann scoring from 20 yards out to cut the margin to 20-14.
The Eagles had a chance to add more points in the half's closing seconds. but Hollingsworth's pass into the end zone with 16 seconds left was intercepted.
Faulkner hosts Cumberlands Saturday afternoon at Cramton Bowl, with the kickoff scheduled for 1:30.