WELLINGTON —A promising start did not lead to a successful conclusion for the Concordia Panthers.
Concordia got an interception by Ethan Bechard on Wellington’s first possession of the game, and marched 54 yards in 15 plays to grab a 6-0 lead.
The Panthers, hampered by three second half turnovers, would not score again as Wellington reeled off 27 straight points on its way to a 27-6 victory Friday night.
Wellington scored on three consecutive possessions to go up 20-6 at halftime.
Looking to get back into the game, the Panthers fumbled three times in the second and Wellington turned one of those into a touchdown on its way to improving to 2-0 on the season.
“It kept us from getting back in the game. We turned it over three times,” Concordia coach Tim Lambert said.
Bechard gave Concordia the early opportunity when he intercepted a Trevor Nance pass and returned it to the Panthers’ 46-yard line with 10:02 to play in the first quarter.
Concordia ran 15 plays, all rushes to move 54 yards.
The Panthers converted twice on fourth down.
Kaleb Pounds, filling in for the injured Drake Hake, picked up 10 yards on a fourth-and-one, and then gained seven yards on a fourth-and-four.
Quarterback Zach Kyle finished off the drive with a 1-yard run with 2:02 to play in the first period.
The two-point conversion attempt failed, but Concordia led 6-0.
The Panthers were without starters Hake, the leading rusher in the North Central Kansas League last year, and Skyler Hittle because of injuries.
“They are starters. You are just not as good,” Lambert said, “I thought Kaleb Pounds did a good job. He is just going to get better.”
Pounds finished with 33 yards on 13 carries.
Wellington answered the Concordia score with a six play, 78-yard scoring drive.
Austin Dunn picked up 45 yards on four carries.
Connor Phelps scored on a 24-yard run on the final play of the first quarter.
Colin Reichenberger kicked the extra point to put the Crusaders up 7-6.
Wellington forced a Concordia punt, and Reichenberger returned it to the Panther 37-yard line.
The Crusaders overcame a holding penalty, and scored on a 1-yard run by Nance with 5:40 remaining in the half.
The extra point attempt was not good.
Concordia moved to Wellington territory on its next possession, but on a fourth down and three, Pounds was stopped for no gain.
A 22-yard pass from Nance to Andrew Horn gave Wellington the ball inside the Panthers 30-yard line.
The Crusaders scored six plays later on a 5-yard run by Phelps.
Reichenberger kicked the extra point to make it 30-0 with 57 seconds to play in the first half.
Jace Coppoc nearly broke the second half kickoff for Concordia to start the second half, but fumbled the ball, and Wellington recovered at its own 46-yard line.
Concordia got a defensive stop, but a fumbled snap gave the ball back to the Crusaders.
The Panthers got the ball back when Pounds intercepted a Nance pass.
Concordia turned the ball over on downs, forced a punt, and then turned it over on a fumbled handoff.
Taking over on the Panther 29-yard line, the Crusaders took six plays to score.
Facing a fourth down and 19, Nance threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Phelps.
The extra point made it 27-6 with 9:04 to play in the game.
“We are just not consistent enough. It is tough to get anything going when you are not as consistent as you need to be,” Lambert said.
Neither team would score the rest of the way.
Concordia finished with 142 yards of offense, all on the ground.
Shea Crum carried 12 times for 60 yards, and Karter Steinle had 36 yards on 12 carries.
After putting up over 270 yards of passing in a season opening win over Goddard, the Crusaders rushed for 243 yards and threw for 81.
Dunn finished with 146 yards on 22 carries.
“He gave us some problems. If you got him early you were all right, but if you let him get a head of steam he was pretty tough,” Lambert said.
Phelps added 91 yards on 13 carries.
Concordia, after playing two consecutive road games, hosts Wamego (2-0) in the league opener on Friday night.