The Kenyon football team opened the 2023 campaign with a high-scoring loss to Bluffton University on Saturday. A slow first half put the Owls down early, and they dropped the game 51-35.
After graduating 18 seniors and losing four All-NCAC honorees to graduation and transfers, Kenyon welcomed a slew of new first-years. Head Coach Ian Good acknowledged that struggles could arise from the team’s youth and difficulties with filling positions. “We are dealing with depth issues at almost every position and we have 26 first-years that are being put in positions where they have to play,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “We need some guys to grow up quickly and that can be hard to do.” Despite the potential challenges, Good is excited about the opportunity the new season brings: “[W]e have a young team so it will be fun to watch how our veterans handle such a young group and how we come together as a team throughout the fall.”
On Saturday, the Owls overcame their relative inexperience and started the game on the right foot. After the defense forced Bluffton to punt twice, the offense broke through on Kenyon’s second possession. Running back Jordon Benjamin ’26 led the way for the Owls, rushing for 31 yards to put Kenyon in favorable field position. Quarterback Henry Wendorf ’27 connected with Dylan Carlquist ’26 to put the Owls on the board, then took the ball into the endzone himself for the two-point conversion.
Unfortunately for Kenyon, Bluffton took over for the rest of the first half. The Beavers relied on a relentless air attack, with quarterback Xavier Reyero putting Bluffton on the board with a 67-yard touchdown pass. The Beavers’ aerial onslaught continued as Reyero tacked on four more passing touchdowns to give Bluffton a 35-8 lead at halftime.
Kenyon returned from the break with a vengeance despite facing a 27-point deficit. Taking advantage of a costly Beavers turnover at their own 11-yard line, Drake Lewis ’25 opened third-quarter scoring with a rushing touchdown. Another turnover on downs from Bluffton put the ball back in Kenyon’s hands at the 23-yard line, and the Owls capitalized on 20 yards of penalties from the Beavers to cut the deficit to 13 points.
Bluffton started the fourth quarter with a touchdown to take a 42-22 lead with nearly 14 minutes to play. Wendorf and the Kenyon offense responded with a three-play scoring drive, capped off by a 28-yard touchdown pass to Diego Luna ’27. Trailing by just two scores with 13 minutes to play, Kenyon faltered. A safety from the Owls and Reyero’s seventh passing touchdown of the day put the game out of reach for Kenyon.
For Good, the team’s struggles in the first half loomed large. “We need to continue to get off to a good start and sustain it through the first half,” he said. “We are a great second half team, but need to stay out of deep holes early on to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Benjamin, who led the team with 91 rushing yards, highlighted Kenyon’s failure to perform in key situations as a driving force in the loss. “Ultimately, there were times when we had chances to score or do things that could’ve possibly changed the momentum of the entire game but we didn’t execute properly, which proved to not work in our favor,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “Sometimes in football, it becomes so easy to just get caught up in the moment where you want to be that person that just does everything and is able to rack up stats, but that isn’t [what] football [is] or how games are won.”
Andrew Canonico ’25, whose seven total tackles paced the team, highlighted limiting splash plays from the opposition as a goal for the defense. “[I]f we can minimize the amount of big plays that result in touchdowns our defense will take off,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “We are still finding our feet early on in the season and Bluffton showed us that there will never be any easy wins in this league.”
Kenyon will host Kalamazoo College (Mich.) for its home opener on Saturday. Canonico is confident that the team can take the necessary steps to find success against the Hornets: “I am looking forward to a hard-fought game against Kalamazoo where our offense, defense and special teams work in conjunction to win our first home game this year.”
Benjamin is excited for the game against Kalamazoo as well as the rest of the season. “As a team, our goal should be to strive for nothing short of perfection in whatever it is we do,” Benjamin said. “[A]s long as we can understand that the season — much like a game — isn’t over until it’s over, and understand that it won’t by any means be easy, then we’ll be fine.”