BURNABY — Ethan Beselt had long since stopped counting the days since his last football game.
All the unflappable Simon Fraser Red Leafs’ receiver knew was that it had been a long, long time.
For the record, it was 1,037 days, which within the window of eligibility for an NCAA student-athlete is indeed nothing short of an eternity.
“It was big, just to get back one the field, just to get hit… to be out here playing in an actual game because I have been practicing for so long,” explained the redshirt senior from Kelowna’s Mt. Boucherie Secondary after SFU made its Red Leafs’ debut this past Saturday with a 40-7 loss to the Central Washington Wildcats.
“I’ve just been itching to get out here on the field… to be out here at home, my first game in the new stadium, playing in front of these fans. It felt so good to be back.”
And not only that, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Beselt made his return especially memorable for the 1,435 fans at SFU Stadium by scoring his team’s only touchdown, hauling in a pass from quarterback Justin Seiber for a 61-yard major 1:37 into the second half.
Quite a re-introduction to the sport for Beselt, who came to Simon Fraser as part of its 2017 incoming recruiting class, the final one for former head coach Kelly Bates.
A picture of professional preparation, Beselt saw spot duty as a pure freshman, then came into his own over the next two seasons (2018, 19) under former head coach Thomas Ford, suiting up for a combined 19 games and making 59 catches for 692 yards and two touchdowns.
Yet during the 2020 COVID-cancelled season, Beselt was felled by an ACL injury whose timing was enough that it forced him to miss the entire 2021 campaign.
No one was anticipating the return of No. 4 more than Red Leafs’ head coach Mike Rigell, who in the lead-up to his team’s opener said: “Ethan is all of that and a bag of chips. He has finally come back from all of the surgery and he looks like he did playing when Rysen (John) was here, and Ethan was our No. 2 receiver.”
He’s clearly WR-1 now.
Beselt’s 2022 debut saw him catch four passes for 91 yards and a touchdown, pushing his SFU career totals to 70 catches for 867 yards and three majors.
The most impressive part of all of that?: A 12.4 yards-per-catch average over the course of his career.
All of that has likely made Beselt a marked man this Saturday (6 p.m.) when the Red Leafs head south to Wichita Falls, TX., to open the road portion of its Lone Star Conference season against the Midwestern State Mustangs, a team which received votes in this week’s NCAA Div. 2 national poll.
“We felt great for him today,” Rigell said Saturday of Beselt, whose touchdown helped the home team outscore Central Washington 7-6 over the second half. “He is our go-to guy on offence when you talk about someone who can really play at this level against high-quality (defenders) on the perimeter, where they might look at him and say ‘Hey. He’s not athletically sound enough to play with us’, but he goes out there and shows you that he can play. And he is special.
“We have to keep thinking versatility when it comes to him, putting him in great situations and to get the ball in his hands a lot more. He is every bit of what we ask of every day, showing up and being professional about it… on and off the field.”
After two long seasons spent waiting, Ethan Beselt is determined to make the most of his senior season, and being counted on for his influence both on the field and off is something, that for him, strikes a very dramatic chord.
“That has been something I have tried to be, to be recognized as a leader on this team,” said Beselt, who didn’t start playing football until his 11th grade season at Mt. Boucherie. “Coach Rigell has my back. He knows what I can do and I want to show the young guys what they can do, help them learn the playbook and lead by example.”
Out thanks to Simon Fraser’s manager of sports communications Jacob Hall for this outstanding highlights package (above) from Saturday which features not only the Beselt touchdown, but other impressive plays as well, many referenced in today’s notebook report.
Included are SFU’s Tank Brewster, who in his own return return from injuries, registered a fumble recovery and was able to pressure the quarterback from his defensive end spot; and tight end Aiden Domino, the pure freshman from Vancouver’s Notre Dame Secondary who made his first reception in his first college game.
Said Rigell of Domino: “The good thing about (Domino) is he is physically ready to handle what this looks like. You don’t get many freshmen that are 6-5 and about 250 (pounds) that can handle all of this pound-for-pound, and I am talking junior or senior let alone a freshman.”
THE JERRELL EFFECT
There were so many stories to tell from a Simon Fraser perspective following Saturday’s game.
One that was impossible to miss was the presence of Red Leafs’ cornerback Jerrell Cummings, the former Notre Dame Jugglers standout who is now in his junior campaign atop the hill.
Central Washington was in full command at the half with a 37-0 lead and looked to continue their roll in the second half with its full compliment of offensive weapons.
Yet the statement made by SFU on the Wildcats’ first possession of the third quarter set the tone as the home team held its vaunted visitors without a touchdown en route to a second half in which it outscored the visitors 7-6.
And the player most visible on that opening defensive stand for SFU was its 5-foot-10, 185-pound stand-out.
CWU receiver Darrius Morrison gained 14-yards off a sweep to set up the Wildcats’ first-and-10 at the Red Leafs’ 25-yard line.
On the next play, however, Cummings blitzed his way into the backfield and made a form-perfect open-field solo tackle on Wildcats’ RB-1 Tre’Jon Henderson for a four-yard loss.
Four plays later, with that play’s ripple-effect still being felt, Wildcats’ starting quarterback Quincy Glasper, on a second-and-goal from the SFU 14 yard line, was picked off along the sidelines by Cummings.
“Jerrell is kind of one of those leaders that goes out and proves it every week on defence,” said Rigell. “He could have almost had a second pick, but that (interception) was a great play. It just talks about the resilience in not giving up. We were backed up against wall and then we go make a play.”
SFU’s Saturday foe, the Midwestern State Mustangs, rallied from a 21-7 deficit entering the fourth quarter to defeat Michigan Tech 28-21 in a non-conference game at Wichita Falls, TX.
Melik Owns capped the rally with a dramatic game-winning 52-yard pick-six on a day in which the hosts turned the ball over twice inside the Tech red zone.
Mustangs’ quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole went 20-of-33 for 266 yards with two TD passes and two interceptions.
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