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Bettasso Named MSSU Defensive Coordinator

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RELEASE FROM MISSOURI SOUTHERN ATHLETICS:

Joplin, Mo. – Missouri Southern football coach Denver Johnson has announced the hiring of Joplin native and former Lion Joe Bettasso as the Lions' Defensive Coordinator. Bettasso replaces Kenny Evans who recently accepted the Defensive Coordinator position at Rogers High School.
 
"I'm thankful for the opportunity that Coach Johnson has given me," Bettasso said. "I'm excited to be back home and I can't wait to get back to Joplin and get going to work."
 
Bettasso comes to Southern after three seasons at McKendree University where he served as the Bearcats' Defensive Coordinator.
 
The 2017 Bearcats' defense helped the team to a 7-4 record and was led by Austin Weltha who had 129 total tackles with 12.5 for a loss and five interceptions with two sacks. McKendree ranked second in the GLVC in sacks and led the league in interceptions.
 
The Bearcats' 2016 defense ranked among the top units in the Great Lakes Valley Conference once again. For the second year in a row, McKendree led the league in scoring defense, allowing a paltry 18.4 points per outing. The Bearcats also had the conference's top overall defensive squad, giving up just 315.7 yards per contest. As a team, McKendree set a new program record with 53 sacks and ranked among NCAA Division II team leaders in the category. 

Bettasso guided two of the top defensive players in the GLVC during their final seasons in a Bearcat uniform in 2016. Linebacker A.J. Wentland set a school single-season record for the third consecutive year with 145 tackles and became the Bearcats' career leader in stops with 421. For his efforts, Wentland was named the 2016 GLVC Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the second McKendree player in three seasons to capture the honor.

The other McKendree GLVC Defensive Player of the Year, defensive end Lucky Baar (who was the 2014 winner) made his assault on both the McKendree and NCAA record books in 2016. In just nine games, Baar registered 17 1/2 sacks and 21 1/2 tackles for loss, which led the Bearcats. With the final sack of his career, Baar became the NCAA Division II career leader in the category, finishing his playing days with 46 1/2 sacks. He also collected 65 1/2 tackles for loss, which is also a new McKendree program mark. 

Bettasso came to McKendree after spending three years on the coaching staff at Quincy University. Bettasso joined the Hawks' staff as a defensive backs coach before being elevated to the role of defensive coordinator prior to the 2013 season. He was responsible for all facets of the Quincy defensive scheme, including play-calling. Under his leadership in 2014, the Hawks ranked second in Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) in total defense and rushing defense.
 
Before his time at Quincy, Bettasso spent five seasons at McPherson College in Kansas. From 2007-09, He served the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator during that time while also coaching the program's linebackers and defensive backs. Following the 2009 season, Bettasso was promoted to the role of head football coach at McPherson, a position he held for two years before heading to Quincy.
 
In 2010 – Bettasso's first as the head coach at McPherson – he led the Bulldogs to a school-record 10 victories and the program's highest NAIA national ranking at No. 6. He was named as the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) and American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Region 4 Coach of the Year for his efforts. Bettasso guided McPherson to the school's first KCAC championship since 1952 and the program's second NAIA Football Championship Series berth. Ironically, McPherson hosted McKendree in a first-round playoff game that year, with the Bearcats posting a 38-14 win in the meeting. That game marked the Bearcats' final post-season football victory as members of the NAIA. It was also the 200th collegiate coaching win for former McKendree head coach Carl Poelker. 
 
Bettasso began his coaching career as a student assistant and later a graduate assistant coach at his alma mater, Missouri Southern State University. Bettasso was also a four-year letterman as a defensive back with the Lions. He paced Missouri Southern with 8 ½ tackles for loss as a junior in 2004 and followed that with a team-leading two fumble recoveries during his senior season of 2005.  
 
"I'm very excited to have Joe join our staff," Johnson said. "First and foremost, he is an outstanding coach and a great human being. I believe Joe will capitalize on the progress we've made over the past few months, add his flavor to our defense and lead those guys with great passion. It was important to me to find a guy who loved football and not only understood the true challenge that is the MIAA, but was excited to meet that challenge.
 
"The fact he is a Joplin native and an MSSU grad is a bonus. He truly loves his alma mater and is fully in tune with the process we are committed to in building our program. I couldn't have found a better fit. I'm anxious for our players to meet Joe and I think they'll be just as excited to meet him."

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