HUGE FOURTH QUARTER PROPELS BETHANY TO 41-21 VICTORY
BETHANY, W.Va. – Freshman RB Marcus Santini (Seminole, Fla.) had two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, as the Bethany College football team scored 20 unanswered points in the final period to come away with a 41-21 victory over visiting Westminster (Pa.) College Saturday afternoon.
The win broke a four-game losing streak by the Bison and raised their record to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the PAC. Saturday was the third straight loss for the Titans, who now have the same overall and conference records as BC.
The opening three quarters were a see-saw battle between the teams. Bethany struck first on their opening possession, as they marched 66 yards in nine plays. Santini had a 26-yard scoring run called back because of a holding penalty midway through the drive, but the Bison rebounded to find the end zone on an 11-yard scoring run by Joyner, which was just the start of a huge day by the Bethany signal caller.
However, a trend would be established on Westminster’s next possession, as they answered the BC touchdown with one of their own. Titan QB Kevin Franz sparked the 10-play, 67-yard drive by going 5-for-6 for 59 yards, including a 20-yard scoring pass to RB Chad Rosatelli to even the score at 7-7.
Bethany’s first drive in the second quarter saw them reclaim the lead. Starting at their own 15, BC needed nine plays to reach the 50, but needed just three plays from there to find the end zone. Joyner threw a 20-yard pass to junior WR Taylor McNeil (Old Saybrook, Conn.) to reach the 30, but Joyner fumbled the next snap and recovered at the Titan 32. The senior QB regrouped on the next play to find McNeil for a 32-yard scoring strike to put the Green and White back on top 14-7.
Just before halftime, the Titans would draw even again. Following an 11-yard run from RB Nick McKolosky to open the drive, Franz tossed a 39-yard pass to WR Brett Ziegler into BC territory, then threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Rosatelli to pull the Titans into a 14-14 tie heading into halftime.
Neither team was able to score on their initial possession of the second half, but the Bison moved in front again the next time they touched the ball. The majority of the 80-yard scoring drive was covered on a 62-yard hookup between Joyner and sophomore WR Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) that took the Bison to the Titan four. On the next play, Joyner flipped a pass to Santini in the flat and the freshman back took it in from four yards out to make it 21-14.
Once again, Westminster would respond with a tying score on their ensuing possession. Franz’s arm again led the way, as he hit all three of his pass attempts for 40 yards and when the Titans reached the Bison one, he bulled in for the touchdown to match the Bison at 21-21 heading into the final 15 minutes.
Coming into the Westminster game, Bethany has been outscored 42-17 in the fourth quarter so far this season. But Saturday’s contest was a completely different story, as Bethany excelled in all phases of the game to come away with the win. A 13-play, 65-yard drive that began late in the third quarter was capped in the fourth when Joyner scored his second touchdown of the game on the ground, this time from three yards out, to put BC in the lead by a 27-21 score after the Titans blocked the extra point.
This time, there would be no answer from Westminster. On the second play following the kickoff, Franz fumbled the ball trying to hand off and BC sophomore DT Dan Gigler (Pittsburgh, Pa./Shaler) pounced on the loose ball at the Bethany 47. It wouldn’t take long for the Bison to take advantage, as on the very next snap, Santini burst over the right side and won a foot race to the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown that swelled BC’s lead to 34-21 with 8:58 to play.
Needing a score to get back into the game, the Titans moved into Bethany territory, but the drive was snuffed out when sophomore CB Ariel Ramirez (West Hempstead, N.Y.) picked off a Franz pass at the Bison 30. Westminster’s next drive would also end on an interception. After being pinned deep in their own territory by a BC punt, Franz was nearly sacked for a safety. He managed to escape but his aerial was hauled in by Bethany sophomore FS Nelson Mitzen (Waynesburg, Pa./Waynesburg Central) for his first career INT to give the Bison the ball at the Titan 30.
Santini would then add the exclamation point on the next play, as he ripped through a hole on the left side and bolted 30 yards for the touchdown that capped Bethany’s first win over Westminster since a 24-0 shutout in 2001.
The highlights for the Bethany offense on this day were numerous, as they rolled up 504 total yards. Joyner was the trigger man for the offense all day, as he completed 26-of-35 passes for 321 yards and two scores. The 26 completions are the third-most in a game by a Bison quarterback in history and the 321 passing yards are the most since Jeremy Lacaria had 345 in a game against the College of Wooster (Ohio) in 2002.
In addition to reaching double figures in touchdown passes with 10 on the season, Joyner’s two rushing TDs keep him tied for the team lead (five) with Santini, who had his second 100-yard game of the season. He carried 18 times for 122 yards and a pair of scores, while also adding a third touchdown on a reception. Santini’s efforts were complimented by freshman RB Nick Czapor’s (Liberty Boro, Pa./South Allegheny) 50 yards, as the Bison piled up 183 on the ground Saturday.
Bethany’s receiving corps also turned in stellar days. Cruse had 133 yards on 12 receptions, the second-most receptions in BC single-game history. McNeil finished the day with eight catches for 140 yards, both career-highs, and one TD, as the Bison scored their most points against Westminster since a 56-0 victory over the Titans all the way back in 1920.
The Green and White’s defensive efforts were spearheaded by senior LB Kellen Lieb (Farmington, Pa./Uniontown), who made 12 tackles. Mitzen finished with nine hits and the INT, while senior LB Bill Wineberg (Pittsburgh, Pa./Shaler) totaled seven tackles, including 1.5 for loss.
Westminster’s offense also put up solid numbers on the day, as Franz threw for 270 and a pair of TDs. Ziegler was his top target, pulling down seven balls for 105 yards, while McKolosky collected 126 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Defensively, LB Jordan Blinn notched 11 stops.
The Bison will return to action next Saturday when they host Thomas More (Ky.) College. Bethany will be gunning for their second straight victory over the Saints after they scored a 21-17 win on the road last season. Kickoff at Bethany Field is scheduled for 1 p.m.