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Oct. 31 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Coming off a thrilling 31-24 victory over Waynesburg last weekend, the Bethany football team (2-5) will try for its second consecutive win Saturday when they host Geneva (2-5) in a 1 p.m. kickoff at Bison Stadium.

The Bison snapped a four-game losing streak last Saturday when freshman QB Chad Smith (Washington, Pa.) fired a 26-yard scoring pass to sophomore RB Marcus Santini (Seminole, Fla.) for the go-ahead score with 1:29 to play. Bethany would secure the victory by forcing two Waynesburg turnovers in the final 68 seconds, concluding a day in which the BC defense forced five turnovers.

Smith threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns to lead the offense, while junior FS Nelson Mitzen (Waynesburg, Pa./Waynesburg Central) earned PAC Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording nine tackles, two fumble recoveries and one interception. After suffering consecutive losses on the last play of the game the previous two weeks, Saturday was a huge victory for the Bison.

“Saturday’s win had two parts and one was that it was a huge, much-needed win for the team,” said Bethany head coach Tim Weaver. “It was a big step forward for us and we really didn’t do anything different other than make plays in the fourth quarter when we needed them to win. “It was also a big win for the program,” said Weaver. “We needed to beat an upper-echelon team in the PAC to show how far we’ve come. It also shows the character of our guys and the belief they have in each other.”

Junior WR Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) also enjoyed a big day for the Bison, as he caught five passes for 107 yards and a five-yard touchdown in the first half. Even with more than a season to go, the 6-3, 195–pound wideout continues to move his way to the top of the receiving records at the school. He moved into fourth place on the all-time reception list at BC with 124 and needs just three more to vault past Troy Costain (126 from 1985-88) for third place. In addition, with 1,849 yards, he is 11 yards away from moving into fourth place ahead of Zack Merz (1,859 from 2001-04).

The Waynesburg triumph was Bethany’s first since 2001, but that stretch is small compared to how long it has been since a Bison victory over Geneva. That last occurred in 1973 when BC nipped the Golden Tornadoes 15-14. The teams have only played three times since then, including a match-up last year in Beaver Falls, Pa., which was won by Geneva 28-13. Cruse had an 11-yard scoring reception and senior WR Taylor McNeil (Old Saybrook, Conn.) caught a 21-yard scoring pass, but the GT’s, who out-gained Bethany 439-284 in the contest, put the game away on a six-yard scoring run by Luke Duriancik with 1:37 to play.

This year, Geneva, who has played two ranked Division III opponents and one ranked DII program, comes into their tilt with Bethany with an identical record and also coming off a much-needed victory. On the road at Saint Vincent last week, the GT’s saw a 28-point lead cut to nine early in the fourth quarter, but Geneva scored twice in the final 5:25 to wrap up the win. Geneva’s defense scored TDs on fumble and interception returns, while QB David Girardi threw for 204 yards and two scores while adding in a rushing touchdown.

Although Geneva features the top passing defense in the PAC (147.7), they are ranked eighth in the conference in rushing yards allowed (206.9). The top playmakers on that side of the ball for the GT’s are at linebacker, with Zach Feltrop tied for fourth in the PAC with 62 tackles so far and Aaron Tommelleo, who returned a fumble 80 yards for a score against Saint Vincent, ranking 15th with 46 hits.

“Geneva presents a different set of problems from other teams with their three-down, 33-stack operation,” said Weaver. “Our goal every week offensively is to establish the running game and be balanced and this week will be no different. We’ll try to come out and run it and if we get it going, we’ll stay with it. However, they received a big boost last week when Brian Wilson (DE who missed three games) came back. He really changes things and is one of those guys on third down, you can everything right, but if you don’t account for him, the play blows up.”

On the other side of the ball, Geneva is ranked eighth in the circuit in total offense (289.9). Girardi is in his first year as a starter under center and has thrown for 1,142 yards and seven touchdowns, with his favorite target being TE Adam Chatlos with 20 grabs for 237 yards. The key to their offense may be their three solid running backs in Gerard Muschette (385 yards, 4 TDs), Matt Barge (308 yds., 1 TD), who is coming off a 106-yard effort against Saint Vincent, and Matt Dean (279 yds., 5 TDs), who ran for 102 yards and scored a touchdown in last year’s win over Bethany. Weaver believes his team will have to deal with the trio of backs quite a bit Saturday.

“I expect to see a lot of Muschette, Barge and Dean and also a lot of their tight end,” said Weaver. “They are a lot like Grove City with two distinct offenss. They have a Wing-T package and a Spread Pistol look, which makes them very difficult to prepare for. When you can hand the ball to three guys who can gain yards, it can really open things up for play-action, which they’ve had success with this year.”

Big plays could turn the tide tomorrow, as the Bison are always looking for opportunities to gain big yardage. Meanwhile Geneva’s victory last week was sparked by the two defensive touchdowns, as well as five plays offensively which gained 20+ yards.

“With our players, especially with Chad’s ability to throw downfield, and Geneva being athletic and willing to take chances, we have the potential for big plays,” said Weaver. “And they won the Saint Vincent game on big plays, which is something we want to make sure we eliminate and make them execute.”