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BETHANY CLOSES OUT HOME SCHEDULE SATURDAY AGAINST W&J

Nov. 4 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany football team will celebrate Senior Day this Saturday, as they host Washington & Jefferson in the final home game for 20 Bison seniors. Kickoff against the Presidents is set for 1 p.m.

The Bison (2-6, 1-4) are glad to be home following a pair of tough road games at Waynesburg and last week against Geneva. In the 54-21 setback to the Golden Tornadoes, Bethany was behind 14-0 late in the second quarter when Geneva exploded for 26 points before halftime to take a 40-0 lead to the break. The Bison scored all three of their touchdowns in the final quarter, with the final one coming on a one-yard run by sophomore RB Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.), his 10th rushing score of the year to tie the Bethany single-season record.

While the score got away from the Bison for the second consecutive week, head coach Tim Weaver said there was quite a bit different about the setbacks to Waynesburg and Geneva.

“I know the scoreboard said basically the same thing last week as the Waynesburg game, but we were much more competitive against Geneva,” said Weaver. “It was 14-0 with about four minutes left in the half and we had a string of plays that went against us. But after that, we settled back down and competed in the second half. If you look at it, we allowed a little over 300 yards on 62 plays, but gave up 245 on another five. Obviously you can’t take those five plays back and you can’t allow those kinds of gains, but it was better than the Waynesburg game when they just took big chunks of yards almost every play.

“College football is a game of turnovers and big plays,” said Weaver. “We’ve been good at avoiding those, but they jumped up and got us Saturday. In addition to those five big gains, we committed all four turnovers in the first half, which will get you in a big deficit against any good team.”

This has been the year of the freshmen at Bethany and first-year players’ work at linebacker and wide receiver are especially noteworthy. All three starting linebackers for the Bison are freshmen, with Kyle Arrington (Jackson Twp., Ohio/Jackson) making 51 tackles so far in the middle, Willis Powell (Virginia Beach, Va./Landstown) collecting 33 stops, one sack and one interception on one side and J.J. Stoken (Brownsville, Pa.) making 28 hits, including four for loss, on the other side.

“I’ve never had all three starting linebackers be freshmen in my 20 seasons of coaching,” said Weaver. “Ideally you want to recruit three or four good linebackers every year, because some will grow into lineman and others may move to fullback because they are traditionally some of the better players on the roster. Kyle and J.J. are strong, physical players and Willis gives you legitimate speed on the edge. All three have responded to the challenge and are watching film and working hard to get better every day.

“And with the freshmen at receiver, we really like how we’re developing on that side of the ball,” said Weaver. “With a sophomore at quarterback, a sophomore at running back and four freshmen receivers who have caught 92 passes this year combined, we are creating a good, solid base.”

The Bison freshmen get another healthy test this week with a match-up against W&J, ranked #15 in this week’s AFCA poll and #23 in the D3Football.com poll. The Presidents are in unfamiliar territory, coming in off a 14-7 loss last week at home against Thomas More, which clinched the second straight PAC title for the Saints. W&J held Thomas More to 237 total yards, but the Presidents were limited to only 155 yards and committed three turnovers. That loss means Weaver and his Bison team is looking at a focused opponent which needs to win their final two games to have any chance at an at-large bid to the NCAA playoffs.

“Thomas More didn’t do us any favors by putting them in a must-win situation,” said Weaver. “We saw how business-like they can be last year when they were in a similar situation for our game down there (W&J won 54-7). They didn’t need any extra motivation, but we know they won’t be in a good mood when they get here.”

This year’s W&J team has a different look than years past, when they have relied on a high-octane offense. This year it’s the W&J defense that ranks as one of the top units in the nation. They are ranked fifth nationally in yards allowed with 222.75 per game and eighth in scoring defense at 10.6. With 30 sacks for the year, they are also tops in the PAC and fifth in the country with 3.75 per game. Defensive end Jacob Bloomhuff leads the W&J pass rush with 11.5 sacks, second in the nation, and the team has forced 19 turnovers this year.

“As good as Thomas More’s defense was last year and Waynesburg’s two years ago, they might be the best I’ve seen in my four years in the PAC,” said Weaver. “They have real good players at every level, are well-coached, physical and play hard. They don’t give you anything, so you have to make plays to beat them.”

Most teams would be ecstatic to have the type of year the Presidents are having offensively, as they are still third in the PAC in scoring (32.6) and feature a balanced attack with 161 rushing yards per game and 211 through the air. They have two quarterbacks in Gino Rometo (1,168 yds., 13 TDs) and Steven Shumaker (523 yds., two TDs) who have seen significant time this year, a big target at wide receiver in Craig Besong (65 receptions, 780 yards, six TDs) and a pair of solid running backs in Terrence McAllister (466 yds., four TDs) and Derek Taylor (355 yds., two TDs).

“They have done a good job offensively adjusting to life without Bobby Swallow at quarterback,” said Weaver. “They are more balanced with the two backs McAllister and Taylor doing a nice job. Throwing to Besong is like throwing to an offensive tackle because he’s so big. And like every year, they have the best offensive line in the PAC.”

Recovering off back-to-back lopsided losses with a game against a Top 25 team is a tall order for any program. But Weaver says his squad continues to learn every day and is accepting of the challenge in trying to beat a team of W&J’s caliber Saturday.

“We’ve only had two or three really awful performances since we’ve been here and one of those was against Waynesburg,” said Weaver. “I liked how we came back last week to compete and work hard. Our guys are still coming to practice every day to get better and we have a good group of guys going forward. We know coming in they need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Our goal is to make that as difficult as possible and try to beat them to keep them out of the playoffs.”