September, 4 - Bethany, W. Va. - The Bethany College football program is set to open its 116th season when it takes to the road for an opening-season contest against Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.
The contest will mark the first as head coach for Bill Garvey, who took over the reins of the Bison program after serving as offensive coordinator for seven seasons.
“I am extremely excited to get this season going,” remarked Garvey, “as I’m the sure the rest of the team is as well. The guys are looking forward to getting to hit someone in a different color jersey for a change.
“We made it out of camp without any major injuries, and we think we had a good productive camp, but now its time to get out onto the field and show what we can do.”
In Garvey’s first appearance as a head coach, the Green and White will take on a Centre College squad that is coming off a 6-4 season last year.
Meet the Colonels
The Colonels of Center, fresh off their first season in Southern Athletic Association play, return nine defensive starters to go along with seven offensive starters.
On the offensive side of the ball, the biggest key for the Colonels could be the return of junior Heath Haden, who coach Garvey believe is one of Centre’s biggest offensive weapons.
“(Heath) Haden is a very talented athlete,” remarked Garvey of Centre’s signal caller. “In order for us to render him ineffective, we have to keep containment and make him make plays over top.”
Last season, Haden led an offense that averaged 379.2 yards and 25.4 points per contest. Haden himself accounted for almost 2,500 yards of total offense, including 1,973 passing yards and 15 touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball the Bison offense will contend with a defense that gave up just under 23 points per game last season while allowing 370.4 yards per game. However, the Colonels return nine starters on the defensive side of the ball.
“They have a good defensive unit,” said Garvey. “They aren’t overly flashy, but they tackle and do a lot of the fundamentals well.
“Typically what we have seen from them is that they are very well coached. They don’t typically force a lot of mistakes, but they wait for you to make your own and then capitalize.”
Last Time Out
The last time the Bison met the Colonels was the first-ever meeting between the two programs; a game which Centre won, 42-21. During the course of the contest, Centre controlled the line of scrimmage, out-gaining the Bison on the ground by a total of 272-110.
The quarterback play was equal throughout the contest as both Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) and Haden threw two touchdown passes. Grimard connected with Eric Blinn and Marcus D’Aguiar for his scores while Haden threw touchdown passes to Rob Melillo and Jason Osterman.
With the Bison down just a touchdown after the first half, 21-14, the Colonels used their ground game to control the clock, keeping the ball away from the Bison offense and keeping Bethany on the field for 20 of the 30 second half minutes. Centre scored 21 of the 28 second-half points and handed the Bison the 42-21 defeat.
Keys to The Game
According to Coach Garvey, one of the biggest keys to the game will be who can control the game “in the trenches”.
“Last season, we didn’t prove to anyone that we could run the ball or stop the run,” said Garvey. “It’s going to be extremely important for us to win those battles up front on both sides of the ball early in order to establish a solid running game.”
For the Bison, three newcomers; junior Terell Carter (Gaithersburg, Md./Gaithersburg ), sophomore Beau Bertus (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South ), and freshman Zac Yates (Beaver, Pa./Beaver), will join seniors Adam Atwell (Pohatan, Va./Deep Run ) and Evan Sargo (Munhall, Pa./Serra Catholic ) as starters on the offensive front-line.
“I think because we are so young up front, it’s important that we get off on the right foot,” said Garvey. “Our O-line play is going to be a huge key for us, and the quicker we get the line into a comfort zone, the better off we will be”
Control the Tempo
Another key to the game will be who can come out on top in time of possession. “Last season, I don’t think we had one game in which we won the battle of the TOP (time of possession),” claimed Garvey. “We have to be able to establish a ground game and find a way to make them play our style of ball, instead of the other way around.”
With a host of young talent getting the nod to start, or see significant playing time for the Bison on Saturday, Coach Garvey is hoping the handful of seniors on the roster will lead the way.
“Any time you have 10-plus guys who haven’t started for you in the past, take the field in the first game of the season, it is important that the veteran players help to get us out of the gate early and put their teammates in positions that will build confidence over the course of the game.”
One of the leaders that Coach Garvey is expecting to step up is Grimard, who earned First-Team All-Presidents’ Athletic Conference honors last season.
“Matt had possibly the best camp that he has ever had both in throwing the ball and in his decision making,” said Garvey of his Senior QB. “We think that he is ready to step up and lead this team, and we have all the confidence in the world that he, and the other upperclassmen, can show the new guys the way, and lead us to a victory.”