Oct. 25 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Freshman QB Chad Smith (Washington, Pa.) threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to sophomore RB Marcus Santini (Seminole, Fla.) with 1:29 to play and the Bethany defense made it stand by forcing two turnovers in the final 68 seconds to give the Bison (2-5, 1-4) a 31-24 victory over visiting Waynesburg (4-3, 1-2) Saturday afternoon at Bison Stadium.
The Bison, who had lost four straight overall and two consecutive games on the final play, took a 3-0 lead to open the game when they covered 61 yards in eight plays to put a 25-yard field goal from freshman Carlos Perdomo (Tampa, Fla./Leto) on the board. Bethany dodged one threat when they forced a Waynesburg fumble at the BC 34, but on the Yellow Jackets’ next possession, QB Brian Dawson fired a 41-yard scoring strike to Ray Hightower for a 7-3 Waynesburg lead.
Bethany’s defense stepped up with two more big plays to halt the next two Yellow Jacket drives. The visitors reached the Bethany five on a completed pass, but senior CB Brandon Zeman (Bridgeville, Pa./Chartiers Valley) forced and recovered a fumble. Waynesburg would drive to the Bison four on their following drive and went for it on fourth and goal. Bethany junior DL John Gyure (Pittsburgh, Pa./Brentwood) broke through and chased Yellow Jacket QB Brad Dawson down for a 21-yard sack to squash the threat.
Using the momentum from their defense, the Bison motored down the field to retake the lead. Smith completed three passes to junior WR Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) for 49 yards during the march, which included a five-yard touchdown toss to finish the drive and put the Green and White in front 10-7.
Waynesburg would answer just before the break to grab a 14-10 lead heading into halftime. Justin Falcon capped off a drive in which he carried six times for 20 yards by going in from a yard out for the score and the four-point Yellow Jacket margin at the intermission.
The Bison, who had scored just three points in the third quarter this season, came out roaring in the second half. An interception by freshman DL Bobby McConnell (Valley Grove, W.Va./Wheeling Park) stopped Waynesburg’s first drive, but the Bison came up empty-handed when they missed a field goal at the other end. Bethany’s next drive started at their own 14, but they needed just five plays to reach paydirt. The big yardage came on a 57-run scamper by freshman RB Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.) and two plays later, Smith hooked up with Santini on a 10-yard scoring pass to place the Bison back in top 17-14.
Another connection from Smith-to-Santini sparked Bethany’s next drive, as a 47-yard pass play between the duo took BC to the Waynesburg two. On the next play, freshman QB Jeff Joyce (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) scored to give the home team a 24-14 advantage with 54 seconds to play in the third quarter.
The 2008 season has not been kind to the Bison and big leads, as they could not protect large margins each of the last two weeks. This advantage would also prove difficult to cling to, as the Yellow Jackets trimmed it to 24-17 midway through the fourth quarter when a 39-yard field goal from Bryan Arbes hit the right upright, but still passed through the goal posts at the 8:27 mark.
On their next possession, the Bison were forced into a punting situation after three plays and then had a fake punt attempt stopped to give Waynesburg the ball at the BC 28. The Yellow Jackets would eventually get the tying score when Dawson snuck in from the one on fourth down to draw his team even at 24 with 4:29 showing on the clock.
Looking another possible last-second decision in the face, the Bison offense turned to Smith. On the winning seven-play, 67-yard drive, the freshman signal-caller was 4-for-5 for 49 yards. The touchdown came on a post to Santini, who juggled the ball while breaking away from a defender. He was finally able to gain control after pinning the ball to the side of his helmet and after pulling it in, dashed down the right sideline for the 26-yard scoring play to give Bethany the 31-24 lead with 1:29 remaining.
The Bison would have to defend their advantage all the way to the final play. A 36-yard kick return after the touchdown gave Waynesburg the ball at the Bison 39. One play later, that drive ended when sophomore LB Tom Kisner (Killingsworth, Conn./Xavier) stripped Falcon of a carry and Mitzen pounced on the loose ball at the Bison 27.
Waynesburg would get one more chance after stopping Bethany three straight times and burning all three timeouts. Taking over at their own 47, the visitors reached the BC 26 with one second to play. But on the final play, Dawson’s pass was intercepted by Mitzen, the fifth Yellow Jacket turnover of the day, and the Bison not only ended their four-game slide this season, but also picked up their first win over Waynesburg since 2001.
Statistically, the teams were very evenly matched. Waynesburg held margins in first downs (19-17) and time of possession (33:52-26:08), but Bethany outgained the visitors 414-396. The Bison passing game had another big day, with Smith completing 21-of-38 for 315 yards, his second 300+ effort in the last three weeks, and three touchdowns. His top targets were Cruse, who caught seven balls for 105 yards and one score, junior TE Jorge Laboy (New York, N.Y./Central Park East) with six catches for 72 yards and Santini, who finished with five receptions for 89 yards and two scores to tie the Bethany single-game record.
On the ground, Walker notched his second 100-yard game of the season with 113 on just 14 carries, a healthy 8.1 yards-per-carry average.
Bethany’s defense had numerous sterling performances, led by junior safety David Abel (Phillipsburg, N.J.) with 14 tackles. Kisner posted a dozen hits, including a sack, and forced a fumble, while Mitzen was all over the stat sheet with nine tackles, two fumble recoveries and one interception. On the defensive line, Gyure turned in a pair of sacks as part of his eight tackles.
Waynesburg’s offense had several individuals post good numbers, led by Dawson under center with 254 passing yards and one TD while adding in a rushing score. A pair of receivers had 100+ yards in the game, including Josh Fisher with nine catches for 100 yards and Hightower with five grabs for 111 yards and a score. Falcon carried the running attack, as he was not stopped for a loss on any of his 38 carries, while churning out 143 yards.
The Bison will try to make it two in a row next Saturday when they host Geneva at Bison Stadium in a 1 p.m. kickoff. The Golden Tornadoes improved to 2-5 on Saturday as well with a 42-19 triumph at Saint Vincent and will be making their first trip to Bethany since 1983.