Nov. 3 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany College football team scored first in overtime with a 22-yard field goal, but a one-yard touchdown run by Thomas More quarterback Luke Magness gave the Saints a 13-10 OT win Saturday in a defensive slugfest at Bison Stadium.
The Bison (29.6) and Saints (29.9) entered Saturday’s tilt as the two highest scoring teams in the PAC, but the defenses controlled the day from start to finish. Thomas More’s first drive ended on an interception by BC senior Jeff Joyce (right - Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin), but Bethany could not gain a first down after taking over with good field position and had to punt. The Saints drove into Bethany territory before stalling but a 32-yard field try banged off the right upright and the game remained scoreless through one quarter.
The first points of the day went on the board in a sloppy second quarter. Thomas More used a 23-yard pass to Tony Bell and 32-yard run by Adam Rauch to set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Scootie Middleton to take a 7-0 lead. On Bethany’s next drive, junior QB Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) was picked off at his own 37, but the Bison defense raised up for a big stand. The Saints faced fourth-and-one at the BC 28 and senior safety Simeon Young (Washington, D.C./McKinley Tech) made the big hit to stop Rauch short of the first down and give Bethany possession again.
On their final drive of the half, the Green and White used a short passing attack to put together their best drive of the day. Grimard was 6-for-7 for 35 yards on the 13-play drive that saw Bethany reach the Thomas More 29. But the Bison’s best series of the first half ended on an interception at the goal line. A solid return and Bethany penalty gave TMC a shot from their 41 on the final play of the half, but junior safety Jordan Joyce (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) picked off his third pass in two weeks and the Bison deficit remained 7-0 at halftime.
Bethany was forced to punt on its opening possession of the second half, but the BC defense stepped up again. Senior linebacker Kyle Arrington (Jackson Twp., Ohio/Jackson) intercepted a pass to give Bethany the ball at the Thomas More 38. The Bison drove to the Saints 11, but the turnover bug bit again, as a BC fumble was recovered by the visitors and the Saints had dodged another bullet.
Late in the third quarter, Bethany’s offense started driving again. Two completions and one run by Grimard put the Bison into Saints territory as the third period came to a close. On the fifth play of the fourth quarter, Grimard lobbed an 18-yard touchdown strike to senior WR Marcus D’Aguiar-Alexander (right - Waldorf, Md./Frederick Douglas), which was the longest completion of the day for the Bison. The extra point was true and Bethany had evened the score at 7-7.
The Bison defense came up with another turnover two possessions later that gave BC a chance to take the lead. A TMC fumble was recovered by sophomore cornerback Wyssmy Despagne (Riverdale, Md./Parkdale) at the Saints 32. Bethany’s quest for the go-ahead score was hindered by two penalties and they would be forced to settle for a 35-yard field goal attempt, which sailed wide left. Each team had two possessions in the final four minutes but could not mount a drive and the game carried to overtime.
Bethany had the ball first and a 16-yard run by Grimard on the opening play put BC in prime position for points. A sack on the next play took away some of the momentum and the drive stalled on the four. Freshman kicker Justin Evans (Niles, Ohio/Niles McKinley) booted a 22-yard field goal through the uprights for a 10-7 Bethany lead.
When Thomas More took over, it turned to Luke Magness at quarterback for the first time in the game. A better runner than starter Jensen Gebhardt, his first two carries gave the Saints a first down at the BC 13. A key third down run by Rauch gave the visitors first and goal at the one, but Bethany’s defense tried to make one more stop by stuffing the Saints on the first two attempts. On third down, Magness went off the left side and just got into the end zone before losing the football. After a brief meeting by the referees, a touchdown was signaled and Thomas More had escaped with the win, which gives the Bison four conference losses by a combined 11 points this season.
The Bethany defense gave one of its best efforts in recent memory in the loss. The Saints gained 311 total yards in the game, but just 85 after halftime and the Green and White’s three interceptions was its most in a game since picking off four Saint Vincent aerials in the 2009 season finale. Joyce, the reigning PAC Defensive Player of the Week, was big again with 13 tackles and his fourth interception of the year. Freshman linebacker Larry Kpadehyea (right - Gaithersburg, Md.) was stellar in his first collegiate start with 11 tackles, including three for loss.
Bethany’s offense was highlighted by Grimard. He completed 27-of-44 for 161 yards and one score. After setting three career records (total offense, completions, passing yards) over the last few weeks, the junior signal caller is starting to rewrite single-season standards. He broke the BC seasonal mark for completions with 205, surpassing the previous total of 190 by Jeremy Lacaria in 2002, and with 2,315 passing yards this season, Grimard needs 63 yards next week to break the Bethany record of 2,367 that has stood since Jeff Beer set it in 1980.
The top two wideouts in Saturday’s game also made moves in the Bison record book. With nine receptions, senior Ed Holmes (right - Virginia Beach, Va./Landstown) now has 144 for his career and needs two next week to move to third place all-time at the school. Senior Johnathan Foster (Cumberland, Md./Fort Hill) grabbed eight passes to give him 64 for the year. He will enter next Saturday’s finale eight receptions short of breaking T.J. Parker’s 2006 record of 71 in a year.
Bethany will try close out the season with a win and eclipse some of those records next Saturday when the Bison host Saint Vincent at 1 p.m. The fifth annual “Green Game” between the PAC rivals will be preceded by Senior Day festivities where 21 Bison will be honored before playing in their final game.