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BETHANY POSTS 42-21 HOMECOMING WIN OVER THIEL

Oct. 10 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Sophomore RB Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.) scored four touchdowns and sophomore QB Chad Smith (Washington, Pa.) and senior WR Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) each set records in the Bethany football team’s 42-21 victory over Thiel Saturday.

The Homecoming triumph improved BC to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in the PAC, while the Tomcats fall to 2-4 and 1-2.

Bethany had two impressive drives to open up a 14-0 first quarter lead. The Bison were pinned back at their five by a Thiel punt, but motored 95 yards in 14 plays for the opening touchdown. Smith went 6-for-7 on the drive for 74 yards, including three completions to Cruse covering 57 yards and Walker punched it in from the one for a 7-0 advantage.

The Bison defense forced a fumble for the first of four Tomcat turnovers to end a Thiel drive at the Bethany 13. Smith would go a perfect 5-for-5 on the ensuing possession for 71 yards. That included a 34-yard touchdown strike to Cruse in the back of the end zone as the senior wideout dragged his back foot for the catch and the extra point gave the Green and White a 14-0 cushion.

Early in the second quarter, Bethany’s defense set up another score. A pass by Thiel QB Willie Bova was deflected and picked off by freshman LB Will Powell (Virginia Beach, Va../Landstown) at the Tomcat 41. On the next play, BC went to their bag of tricks to go the distance for the next score. Smith took the snap and laid the ball down on the ground to the left of center and while most of the Bison pulled right, freshman WR Marcus D’Aguiar (Waldorf, Md./Frederick Douglas) came left, scooped up the pigskin and raced down the sideline to turn the Fumblerooskie into a 41-yard touchdown and a 21-0 Bethany lead.

Thiel jumped on the scoreboard for the first time with their next drive, going 66 yards in nine plays and finding paydirt on a five-yard touchdown run by Ross Gargano. Bethany would end the half in a big way by scoring on their final possession. Smith hit Cruse for 28 yards and D’Aguiar for 19 to start the drive and after the QB picked up a first down on fourth-and-five by running for seven yards, Walker bulled into the end zone from four yards away for a 28-7 Bethany lead at intermission.

The margin was very familiar to Bison fans, as BC led 28-7 at the break last year in Thiel, only to see the Tomcats storm back to force overtime and pull out the win. This year, Bethany put the Homecoming crowd at ease by taking the second half kickoff and covering 65 yards in 10 plays for their fifth score of the day. Smith was the trigger to the drive again, hitting 6-of-8 pass attempts for 57 yards, including a six-yard scoring toss to Walker to extend Bethany’s lead to 35-7.

The scores came fast and furious for the next few minutes. Three plays after the kickoff, one of which was a 56-yard connection from Bova to Brandan Taylor, Thiel scored on a four-yard carry by Dan Hess to make it 35-14. The Tomcats tried an onside kick, which was recovered by Bethany at the TC 46. Three plays later, the Bison were looking at a fourth-and-one and went for it. Walker took the handoff and blew through the line and raced 37 yards to the end zone for his fourth score of the day and a 42-14 Green and White lead.

The Tomcats would close the scoring on a Gargano one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, but the Bison capped the game with a drive that drained 8:32 off the clock following the score to wrap up their first win over Thiel since 2002.

It was a solid day in all phases for Bethany, whose 583 yards of total offense was their highest since the 2007 season finale at Washington & Jefferson. Smith completed 37 passes in 48 attempts for 373 yards and two scores. The 37 completions set a new Bethany single-game record and the 373 yards was the fifth-highest.

Cruse was the top target on the day, hauling in 12 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown. Already the school’s all-time TD reception leader (23), his huge effort Saturday gives him 2,276 receiving yards for his career, eclipsing the previous Bethany record of 2,141 set by T.J. Parker. He also now has 153 catches to rank second behind only Parker’s 175.

The other star effort was turned in by Walker, who rushed for 126 yards and three TDs on 24 carries while adding in the scoring catch. In just his sophomore season, Walker has already climbed into a tie for fourth place on the school’s all-time touchdown list with 21.

Bethany’s defensive effort was highlighted by senior CB Michael Salters (McKees Rocks, Pa./Sto-Rox) making 11 solo tackles. The PAC’s leading tackler coming into the game, senior FS Matt Dahle (McKees Rocks, Pa./Sto-Rox), made just five stops in the game, but forced and recovered a fumble and broke up two passes with jarring hits. In addition to Powell, senior SS Nelson Mitzen (Waynesburg, Pa./Waynesburg Central) and freshman CB Brett Molanick (McKeesport, Pa./South Allegheny) each picked off a pass.

The Bison will try to even their record overall and in the conference next Saturday when they host Westminster, who pulled out a 49-42 overtime thriller at Waynesburg Saturday. Kickoff at Bison Stadium is set for 1:30 p.m.