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BETHANY RALLY FALLS SHORT IN 31-28 LOSS

Oct. 17 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Although two fourth quarter touchdowns trimmed a 17-point deficit to three, the Bethany football team could not complete the comeback and the Bison fell by a 31-28 count Saturday to visiting Westminster at blustery Bison Stadium.

The teams spent the early stages of the first quarter swapping turnovers. Bethany (2-4, 1-3) forced the Titans (3-3, 2-2) to punt on their first possession, but fumbled the kick and Westminster had possession at the BC 20. Four plays later, Bison senior FS Matt Dahle (McKees Rocks, Pa./Sto-Rox), who fumbled the punt, made amends by causing a fumble that was recovered by freshman LB Will Powell (Virginia Beach, Va./Landstown) at the Bison seven to stop the threat.

Bethany would be forced to punt on their drive and on the second play after getting the ball back, Titan QB Kevin Franz hit Justin Morgano, who went 35 yards to the end zone for a 7-0 Titan lead. Another short field led to more Westminster points early in the second quarter. Following a Bethany punt, the Titans started at the BC 35 and reached the 20 before settling for a 37-yard field goal by Trevor Young to increase their lead to 10-0.

On their ensuing possession, the Bison started to get a drive going, but a pass by sophomore QB Chad Smith (Washington, Pa.) was picked off by Westminster’s Mario Camerota, who ran it back to the Bethany 23. Four plays later, Titan QB Shawn Lehocky snuck in from the one to swell the Green and White deficit to 17-0.

Just before halftime, Bethany pieced together their initial scoring drive of the day. A Bison drive of six-plays, 58 yards, aided by a 14-yard completion from Smith to freshman WR C.J. Thomas (Jacksonville, Fla./University Christian) and a pass interference call against Westminster, ended when Smith flipped a pass to freshman RB Deroderic Brown (Green, Ohio) for a nine-yard touchdown. The extra point was wide, leaving BC in a 17-6 hole going into halftime.

The Bison got the ball to start the third quarter, but any hopes for a fast start to the second half were dashed on the second play when Smith was intercepted by Joe Ross, who brought it back to the Bethany 40. Seven consecutive runs after a Titan penalty took the guests inside the Bethany 10 and then Lehockey tossed a seven-yard scoring pass to a diving Chad Rosatelli for a 24-6 Westminster advantage.

BC answered right back when they took possession. They converted three third downs, including a 15-yard hook-up between Smith and freshman WR Johnathan Foster (Cumberland, Md./Fort Hill) on a third-and-10 to take the ball to the goal line, and sophomore RB Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.) bulled in from the one for the score. The two-point conversion pass from Smith to senior WR Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) was complete to slice the Westminster lead to 24-14.

The Titans wasted little time in responding. Lehocky threw passes of 17 and 12 yards to Morgano before taking off on a 28-yard run. The next play, he handed to Nick McKolosky, who churned six yards into the end zone and it was once again a three-score lead for Westminster at 31-14.

Although they were facing a big deficit going into the final period of play, Bethany turned to their sophomore running back Walker to get back into the game. A 10-play, 76-yard march was highlighted by seven Walker rushes for 48 yards, including a three-yard touchdown run with 10:11 to go to bring the Bison within 10.

Bethany would force Westminster to punt on their next drive and took over at their own 15. The drive was kick-started by a 31-yard carry by Walker on the opening play. Later in the drive, after Walker was shaken up and left the game, Smith eluded the pressure and while rolling to his left, fired a 14-yard completion to Foster on a fourth-and-eight to keep the drive alive. Two plays later, Walker, just back in the game, ripped off a 28-yard touchdown run that saw him break numerous tackles and BC was right back in the contest at 31-28 with 3:50 showing on the clock.

However, the Bison never had a true chance to get the tying or go-ahead score. Their onside kick after Walker’s TD failed and the Titans picked up one first down before turning the ball over to Bethany at the BC 19 with only 29 seconds left. Three incomplete passes and an unsuccessful series of laterals on the final play ended the game with the Titans holding on for the three-point victory.

Although Bethany finished the game with more first downs (22-16) and more total yards (321-312) than the visitors, the Bison efforts were damaged by four turnovers and three quarterback sacks allowed. Walker posted his third 100+ yards rushing effort of the season with 136 stripes on 20 carries. In addition, his three rushing touchdowns give him nine for the year, one behind the single-season record set by Will Anderson in 2002 and matched by Walker last year. For the season, Walker has found the end zone 13 times, tops in the PAC and three away from breaking the BC one-year record established by Anderson (15) in 2002.

In the passing game, Smith completed 26 passes for 182 yards, with Foster serving as his top target with six receptions for 60 yards. Highlighting the Bethany defensive endeavors were senior SS Nelson Mitzen (Waynesburg, Pa./Waynesburg Central) with 15 tackles, Dahle with 11 stops and one forced fumble and Powell with seven hits, one sack and one fumble recovery.

The Bison are on the road for the next two weeks, beginning next Saturday with a road trip to Waynesburg. After losing to Westminster 49-42 in overtime last weekend, the Yellow Jackets (3-3, 0-2) lost in another shootout Saturday at home against Geneva, 49-39. Kickoff at Waynesburg’s Wiley Stadium is slated for 1:30.