Nov. 1 – GROVE CITY, Pa. – Looking to snap a two-game slide, the Bethany College football team (6-3, 5-2 PAC) went into Grove City College on a mission. After a slow first half, the Bison defense fueled a 31-point second half as the Green & White ran away with a 34-9 victory on Saturday.
In the first quarter, the Wolverines did their best to keep the Bison offense off the field, as the Green & White had just two possessions in the opening frame. Bethany totaled just one first down as the Wolverines kept the ball for just less than 12 minutes of the first quarter.
In a drive that spanned 7:20 between the first and second quarters, the Wolverines would strike first. Using 16 plays to march 87 yards, Grove City found the end zone on a one-yard touchdown run by Joe Swanson, giving the home team a 7-0 advantage with 13:17 remaining in the first half.
On Bethany’s next possession, the Bison would begin moving the ball down the field. Using 11 plays, including seven rushes, Bethany had themselves down to the Grove City 11-yard line. The big pickup of the drive came on an 18-yard run by senior Brandon Hill (McKeesports, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) which put the Bison in the opponents’ red zone. However, two sacks in the next three plays forced Bethany to kick a field goal. Freshman Chris Ray (Richmond, Va./Godwin) nailed the 30-yard attempt to pull the score to 7-3.
The field goal marked the fifth of the season for Ray, giving him the most field goals by any Bison kicker since 2001, when Scott Henderson also made five on the year.
Grove City would attempt to push the lead further in the waning seconds of the half. After a nine-play drive stalled on the Bison 10-yard line, the Wolverines lined up for a 27-yard field goal. However, freshman MacHale Harville (Arcadia, Fla./De Soto County), playing for the injured Nadim Raddar (Severn, Md./Old Mill) came up big, blocking the field goal attempt to keep the score at 7-3. The teams would go into the locker room with the Wolverines holding on to the slim lead.
The Wolverines outgained Bethany 134-86 in the first half and allowed the Bison just five first downs. However, the second half would prove to be all Bison.
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, sophomore Brian Vales (Pittsburgh, Pa./Avonworth) found his favorite target, junior Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver), on a 48-yard pitch-and-catch to get the Bison into Grove City territory for just the second time in the contest. Five plays later, Hill found the end zone from one-yard out to give the Bison a lead they would not relinquish at 10-7.
Once again, the Wolverines tried to respond with a long drive of their own. After picking up a fourth-and-one on Bethany’s 10-yard line, the Wolverines had four chances at the end zone. The last play, a fourth-down run by Swanson, was stopped short of the goal line by Greg Roberson (Upper Marloboro, Md./Frederick Douglass), and the Bison took over on downs. That was just the first of many big plays by the defense in the second half.
After the Bison gave up a safety on a blocked punt to make the score 10-9, the Wolverines took over possession on their own 25-yard line following a free kick. On the first play from scrimmage, junior Eric Campbell (Hurricane, W. Va./Hurricane) stripped Swanson of the ball which was then scooped up by junior Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg) and returned to the Wolverine nine-yard line.
Just one play later, Vales found Hill on a nine-yard touchdown pass to extend the Bison lead to 17-9. The touchdown marked the second of the day for Hill. It was the third time this season that Hill has found the end zone twice.
Following the touchdown, the Bison “D” allowed just one Grove City first down before forcing the Wolverines to punt the ball away. Pinned back inside their own 20-yard line, the Bison offense needed just three plays to find pay dirt again. On the first play, Vales found Blinn for their second 40+-yard connection of the game, this time for 43 yards down to the Grove City 41. After a five yard run play, the two were at it again, as Blinn went the remaining 36 yards to extend the lead to 24-9 with two minutes remaining in the third.
The special teamers got into the action early in the fourth as the Bison were forced to punt on the Grove City 45-yard line. On the ensuing return, senior Sherman Hodges (Cheltenham, Md./Frederick Douglass) stripped the return man at the 34-yard line. The fumble was recovered by freshman Aaron Tedys (Elwood City, Pa./Riverside), giving Bethany the ball on the Wolverine 35. Nine-plays later, Ray knocked in his second field goal of the game, this one of the 27-yard variety, and the Bison extended the advantage to 27-9.
The Bison “D” would force two more turnovers in the contest. The first was from junior Dion Williams (Clinton, Md./Frederick Douglass) who picked off a Gabe Greco pass for his team-leading fourth interception of the season.
With 3:12 remaining in the game, the last turnover would make the most noise as junior Martin McCoy (Capitol Heights, Md./Frederick Douglass) picked off a Tyler Kepple pass at the Grove City ten-yard line and returned it for the touchdown. McCoy’s score marked the first defensive touchdown by the Bison this season. The defensive TD also proved to be the last score of the game as the Bison took the victory, 34-9.
In the second half of the contest, the Bison “D” clamped down, allowing Grove City to total just 90 yards in the half, which included just 17 yards on the ground. The Bison also allowed just six first downs in the entirety of the second half, while allowing just the two points on the safety.
Despite missing two of their starting defensive ends in Raddar and sophomore Khallid Pierce (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline), the Bison defense didn’t seem to miss a beat, collecting the most takeaways that the team has posted this season. The Green & White finished the game with two fumbles and two interceptions, giving them four for the contest.
The Bison also posted double-digit tackles for loss for the sixth time this season, notching 11.0 in the game, including five sacks.
Junior Donavan Hayden (Hyattsville, Md./Northwestern) led the defense, finishing the game with 13 tackles, including two sacks and two tackles for loss. Kpadehyea also played well, totaling nine tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.
Making the most of their first starts this season, Harville and Roberson proved themselves on the field. Harville totaled nine tackles and a team-high 3.5 tackles for loss. He also was credited with the blocked kick in the first half.
Roberson finished the contest with seven total tackles, which included 3.0 tackles for loss and a sack. The tackles for loss were a career-high for the senior who was playing in his final regular-season road game of his career.
Offensively, the Bison were led by Hill and Blinn. Hill notched two touchdowns for the third time this season, as he found pay dirt in both the run and passing games. He also finished the day with 58 yards rushing.
Blinn finished the contest with 10 catches for 155 yards and a score. He has now posted 92 catches for 967 yards and a career-best nine touchdowns on the season. He now needs just one touchdown catch to tie the single-season mark set by Ed Holmes in 2012.
The victory for the Bison marked the first win in Grove City since the 1995 campaign. It also proved to be Bethany’s first back-to-back victories over the Wolverines since 1995-1996. The Bison also defeated Grove City, 34-31, one year ago.
The win was also special for the Green & White in another way, as it guaranteed that the Bison will have a +.500 record at the end of the season for the first time since Bethany went 6-4 in 2001.
Bethany will have the week off next week before searching for their seventh win against St. Vincent College on November 15. The game will also be senior day for the Bison, with festivities to precede the 1 p.m. kick.