Sept. 12 - BETHANY, W.Va. – After their largest victory in a season opener in six years, the Bethany College football team will have a chance to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2001 when they host Saint Vincent (Pa.) College Saturday in their home opener at Bethany Field. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.
The Bison scored an impressive 24-7 triumph at Hiram (Ohio) College last Saturday, their biggest victory in a lidlifter since a 17-0 shutout of Shenandoah (Va.) University in ’01. For head coach Tim Weaver, it was a good effort to see, which had a balanced offense churn out 447 yards, a defense that held the Terriers to just one score and special teams that featured two big returns and solid kick coverage.
“It’s great to get off to a 1-0 start,” said Weaver. “It was a good first game for us as a staff to see us tackle well, not turn the ball over on offense and play well on special teams. We did the fundamentals well and now we need to sharpen up our execution.
“It was also good because we haven’t been in that situation very often, where on paper, we should win,” said Weaver. “Give Hiram’s staff a lot of credit for keeping us guessing and for getting their guys to play hard. It made us step up to the challenge we put out to the team during the week leading up to the game and that was to play smart, fundamental football and take care of business.”
The Bethany offense, which totaled 225 yards through the air and 222 on the ground, was paced by senior QB Milton Joyner (Pittsburgh, Pa./Westinghouse), who was 14-of-32 through the air for 225 yards and two scores, while also rushing for a TD. Also posting a huge game was junior RB Nick Neratka (Markleysburg, Pa./Uniontown), who rushed for 137 yards on 23 carries. He was the first Bison player to go over 100 yards in a game since late in the 2003 season and the 222 team rushing yards was the highest total since the 2002 campaign.
“The success of our running game is a credit to our whole operation on offense,” said Weaver. “Start with the offensive line with four starters back, so they are a year better and executed well. We also have the threat of Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) and Taylor McNeil (Old Saybrook, Conn.) on the outside to loosen up the defense. And I’m not convinced that Nick was healthy last season. Saturday, he was reading the holes, making cuts and breaking tackles and did everything you need a running back to do.”
BC’s defense had a solid game as well, holding a Hiram unit that went with a no-huddle, spread offense most of the game to 258 total yards and seven points, despite reaching the red zone three times. Senior LB Bill Wineberg (Pittsburgh, Pa./Shaler) spearheaded the group with 12 tackles and a sack, as he earned PAC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Despite the quality performance, Weaver says there is room for improvement from that side of the ball this week.
“I liked the way we tackled and the effort we gave,” said Weaver. “I also liked that we played with a lot of poise, considering Hiram went no-huddle and didn’t run anything that we had practiced for based off their scrimmage tape. And we responded in the red zone and stopped them twice when they moved into good scoring position.
“But there are a couple areas we need to see improvement,” said Weaver. “We have to catch balls that are thrown right to us. We left three interceptions on the field and we can’t do that. We have to make those plays. I also want to see us continue to understand the team concept of defense. Guys shouldn’t press and should just look to make plays when the opportunity is there.
“Overall though, I’ll take seven points and 258 total yards every week,” said Weaver.
This week’s opponent brings an element of unknown into the contest, as Saint Vincent is in just their third game as a varsity team after restarting the program following a 44-year hiatus. The Bearcats are 0-2 so far, including a 48-7 loss to visiting Westminster (Pa.) College last weekend. The lone touchdown was a 63-yard scoring pass from QB Mike Speal to wideout Dan Blaszkowski late in the second quarter. Overall, SVC was outgained 438-175 and turned the ball over three times.
Offensively, one of Saint Vincent’s main threats is WR Rob James, who has seven receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. The Bison may see two different signal callers Saturday, as Phil Hamilton (19-of-37, 236 yards, two TDs) has played the majority of snaps, but Speal (7-of-12, 103 yards, one TD) has also seen action. The Bearcat rushing attack, which is averaging just 56 yards per game, is led by Logan Small with 82 yards and a 3.7 yards per carry average.
On defense, SVC, who runs a base 3-3-5, is giving up 40 points per game, but could cause trouble if the Bison are careless with the football. The Bearcats have picked off three passes and forced six fumbles, although they have not been able to recover one. MLB Jeff Graham is the unit’s top tackler with 18, while LB Ramsay Lesnett has four tackles for loss among his 15 stops. In the secondary, CB Quillian Reed has made 13 tackles and also snared two interceptions.
According to Weaver, his team will have to be prepared to face a defense it’s not used to seeing and also be ready for a hard-hitting contest.
“We are impressed by how far Saint Vincent has come in a short time,” said Weaver. “They play hard, are very physical and are well-coached, especially up front. They have their schemes and they are devoted to their systems. Their defense runs a 3-3 look, which we haven’t seen, so we’ll have to work hard to be prepared for it.”
Last year, Bethany broke many losing streaks and overcame numerous obstacles that had plagued the program for years on their way to a 4-6 record. This season has the Bison already looking at another chance to reach a milestone that hasn’t been achieved for awhile if they can go 2-0. While Weaver says his team will talk about getting their second straight win to open the season, it won’t change their preparation for Saint Vincent.
“We won’t prepare any differently this week, but we talked about ending all the losing streaks and overcoming obstacles that we did last year,” said Weaver. “And this program not being 2-0 for a long time is something we’ll talk about this week. General Patton said ‘You can only advance by doing what others who have gone before you have not done’. But all the talk about going 2-0 isn’t going to mean a thing if we don’t play hard and take care of what we need to on Saturday.”