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BISON FACE STERN CHALLENGE AT #19 W&J SATURDAY

Nov. 7 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany football team will face their third ranked opponent of the season Saturday afternoon when they take on #19 Washington & Jefferson in a 1:30 p.m. kickoff at W&J’s Cameron Stadium.

The Bison dropped to 2-6 on the campaign with a 38-23 setback to Geneva last week. BC led 20-14 and was going in for another score midway through the second quarter when Geneva came up with an interception in the end zone to end the threat. The Golden Tornadoes, who gained 339 rushing yards in the contest, went on to score 17 points in the final three minutes of the half and held Bethany to just a field goal in the second half to post the victory.

Offensively, the Bison rolled up 417 total yards, with freshman QB Chad Smith (Washington, Pa.) throwing for 306 yards and two touchdowns, as he set a new school-record with his third 300-yard game of the season. Freshman Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.) turned in a workhorse effort with 103 rushing yards on 27 carries and six receptions for 50 yards. He also scored his ninth rushing touchdown of the year and is one away from tying the Bethany single-season mark (10 by Will Anderson in 2002). However, BC had two costly interceptions and scored just twice in four trips to the red zone.

“Last week was a tough one because of the match-up,” said Bison head coach Tim Weaver. “They decided to run the ball behind a physical line and popped off some big gains, which we hadn’t allowed all year in the ground game. Give them credit for getting back to what they do well and taking advantage of their line and their running backs’ ability.

“Offensively, we did a decent job and were able to run the ball somewhat effectively,” said Weaver. “Most games, if you want to play competitively, it comes down to turnovers and red zone chances and they edged us in both.

The injury bug has bitten the Bison hard in recent weeks. Senior left guard Brian Liptock (New Salem, Pa./Uniontown) went down with a season-ending injury against Waynesburg two weeks ago and Bethany has also lost two defensive tackles early in the year. At the skill positions, fullback John Rhodes (Garretsville, Ohio/Garfield) has missed all but one game and receivers Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) and Taylor McNeil (Old Saybrook, Conn.) have each been forced out of the line-up at different times this year because they were hurt.

While the injuries have depleted BC’s depth at numerous positions, it’s also given Weaver a chance to see different faces in the line-up and they have stepped up with solid efforts.

“The injuries at receiver have given guys like Randy Rankin (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands) and Brad Zink (Washington Court House, Ohio/Miami Trace) an opportunity and they’ve played well,” said Weaver. “Rankin (13 rec., 146 yds., 2 TDs) has a lot of ability and we’ve been waiting to see him step up. Zink isn’t big or fast, but he’s an automatic first down if you put the ball anywhere around him.

“On the offensive line, two freshmen in Brandyn Frey (Richmond, Ohio/Steubenville) and Cory Potter (Akron, Ohio/Green) have shown us they have bright futures,” said Weaver. “The problem with the d-line injuries is that they were the young guys, but we’re excited they’ll be back next year and at full strength.”

Bethany went toe-to-toe with W&J in last year’s season finale through the first two and a half quarters. The Bison trailed 35-32 midway through the third period, but the Presidents exploded for 42 of the final 49 points in a 77-39 victory. The game featured 1,249 yards of offense and 59 first downs. The win was W&J’s 25th in a row over BC, whose last triumph over the Presidents was a 28-9 decision in 1982.

This President team will have a different look to them Saturday, as they are coming off their first PAC loss since Oct. 2005. Thomas More slipped past W&J 35-29 last week to clinch the conference title and automatic berth to the NCAA playoffs. Senior QB Bobby Swallow, who was sacked eight times, set new school records with 40 completions in 58 attempts and threw for 361 yards and four scores, all going to WR Craig Besong. The Presidents, who now need victories in their last two contests to keep their hopes alive for a at-large bid to the NCAA playoffs, were forced to the air because they were limited to just 29 rushing yards on 27 carries, which Weaver said was the key to the Thomas More win.

“We are going to get something we don’t see often and that’s a desperate W&J team,” said Weaver. “It so much easier to say then execute, but Thomas More had the formula. Don’t let them run the ball, pressure the quarterback and you have a chance.” The W&J offense has put up very impressive numbers throughout the year, leading the PAC in scoring (44.9) and passing (324.6) and ranking second in rushing (171.4). Swallow’s senior season has been remarkable, as he’s completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 2,514 yards and 25 TDs compared to just four interceptions. The President receiving corps is loaded with ability, led by David Ravida (62 rec., 682 yds., 6 TDs), Besong (53 rec., 804 yds., 11 TDs) and Luke Espe (42 rec., 510 yds., 4 TDs). The running game is spearheaded by Curt Jones with a PAC-leading 708 yards and 14 touchdowns.

W&J’s defense boasts nearly as stout of numbers, ranking first against the run (79.8) and in total defense (280.6). Defensive end Jacob Bloomhuff anchors the front line, as he’s tied for the conference lead with nine sacks and is tied for third with 13 tackles for loss. Getting the running game going against the Presidents defense will be a focal point for the Bison Saturday.

“Their offense is led by a poised, confident, accurate quarterback, who is as good as I’ve coached against since maybe Chad Pennington,” said Weaver. “You really can’t stop them, so you have to try to slow them down. Hopefully force a couple turnovers and stop them in the red zone a couple times. Our best defense against them may be an efficient offense because if we can establish the running game, we can take time off the clock and keep Swallow on the sidelines.

“Going on the road against a team as good as W&J in their situation of playing for their playoff lives gives us a great opportunity,” said Weaver. “We don’t lie to our players and tell them this is a game we should win. We could beat them, but it’s going to be a fight and we are looking forward to the chance to play a very good team.”