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Bison Football Falls In Home Opener, 36-28, To Randolph-Macon

Sept. 21 – BETHANY, W. Va. – The Bison football team was handed a 36-28 defeat at the hands of Randolph-Macon College on a soggy Saturday afternoon in Bethany. The Bison were paced by a three touchdown performance by senior quarterback Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut), while the Yellow Jackets countered with a 296-yard rushing performance by senior tailback Will McGhee.

R-MC got on the board first on the opening drive of the game as the Yellow Jackets ran eight plays, going 50 yards for the first score of the contest. They used seven running plays and just one pass to march down the field, capping the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run by McGhee, to go up 7-0.

After the Bison were forced to punt following a six-play drive, the Yellow Jackets tallied another score, with McGhee collecting a 37-yard touchdown run which put Randolph-Macon ahead, 14-0, with 4:56 to play in the first quarter.

It didn’t take long for the Bison to respond, however, as a great, 43-yard kickoff return by sophomore Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) set Bethany up on the Yellow Jacket 48-yard line. Just two plays later, aided by a pass interference call that set the Bison up with a First-and-ten from the R-MC 33 yard line, Grimard struck with his first touchdown pass of the game, connecting on a 33-yard strike over the middle of the field to sophomore Jaylen Jennings (Indian Head, Md./Henry E. Lackey). Jennings then carried a few Yellow Jacket defenders into the end zone and Bethany was on the board, now trailing 14-7.

After forcing the Yellow Jackets to punt, the Bison were then forced into a three-and-out which set up the punt team. A bad snap allowed Randolph-Macon to get the ball on the Bison two-yard line. R-MC then wasted no time, scoring on the very next play, a two-yard run by Jesse Knepp. The extra point failed, however, and the Bison ended the first quarter trailing, 20-7.

In the second quarter, the scoring slowed down, as the first five possessions of the frame yielded no points for either side. With the Bison facing a punt situation for the third time in as many drives, junior Stephen Amic (McDonald, Pa./Western Allegheny) punted the ball away, which was then dropped by the Yellow Jacket return man. The opportunistic Bison, didn’t was the chance and James Fout (Columbus, Ohio/Groveport Madison) recovered the fumble to give Bethany the ball on the Randolph-Macon 30-yard line.

A 16-yard reception by Blinn and 17 yards rushing by Grimard would be all the Bison would need on the drive, as they needed just four plays, caped by a nine-yard rushing touchdown by the senior signal-caller to cut the score to 20-14 with just 50 seconds to play in the half.

Randolph-Macon would need just seven plays to tack onto the lead before the half as a 36-yard kickoff return set R-MC up at the 48-yard line. Six plays later, the Yellow Jackets were in field goal range, and the 25-yard attempt was made by freshman Colin McFadden to extend the lead to 23-14. The two teams would go into the half with Bethany trailing by the same score.

On the third play of the third-quarter the Yellow Jackets intercepted a Grimard pass and set themselves up on the 37-yard line. The team then needed just three plays to find the end-zone. McGhee rushed twice on the drive, breaking free for a 26-yard gain before scoring on a 37-yard touchdown run to give R-MC the 29-14 lead.

The defense once again came through for the Bison with just over three minutes to play in the third quarter. With the Yellow Jackets driving and on the Bethany side of the field, sophomore Dion Williams (Clinton, Md./Frederick Douglass) stepped in front of a Zac Naccarato pass, picking the ball off and returning it to the Bethany 42. A late hit out of bounds at the end of the play then set Bethany up in Yellow Jacket territory.

Bethany wasted no time on the ensuing drive, picking up three-straight first downs. Grimard threw a 12-yard pass to Tyler Ambush before connecting with Blinn for a 14-yard gain, setting Bethany up with a first-and-goal from the three-yard line. Two plays later, Brandon Hill (McKeesport, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) found pay dirt for his second touchdown of the season, cutting the Randolph-Macon lead to 29-21.

In the start of the fourth quarter, Randolph-Macon went back to the ground game, running the ball 14 times in its 15 plays, while eating 8:19 off the clock. The Yellow Jackets gained no more than seven yards on any play over the course of the drive, but were still able to find the end zone with Naccarato sneaking in from one yard out to extend the lead to 36-21.

Not one for giving up, the Bison stormed right back, counter the R-MC, 15-play drive with a quick, six play one of their own. With the Bison looking at fourth-and-three from the Randolph-Macon 34, a roughing the passer penalty extended the Bethany drive. Two plays later, Grimard once again made it happen with his legs, scoring on a 13-yard run, to once again put the Bison within one score, 36-28.

With 4:33 remaining in the contest, it looked as though the Yellow Jackets had the game in hand. On a first-down play from the Yellow Jackets’ own 39 yard line, McGhee rattled off his longest run of the day, a 53-yard scamper that put R-MC down to the Bison eight-yard line. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was call on the Yellow Jackets, and the flag moved R-MC out of the red-zone, to the Bison 23.

After stuffing the Yellow Jackets’ run game for no yards on back-to-back plays, the Bison then got great pressure on Naccarato, hitting the QB as he threw to force an incomplete pass and a fourth down, while also stopping the clock with 1:41 to play. The Yellow Jackets then attempted a 42-yard field goal, which went wide right, giving the Bison a new hope with the score still a one-possession game, 36-28.

After running for nine yards and completing a 14-yard pass to Hill, Grimard and the Bison were looking at first down from their own 47 yard-line with just over a minute to play. The Bison were then forced into four-straight incompletions, the last, a fourth-and-ten throw that just missed Hill for a first down, and the Bison were handed the defeat, 36-28.

In the game, the Yellow Jackets were able to control the pace and temp of the contest, with McGhee rushing for 296 yards on 42 carries. The great production from the running game also helped the Yellow Jackets control the clock, winning the time of possession battle, 34:24 to 25:36.

For the Bison, Grimard finished the contest with three total touchdowns, collecting one passing TD while scoring two with his legs. His two running TDs now give Grimard 30 for his career, which is second all-time in Bethany history and 11 behind first place Eric Walker (41 between 2008-11). Grimard finished the day 17-38 for 223 yards and a touchdown to go along with 41 yards on the ground.

Blinn kept up his torrid pace at the receiver position this year, collecting nine passes for 137 yards in the game. The contest marks the third-consecutive game this year that Blinn has reached the 100-receiving yard plateau and he now has 36 catches for 450 yards in just three contests this year.

Defensively, Williams and Chris Burg (Martinsburg, W. Va./Martinsburg) led all players with 8.5 tackles each while Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg) finished with 7.5 tackles including 1.5 for loss. Williams also picked off a pass for the third-consecutive game, giving him three on the season.

The Bison will be back in action on Saturday, Sept. 28 for the middle game of a three-game home stand as they host the Wolverines of Grove City College. The game will also serve as the homecoming contest for the Bethany campus and kickoff is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start.