Nov. 22 – OWINGS MILLS, Md. – For the first time since the 1980 campaign, the Bethany College football team competed in post-season action. Things did not go the Bison’s way, however, as the Green & White fell, 29-7, to Stevenson University in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Southeast Bowl on Saturday afternoon.
The first half saw the Mustangs score on their first four possessions, getting three touchdowns and a field goal to take a 23-0 lead early in the second quarter of play. However, the Bison defense would settle in, keeping Stevenson off the scoreboard for the rest of the half, and the Bison found themselves down by the same score heading into the halftime break.
After Stevenson tacked on another field goal late in the third quarter, the Bison would respond with their first score of the game midway through the fourth. After a good defensive effort by junior Nadim Raddar stopped the Mustangs on fourth and seven, the Bison needed just four plays to drive the 42 yards for the score.
Following a run play, sophomores, quarterback Brian Vales (Pittsburgh, Pa./Avonworth) and wideout Tyler Ambush (Germantown, Md./Northwest) connected three times. The first two plays each gained six yards, giving Bethany a new set of downs on the Stevenson 32-yard line. On the very next play, Ambush went deep, and Vales connected with him on a 32-yard touchdown reception, Ambush’s second-longest TD catch of the season, to make the score 26-7.
However, the Bison would have the ball just one more time in the contest, and the Green & White fell, 29-7.
In the game, Vales was called upon to throw the ball 52 times, the highest total of his career. The sophomore signal caller completed 32-of-52 for 229 yards and a touchdown. Ambush hauled in a career-high 10 catches for 89 yards and a score to lead the Bethany receiving corps.
Junior Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) hauled in nine catches in the game, ending his season with 106 total receptions. Not only did he become the first player in Bethany history to reach at least 100 receptions, but he also became the only receiver to reach over 1,000 yards receiving twice in a career (he completed this season with 1,035 after totaling 1,300 in 2013.
Defensively, junior Donavan Hayden (Hyattsville, Md./Northwestern) led the way for the Bison, recording over 10 tackles for the sixth-straight game. Hayden finished the game with a game-high 16, including six solo stops. Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg) also did his part, finishing the contest with 12 solo tackles, a career-high.
With their totals, both Hayden and Kpadehyea finished with over 100 tackles on the season. Hayden posted 110, while Kpadehyea notched 102. Hayden's 110 are the most by any Bison defender since Tim Goetz notched 120 in 2005. The duo also became the first pair to both reach 100+ tackles in the same season since '05 (Goetz and Cliff Anderson (100)).
Playing in his final game in a Bison uniform, as well as his home state of Maryland, senior defensive back Wyssmy Despagne (Riverdale, Md./Parkdale) collected Bethany’s lone turnover, when he picked off a Stevenson pass early in the third quarter.
Despite the loss, the Bison ended the season with a +.500 record for the first time since the 2001 campaign, when the team finished 6-4. The game also ended a 34-year stretch in which Bethany had not appeared in a post-season contest.