Oct. 24 – BETHANY, W. Va. – Sparked by a season-best eight sacks from the defense, the Bethany College football team rolled over Geneva College en route to a 41-15 victory on Saturday afternoon at Bison Stadium.
The Bethany offense came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, as the Bison (3-5, 2-4 PAC) scored on two of their first three possessions in the opening quarter. After forcing a three-and-out on Geneva’s first possession, the Green & White used a nine-play, 70-yard drive to notch the game’s first score.
Senior Lincon Reyes (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg) marched the Bison down the field on the drive, completing five-of-six passes to three different receivers. Three of the completions went for first downs, including a 15-yard pitch-and-catch to senior Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver). Junior Jalen Holmes (New Castle, Pa./New Castle) then capped off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run, giving the Bison a 7-0 lead.
The Bison “D” posted their first big stop of the game on the next Geneva drive. The Golden Tornadoes (2-5, 1-4 PAC) moved the ball quickly into Bison territory following the Bethany touchdown. However, looking at a first-and-10 from the Bison 43, the Bethany defense stiffened, posting a pair of sacks to push Geneva backwards. The first sack came from freshman Daniel Gibson (Pittsburgh, Pa./Woodland Hills), while the second was notched by Gibson and senior Dylan Stewart (Claridge, Pa./Penn-Trafford).
Two drives later, starting from their own 24-yard line, the Bison would once again find pay dirt. On the first play of the drive, Reyes found junior Robert Seman (Canfield, Ohio/South Range) for a 28-yard gain to set Bethany at their opponents’ 48. Two plays later, Reyes went for the home run, using a play-action fake to free Blinn for a 48-yard strike, making the score 14-0.
Bethany’s defense and special teams would control the next two Geneva possessions, extending the lead in the process. The first Golden Tornado drive was cut short on a leaping interception my freshman Daulton Freeman (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville). The pick marked Freeman’s second in just three career games.
After a three-and-out by the Bison, the Green & White forced one of their own, setting the table for Bethany’s next score. Punting from the 50-yard line, Blinn received the kick at his own 15, and, after setting up his blockers in front of him, weaved in and out of arm tackles on his way to an 85-yard punt return touchdown, expanding the advantage to 21-0. The special team’s touchdown marked the first for the Green & White since Michael Howcott scored on a 33-yard punt return against Saint Vincent in 2012.
Despite holding a sizable advantage for nearly the entire first half, the Bison would find themselves only leading by eight at the break. With 4:04 remaining in the opening half, Geneva would embark on a 14-play, 99-yard drive that ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Channing to Nick Cook. With the missed extra point, the score showed 21-6 in favor of the hosts with 38 seconds to play.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Golden Tornadoes pooched a kick to the Bethany 36-yard line, where Geneva’s Austin Mirizio would recover the ball, giving the visitors a chance at more points before the half.
Geneva would convert on their good fortunes, completing a 50-yard Hail Mary from Channing to Cook with just two seconds remaining in the half. The score pulled the Golden Tornadoes within eight points at the break, 21-13.
In the final 4+ minutes of the half, Geneva accounted for most of their offensive yardage, totaling 135 yards in 16 plays. Over the remaining 26 minutes of the half, the Bison dominated, holding Geneva to 127 yards while tallying an interception and a punt return for a touchdown.
The Bison offense would get back into high gear to open the second half. Bethany scored on their first two possessions of the third quarter, pushing the lead to 35-13.
The first drive of the half encompassed eight plays and 3:01 of clock time as the Bison covered the 75 yards. The big play on the drive came from Seaman, as the junior posted a 42-yard reception on third-and-11.
After a 22-yard reception from Blinn put the Bison inside the Golden Tornado red zone, Reyes found Tyler Ambush (Germantown, Md./Northwest) for a 14-yard touchdown.
Seman once again had his hand in the Bison’s next touchdown drive, hauling in a 31-yard reception to set Bethany up with a first down from the Geneva 35. From their, the Bison used the legs of Holmes to find the end zone. The junior back needed just two runs, breaking off gains of 16 and 19 yards, respectively, to give Bethany the 22-point advantage.
The game’s final score would come on a defensive touchdown as Daniel Gibson stripped Channing of the ball on a sack at the Bethany 45-yard line. The ball made its way toward the sidelines, where it was scooped up by Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg). The senior then returned the ball 51 yards for the game’s final score. The defensive touchdown was the first by the Bison since Nov. 1 of 2014.
On the extra point try, the Golden Tornadoes blocked the kick, returning the ball for the final points of the game. Geneva picked up two points on the play, rounding out the scoring at 41-15. The points marked the lone score of the half for the visitors.
As a team, the Bison had all four facets of their game working on the day as the scored a touchdown four different ways (passing, rushing, defensive, special teams). The Bethany defense was in top form as they tallied a second-high eight sacks while notching 13 tackles for loss and forcing two turnovers.
Offensively, Bethany was led by Holmes, who finished the day with 135 yards and two touchdowns on just 18 carries. He averaged 7.5 yards per rush en route to posting his third-consecutive 100-yard performance. Holmes currently sits at 928 rushing yards on the year, and will look to become Bethany’s first 1,000-yard back since 2002 against Grove City next week.
Blinn was up to his old tricks in the passing game, catching seven passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. His TD reception gave him a career-high 10 on the season. His yardage total also marked the 22nd time in his career that he has tallied at least 100 yards.
In the victory, Blinn reached a new milestone. With his 215 all-purpose yards, Blinn became just the third active player in all of Division III to reach 5,000 career yards. He currently sits second all-time on the Bethany career list with 5,143. He now sits just 230 total yards from the career record currently held by Tim Caldwell.
Under center, Reyes had a productive day, completing 17 passes for 272 yards and a pair of scores. Blinn was his top target on the day, while Seman broke 100 receiving yards for the first time in his career. The junior finished the day with three catches for 101 yards.
Defensively, the Bison were led by Donavan Hayden (Hyattsville, Md./Northwestern) and Nadim Raddar (Laurel, Md./Old Mill). Hayden was up to his old tricks, posting 15 total tackles while notching a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Raddar lived in Geneva’s backfield all day, posting 12 tackles, including a career-high 5.0 tackles for loss. The reigning PAC Defensive Player of the Year, Raddar also tied a career high with 3.5 sacks on the day, contributing to Bethany’s season-high eight.
Gibson and Freeman both posted solid performances as each forced a turnover in the contest. Gibson notched nine tackles with a forced fumble and two sacks, while Freeman, making just his second start, finished the game with six tackles and an interception.
The Bison will be back in action on Saturday, October 31, when they welcome Grove City College to Bison Stadium. The final home game of the season for the Green & White will also serve as senior day. Kickoff is scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. start.