Sept. 25 – BETHANY, W. Va. – The Bethany football program will look to end a three-game slide as they get ready for the middle game of a three-game home stand against the Wolverines of Grove City College on Saturday.
Last Time Out
Last week, the Bison opened the home portion of their schedule by dropping a tough, 36-28 decision to Randolph-Macon College. In the game the Bison were outgained 278-48 but took advantage of miscues by the Yellow-Jackets, scoring 14 points off of miscues in the eight-point defeat.
“Stopping the run on defense and establishing the run on the offensive side of the ball was something that eluded us last weekend,” remarked head coach Bill Garvey. “Part of the blame for that falls on the fact that we were playing a very good team, however, as with any problems that come up during the course of the season, it is always necessary to look at yourself.”
During the contest the Bison never led, but had a chance to tie the game on the final possession of regulation. However, facing a first down from their own 48, the Bison failed to move on the ball on four straight passing plays and fell for the third time this season.
Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) led the offense for the Bison as completed 17-of-38 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for two scores. Junior Brandon Hill (McKeesport, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) also ran for a touchdown, and sophomore Jaylen Jennings (Indian Head, Md./Fredrick E. Douglass) caught his third touchdown in two games. Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) caught over half of Grimard’s passes in the game, making nine receptions for 132 yards; his third 100+ yard game of the season.
This week the Bison take on a Grove City squad that is similar in the way they run the football. The Wolverines have scored 13 touchdowns so far this season, with nine of them coming by way of the ground attack.
Last week, the Wolverines suffered there first defeat of the season, dropping a 40-19 decision to Washington & Jefferson. In the game, Steve Maskrey ran for just 48 yards but scored two of the three Grove City touchdowns.
The Wolverines also allowed big plays in the run game last week, as they gave up five touchdown runs to Dion Wiegand of W&J. In all, Grove City allowed 320 yards on the ground to the Presidents’ last week.
Overall the Wolverines rank second in the conference in total defense, allowing opponents to gain 365 yards per game, which includes 171 per game on the ground and 193 through the air.
“They have a decent defensive game plan,” said Coach Garvey. “They are very disciplined and look to take advantages of mistakes. Although they don’t force many on their own, they make you regret it if you do.”
Offensively, Grove City works for balance as they rank fourth in the PAC in rushing offense (180 ypg) and seventh in passing offense (202.3).
Running back Steve Maskrey leads the way for the Grove City offense as he currently ranks fifth in the conference in total rushing yards (216) and is second in the PAC in rushing touchdowns with five.
“They are a big physical team,” remarked Coach Garvey. “They have the tools that they need to run the ball very well and Maskrey is a big guy who can break tackles and run through guys who are trying to bring him down.”
In the Bison’s previous meeting with Grove City, Bethany fell in a shootout, 44-40. After being up by 16 points to start the fourth quarter of play, the Wolverines ended the game on a 20-0 run that included three one-yard rushing scores (two by Shane Kaclik and one by Brian Pell).
In that contest, the Bison won the yardage battle, 346-318, but turned the ball over four times, which Grove City was able to capitalize on to edge out the Bison.
Grimard threw for 289 yards and four scores in the contest and finished 25-of-33 for 289 yards. Ed Holmes caught nine passes and two TDs for the Bison while Blinn added three catches for 79 yards and a 41-yard touchdown reception.
For the Wolverines, Kaclik led the way, rushing for 121 yards and five touchdowns on the day. Brian Pell completed just nine passes in the game, while Grove City totaled just 144 yards through the air.
“Last season we had them on the ropes and on the game away with costly penalties and untimely turnovers which the capitalized on each time,” remarked Garvey about last year’s game. “This season we have to make sure everyone is accountable for their position so we don’t repeat last year’s result.”
Keys to the game
Perhaps one of the biggest stories for the Bison this season has been the progression of their sophomore players who have stepped up nicely and filled some key roles for Bethany so far this season.
Blinn has been thrust into the number one receiver role with the departure of Ed Holmes and Jonathan Foster and has blossomed into one of the best wideouts in the country. After catching 50 passes for 790 yards last season, Blinn has already caught 36 passes for 450 yards this season (averaging 12 catches and 150 yards per game) ranking him first in all of Division III in both categories.
“Blinn has been great at the number one spot for us this season,” remarked Garvey. “He has the talent to get open at all times which forces defenses to focus more on him, opening the field for other receivers.”
One of the receivers that the door has been opened for is sophomore Jaylen Jennings. Seeing limited time last season, Jennings has come into his own in his first year as a full-time option. Jennings currently leads all Bison receivers in touchdown receptions with three and currently has 17 catches for 233 yards.
“Jennings has become a great weapon for us on the offensive side of the ball,” said Garvey. “You would be hard pressed to find a guy who worked harder in the offseason than Jaylen did.
“He could possibly be the most improved player from a year ago, and I give all the credit to him for his work ethic and is commitment to getting better every day.”
On the defensive side, another pair of sophomores are leading the charge. Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg) and Dion Williams (Clinton, Md./Frederick Douglass) have each made great contributions to the team so far this year. Kpadehyea came onto the scene last season and played an handful of games, but has really made a name for himself after the departure of Bethany’s all-time leading tackler, Kyle Arrington.
“Larry has been playing great for us this year,” remarked Coach Garvey of Kpadehyea. “He is a great athlete and has given us a lot of freedom with where we can play him.
“We can drop him back in coverage or he can step up into gaps and stop the run. He has just been an asset to the defense already this season.”
Kpadehyea currently ranks third in the PAC in total tackles with 31 (10.3 per game) and is just three tackles behind the conference leader. He has also registered one sack on the year and has 21 solo tackles, which is the second-best mark in the conference.
Another steady force on the defense this season has been Williams, who currently ranks third on the team in tackles with 20. The sophomore safety has also picked off a pass in all three games this season while also leading the team in passes defended with three.
“Dion has coverage skills that allow us to be more creative on the defensive side of the ball,” claimed Garvey of Williams. “With him at one of the safety positions we can play more man coverage and put more pressure on the ball. It has allowed us to be able to open the playbook more with him as a safety net in the defensive backfield.”
The Run Game
Ask Coach Garvey what the biggest key to the game is and he will tell you that it is all about the run game.
“Last week we gave up a bunch of yards on the ground, but more importantly, we weren’t able to run the ball ourselves. We have to be physical on both sides of the ball in the run game. It’s all about physical and mental toughness out there and we have just not bought the fire that we need to.
“Based on last week’s stats, we need to find people who are willing to be tough and willing to do what is necessary for us to get better in the run game. We think we can find those guys that will do it, and when that happens, it will allow us to be even more dangerous on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.”
This weekend will be Homecoming for the Green and White, and Bethany will have a full-slate of activities during the game. Before the game, the Bison will honor the 2013 Bethany Athletics Hall of Fame Inductees. Also, there will be a dedication ceremony for the new scoreboard between the first and second quarters, as well as the announcing of the Homecoming King and Queen at halftime.