Sept. 13 – GREENVILLE, Pa. – The Bethany College football team (1-1) used 35 unanswered second-half points to earn their first victory of the season, a 45-24 win over Thiel College on Saturday evening in Greenville.
After the Tomcats got on the board first in the first quarter, the Bison responded quickly, needing just seven plays to go 69 yards, knotting the score at 7-7. The big play came on a 43-yard scamper by senior Chris Collins (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) which placed the Bison on the Thiel seven. Two plays later, sophomore quarterback Brian Vales (Pittsburgh, Pa./Avonworth) found pay dirt from four yards out to tie the score.
Following the score, the Bison defense began to flex its muscles. Forcing a three-and-out which pinned the Tomcats back on their own seven-yard line, a short punt had Bethany set up on the Thiel 39. However, the ensuing Bethany drive came up short when Vales was sacked on a fourth down.
The Bison “D” would once again answer the call, forcing Thiel into a three-and-out for the second-consecutive drive, giving Bethany the ball on their own 42. The Bison would then go on a 14-play 58-yard drive which covered 6:13 on the clock. Chris Ray (Richmond, Va./Godwin) would then give the Green & White the lead with a 25-yard field goal to give Bethany a 10-7 lead.
In the ensuing drive, the Tomcats would cover 68 yards on 14 plays, taking up the remainder of the half before notching a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Radke to Ron Howard. The score gave the Tomcats a 14-10 lead heading into the halftime break.
In the third quarter, the Bison had a hard time getting anything going on their first drive. Punting the ball away to Thiel after a three-and-out, the Tomcats would extend the lead to 17-7 with 8:10 to play in the third quarter. That, however, is when the game would change in the Bison’s favor.
On the next drive, Bethany would show balance to find their way down the field. Junior Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) set the Bison up with a 35-yard kick return to give Bethany the ball on the 42. Bethany would then use eight plays (five runs, three passes), including an eight-yard touchdown run by sophomore Tyler Ambush (Germantown, Md./Northwest) to tie the game at 17-17 with 6:01 to play.
The Bethany special teams unit would then come up big on the ensuing kickoff. Junior Donavan Hayden (Hyattsville, Md./Northwestern) then forced a fumble which was recovered by senior Brooks Kursey (Martinsburg, W. Va./Hedgesville), giving the Green & White a first down on Thiel’s 34-yard line.
Vales then marched the Bison down the field on eight plays, completing a pass to three different players. After a 12-yard completion to Blinn, Vales then found Ambush for a 17-yard gain that gave Bethany a first down inside the Thiel 10. Two plays later, Vales connected with Collins for a two-yard pitch-and-catch that gave Bethany their second lead of the game, 24-17.
Bethany would then completely control the fourth quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points in the final stanza. The first touchdown came on a 12-yard run by Vales, his second rushing TD of the game, giving the Bison a 31-17 advantage with 11:29 to play in the game.
After forcing the Tomcats into a punt, Bethany then went on a ten-play drive, capped off by a 20-yard touchdown strike from Vales to Blinn with 4:53 to play, extending the lead to 38-17.
One the ensuing drive, the Bison defense would once again come up big, forcing a turnover on downs after Nadim Raddar (Laurel, Md./Old Mill) sacked Radke on a fourth and long. Once again, it took Bethany just five plays to find the endzone. This time sophomore Jalon Holmes (New Castle, Pa./New Castle) captured the first touchdown of his career, scampering in from four yards out to push the lead to 45-17. Thiel would add one more score near the end of the contest, but the Bison would roll to the 21-point victory.
Offensively, Vales made the most of his second start under center. The signal caller finished the game 19-of-23 through the air for 167 yards and two touchdowns. The contest marked the second-straight game that Vales played mistake-free football. Through two weeks, Vales has now gone 33-of-43 throwing the football.
Vales' top target on the day was Blinn, who caught seven passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. With his 85 yards receiving, Blinn has now moved into second-place all time in Bethany history in total receiving yards with 2,199 yards.
Vales also led the Bison in rushing yards in the game, finishing the day with 63 yards and two scores on the ground. Collins finished the day with 46 yards on just two carries.
Five different Bison scored a touchdown on the day including Vales, Holmes and Ambush on the ground, and Collins and Blinn through the air.
Defensively, Raddar led the way for the Bison, finishing the contest with 12 total tackles while registering 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the contest. Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg) totaled 11 tackles in the game, while Eric Campbell (Hurricane, W. Va./Hurricane) totaled seven.
The Bison defense improved dramatically from week one, allowing the Tomcats to gain just 215 total yards in the contest. Thiel managed just 118 rushing yards on 37 carries, and were held to 97 yards through the air.
The Green & White also controlled the turnover battle for the second week in a row. The Bison, who once again did not commit a turnover in the contest for the second-consecutive week, are now +4 in turnover ratio.
Bethany will be back in action on Saturday, September 20, when they travel to New Wilmington, Pa. for a Presidents’ Athletic Conference matchup with the Titans of Westminster. Kickoff is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start.