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Oct. 28 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany football team will take to the road for the second consecutive week Saturday when they travel to Geneva for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Reeves Stadium in Beaver Falls, Pa. The game will not count in the PAC standings, as the Golden Tornadoes are still transitioning from NAIA to Division III.
The Bison will be hoping for more success with this week’s road trip than they found last Saturday at Waynesburg, where they were buried under an avalanche of Yellow Jacket points. The hosts scored 21 points in the opening quarter and went on to post a 52-13 victory. Bethany’s scores came in the second half when junior QB Dan Pegg (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands) tossed a 59-yard scoring pass to senior WR Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) and a 15-yard touchdown toss to senior TE Jorge Laboy (New York, N.Y./Central Park East).

One of the big differences in the game was Waynesburg, who came into the day as the top-ranked passing offense in the league, gaining 298 yards on the ground. That and the injuries continuing to pile up against the Bison led to a very long day for head coach Tim Weaver, but he says his team continues to learn from their mistakes.

“Give Waynesburg a lot of credit,” said Weaver. “We were ready for them to come out throwing all over the place and they came out running and were just more physical. While Pegg played well on offense, our problems there are injuries to the offensive line, where we were missing three of our top six guys from the start of the year and we lost another one for the season Saturday.

“On defense, our problem is we’re playing so many young guys that when a couple bad things happen, people start to press,” said Weaver. “They forget assignments and don’t stay in gaps, so we need to do a better job on the sideline of calming guys down. Saturday was a tough day, but we’re not panicking because we have good, young players who want to learn and get better. We watched film as a defense on Sunday and they saw the mistakes they were making. We are preaching team defense and they are seeing that when guys miss assignments, it can lead to 300 yards rushing against us.”

Injuries haven’t just hit the offensive line, although that’s where the Green and White have been hardest hit. Pegg was starting under center for sophomore Chad Smith (Washington, Pa.), while the only two linemen left standing from Bethany’s projected top six at the start of the year is senior LT Chad Sedlacek (Monaca, Pa.) and sophomore G/T Cory Potter (Akron, Ohio/Green). The other four have suffered year-ending injuries, making up one-fifth of the Bison’s 20 season-stopping ailments, which have allowed some to open eyes with their play.

“If this would have happened my first year here, we would be around 40 guys going into a game,” said Weaver. “The problem is we’re four years into building this instead of seven or eight, so while we’re ok, we’re still not deep enough and are back to where we were two years ago in terms of inexperience on the field.

“The bright side is, we’ve had some guys take advantage of their opportunity,” said Weaver. “Pegg hasn’t played since a really bad game at Otterbein in last year’s opener. But he’s been a great team guy, worked hard and did well with his opportunity. We’re playing exclusively freshmen at every linebacker spot and guys like Will Powell (Virginia Beach, Va./Landstown) are making big plays and Kyle Arrington (Jackson Twp., Ohio/Jackson) is playing solid. On the offensive line, Bryan Benzinger (Fairview Park, Ohio) played well last week and J.C. Rucker (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mt. Lebanon) has stepped up too.”

Everyone on the Bethany roster will need to step up in this week’s game against Geneva, who comes in 6-1 with their only loss being a 31-10 defeat against #6 Washington & Jefferson. Last week, the Golden Tornadoes scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to claim a 38-20 win over Saint Vincent. The Bearcats took a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Geneva trailed for all of 11 seconds, as A.J. Delmonico took the ensuing kickoff back 74 yards for a touchdown. Scoring runs by Matt Dean (four yards) and Gerard Muschette (seven) sealed the GTs 11th win in their last 12 games, a stretch that started last year with a 38-23 victory at Bethany.

Bethany will have to contend with another potent offense this week, as Geneva is third in the PAC in scoring (34.4). While the GTs may be ninth in the circuit in passing (188.3), the rushing attack is churning out 167.1 yards per game and scored a league-best 23 touchdowns. Saturday will feature the top two rushers in the conference in Geneva’s Muschette with 741 yards and Bethany’s Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.) with 739 and both have scored nine TDs on the ground. Other rushing threats for Geneva include Matt Barge (266 yds., two touchdowns) and Dean (194 yds., PAC-high 10 rushing touchdowns).

The GT defense is an opportunistic unit that leads the conference in turnovers forced (21) and is also third in sacks with 19. Linebacker Aaron Tommelleo leads the squad with 43 tackles, including six for loss, and the defensive line’s efforts are spearheaded by DE Brian Wilson, who has six sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. The ball-hawking secondary, which has 13 interceptions this year, is paced by Rich Kolesar, who leads the PAC with five picks.

“They are a playoff-caliber team if they were allowed to go,” said Weaver. “They were the only team in the league to beat Thomas More last year and are at that level as a team again. They have talent at every position, play really hard, are well-coached and sound and run systems that are different than other teams run in the league.”