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BISON LOOK FOR SECOND WIN IN A ROW SATURDAY VS. WESTMINSTER
Oct. 14 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany football team will try to even its record at 3-3 and its PAC mark at 2-2 when Westminster (2-4, 1-2) invades Bison Stadium Saturday afternoon for a 1:30 kickoff.
Last weekend saw the BC offense explode in a 42-21 victory over Thiel, which snapped a six-game losing streak to the Tomcats. The Green and White piled up 583 yards of total offense, led by sophomore QB Chad Smith (Washington, Pa.) completing a school-record 37 passes for 373 yards and two scores, while senior WR Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) caught 12 balls for 186 yards and became the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards (2,276).
The Bison defense also played a big hand in the win. Led by the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week in senior FS Matt Dahle (McKees, Rocks, Pa./Sto-Rox), Bethany forced four Thiel turnovers and had a pair of quarterback sacks in the Homecoming victory, which made the win all the sweeter for the program according to Bethany head coach Tim Weaver.
“Winning at Homecoming is always special because of the people back for the weekend,” said Weaver. “For this team, the win validated all the hard work they’ve put in this year. We were able to get on a roll early, carry the momentum throughout all four quarters and had a great overall game. Even though the early part of our schedule was tough, we didn’t stop believing how good we could be and to come out and play as well as did is a huge confidence booster.”
Another sign that this team is coming around had to do with the halftime score. Last year in Greenville, the Bison led Thiel 28-7 at intermission, only to see the Tomcats rally to force overtime and win a 50-44 shootout in four OTs. Last Saturday saw an eerily similar 28-7 BC advantage, but this time, a score on the opening drive of the second half dismissed all the thoughts of last year’s result. When Weaver spoke to his team at halftime Saturday, he had too many other things to discuss without even bringing up last year and the team responded exactly how he hoped they would.
“All we wanted to focus on Saturday was the first half and our play,” said Weaver. “We had a bad turnover, gave up too many big plays, took too many penalties, so we had to talk about how much better we needed to play in the second half. The offense coming out and putting together a confident, well-executed drive to score on the first possession was the turning point of the game and maybe our season to avoid getting into a similar position as last year.”
While the Bethany passing attack was setting records Saturday, the other key to the game was the performance turned in by sophomore RB Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.), who scored four touchdowns for the second game this season. He rushed for 126 yards and three scores, including a 37-yard burst to the end zone on a fourth-and-one, while also adding a six-yard TD reception. Walker is currently the PAC leader in scoring with 10 touchdowns and is second in rushing yards with 493, which is why Weaver says his sophomore back is the straw that stirs the Bison offense and will be setting just as many marks as Cruse and Smith in the very near future.
“Eric is the key to our offense,” said Weaver. “If teams don’t stop our running game, we’ll run it all day long. Once we get defenses to a one-safety look, it gives us chances to throw to our threats on the perimeter. The biggest change in our program from our first two years to the last two years is being able to run the ball effectively with Eric. When he’s done, he’s going to have just as many records as anyone else.”
Westminster comes to Bethany this weekend off its own record-setting performances in last week’s thrilling 49-42 overtime victory over Waynesburg. Wide receiver Jon Gubish, who is ranked second in the PAC with 51 catches, set a new school mark with 14 receptions for 203 yards and two TDs last week, while QB Shawn Lehocky came off the bench to throw for a career-high 235 yards and three scores. He also became the first quarterback in Westminster history to rush for over 100 yards in a game, as he ran for 112 yards on 14 carries with two TDs on his way to PAC Offensive Player of the Week honors. This was after he came in for senior signal-caller Kevin Franz, who has completed 67 percent of his passes this year for 1,088 yards and seven TDs.
The Titans also have a sturdy running back in senior Nick McKolosky, who is third in the PAC this year in rushing (367 yds., four TDs) and has gained 126 and 137 yards in his last two meetings with Bethany. Although dealing with weapons like Gubish and McKolosky have the Bison’s attention, Bethany also has to be ready to deal with two styles of quarterback in the pocket passer Franz or the more mobile Lehocky.
“We are preparing for and expecting to see both of them Saturday,” said Weaver. “Regardless of who is under center, their passing game stays the same. The big difference is with Lehocky, they run a lot more designed quarterback runs. He gained some yards on scrambles out of the pocket last week, but most of his damage, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime, came on designed runs that were executed very well. It’s just something else we’re going to prepare for in practice this week.”
The BC ground game will face a challenge Saturday against the Titan defense, which is ranked third in the PAC and 26th in the nation by allowing only 83 yards per game. They have been vulnerable through the air this season, giving up 259.3 passing yards and 13 scores. Linebacker Cory Meeker boasts a team-high 40 tackles, while DE Neil Falco is second in the PAC with five sacks and freshman DB Kyle Allen is tied for second in the circuit with three interceptions.
“They have a big, physical group in the front seven and are committed to a zone blitz package,” said Weaver. “They’re also a little different because they playa new look we haven’t seen much this year and there are different schemes and patterns for the offensive line to get accustomed to in practice this week.”
Despite the big win last week, there are some items Weaver wasn’t pleased with and he wants to see rectified for the Bison to win their second straight this weekend.
“Offensively, we need to protect the ball and be balanced,” said Weaver. “If we want to take another step defensively, we still need to do a better job of getting off the field on third down than we did last week. And every Thiel scoring drive had one big play, so we have to focus on eliminating those.”