Oct. 24 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany football team will try to rebound from consecutive losses on the final play when they host Waynesburg Saturday in a PAC match-up. Kickoff at Bison Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m.
The Bison (1-5, 0-4) lost their fourth straight game overall and second in heart-breaking fashion last week with a 46-43 setback at Westminster. BC led 28-0 in the first quarter and 43-29 with less than four minutes to play, but the Titans rallied and used a 44-yard field goal as time expired to pull out the victory. Sophomore RB Marcus Santini (Seminole, Fla.) had two touchdowns, including an 84-yard scoring run, and freshman RB Eric Walker (New Brighton, Pa.) also scored twice in the defeat.
The loss gave Bethany consecutive defeats by less than a touchdown since falling 13-10 in back-to-back weeks to Capital and Duquesne early in the 1993 campaign.
“This is the most unbelievable stretch of games I’ve been involved in as a coach or player and I’ve been doing this a long time,” said Bethany head coach Tim Weaver. “The most disheartening thing is that at times, we are playing, on both sides of the ball, our best stretches since our staff has been here. But for some reason, we can’t close the deal.
“People see the score and say we can’t play defense, but that’s not the case,” said Weaver. “Last week was a team situation, where when we needed a couple first downs in the second half, we went three-and-out. Or when we needed a stop on fourth down, we had guys in position, but they just didn’t make the play. Or one that no one talks about, the last time we punted, we had a false start, which cost us five yards of field position. It hasn’t been just one thing. The good news is the players are learning from their mistakes, but there are tons to learn from and it’s my job as head coach to get them corrected.”
A bright spot for the Bison defense over the past two weeks has been their opportunistic nature. After forcing just six turnovers through the opening four games, BC has created eight takeaways in the last two and now stands at +1 in turnover margin for the season. Bethany forced six Westminster miscues a week ago, including four interceptions, the most picks by a Bison teams since snaring five Franklin & Marshall passes in the 2005 season opener. One of last week’s interceptions was returned 86 yards for a score by senior CB Brandon Zeman (Bridgeville, Pa./Chartiers Valley).
“We have emphasized to our players about creating turnovers and they are starting to get in position to make those types of plays,” said Weaver. “Going back to what I said before, our defense last week scored one touchdown, gave us the ball at their 16, forced a three-and-out and a 31-yard punt return gives us the ball at their 18 and we picked off a pass in the red zone to end a drive. Those are plays that in previous years, we don’t make for whatever reason. The only problem is when it’s time to make plays to win the game in the fourth quarter, we are unable to put our foot on the gas and get it done, in any phase.”
Bethany will also be trying to break a six-game losing streak to Waynesburg this week. The Yellow Jackets lead the all-time series between the schools 26-14-7, aided by last year’s 45-7 victory last season in which the Bison gained only 113 total yards. The last BC triumph came in 2001 when the Green and White rolled to a 34-7 win.
This year’s Waynesburg squad (4-2, 1-1) has claimed three consecutive victories following a 1-2 start. The Yellow Jackets escaped with a 34-28 triumph last week at Geneva, as QB Brad Dawson ran for a touchdown and threw for another in the fourth quarter last week. Freshman RB Justin Falcon became the third different Waynesburg runner to go over 100 yards when he carried 22 times for 118 yards.
The Yellow Jackets, who have played without All-American RB Robert Heller after he left the program following the first game, boast the third-highest scoring offense in the PAC, averaging 30.7 points per game. A big help in that area is the team’s proficiency in the red zone, as Waynesburg has scored on 19-of-20 trips (95 percent) inside the opposing teams’ 20-yard line, the highest mark in the conference. Dawson has thrown for 701 yards and six TDs this year, with his top target being Ray Hightower II, who has 20 catches for 303 yards and a trio of scores. The talented duo in the backfield includes Billy Becker, who has 471 rushing yards and six touchdowns, and Falcon, who has gained 247 yards.
Defensively, Waynesburg gives up 26.5 points and 326 yards per game, but are second in the PAC with 22 sacks. LB Ryan Krull is ranked second in the PAC with 58 tackles and CB Scott Cree is a big-play threat on defense and special teams. In addition to 17 tackles and four interceptions, he has five return touchdowns this year, including three kickoffs returns, one punt return and one interception runback.
“Waynesburg is a tough match-up for us because they are very physical and very fast defensively,” said Weaver. “They manhandled us last year and even though they lost a couple guys, they are still as good a defense as we’ve seen. Offensively, it doesn’t look like they miss Heller a bit. Becker is a very good back and they stuck Falcon in there against Geneva and he gained 100 yards. They’ve improved at quarterback with Dawson, who can throw or run and Cree is a nightmare who has scored a non-offensive touchdown in four of their six games.
“And they are playing for a PAC title,” said Weaver. “If W&J beats Thomas More and Waynesburg wins out, which would include a win over W&J, then it’s a three-way tie for the conference crown (Thomas More beat Waynesburg 34-26 earlier this year). They have a lot to lose, but we expect a great effort from them.”
Although Bethany’s hopes for a conference title are gone under a pile of crushing last-second losses, Weaver says his team continues to work as hard today as they did when camp first opened.
“I said it last week too, this is a great team to be around,” said Weaver. “The effort is there every day in practice to get better and they are not making any excuses. It does seem like karma is out to get us a little bit with injuries and things piling up, but through six games, this is by far the most competitive team we’ve put on the field in our time here. It feels bad to be 1-5, but the guys know how close they are to being 4-2 or 3-3 and that makes them come out here and keep working to get better.”