October 5, 2013 – BETHANY, W. Va. – For the first time since head coach Bill Garvey was eight years old, the Bethany football team (2-3, 2-1 PAC) defeated the Presidents of Washington & Jefferson. The team used 200 total yards from Phil Acrie (Pittsburgh, Pa./Linsley), and an interception in the end zone in the waning seconds of the game by Aaron Frye (Vandergrift, Pa./Kiski Area) to come out on top, 24-19.
The Bison came out strong out of the gates, opening the game with a seven-play, 81-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown. The big play of the drive was a 59-yard pitch and catch from Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) to Jaylen Jennings (Indian Head, Md./Henrey E. Lackey), which set the Bison up with a first-and-goal from the W&J 15. Four plays later it was Acrie, scoring his first of two touchdowns on a one-yard run to make it 7-0.
On W&J’s second drive of the game, the Bison allowed just one first down, but then forced the Presidents to punt. Punter Eric Eberle made a great kick and pinned the Bison to their own one-yard line, however, the drive that ensued was even better.
The Bison, with 5:40 remaining in the first quarter, would start on a 10-play, 99-yard drive. To get out of the shadow of their own goal post, Grimard completed a 13-yard strike to Tyler Ambush (Germantown, Md./Northwest). After a pass interference penalty on W&J, Grimard was at it again, this time doing it with his legs. On a second-and-ten, Grimard escaped to the outside and ran the ball 21-yards to the W&J 25-yard line.
Seven plays after the 21-yard run, Grimard hooked up with one of his favorite targets, Chris Collins (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline). Grimard threw a strike to Collins in the middle of the end zone, and Collins made a great catch, to five Bethany the 14-0 lead.
“That drive might have been the biggest of the day for us,” said Coach Garvey. “To be able to take it literally the entire length of the field, eating up a bunch of clock while we do it, and to have it end in a touchdown, was just huge.”
Just one play into the W&J drive following the touchdown, the Bethany defense stepped up big. On a run by Dion Wiegand, Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg) brought down the W&J running back and the came free with the ball as he reached in and muscled the ball away from Wiegand on the way down. The turnover gave Bethany the ball back on the W&J 35 and they notched an 18-yard field goal by Pedro Lalor (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) just six plays later to take a 17-0 lead.
The Bison would add one more touchdown in the second quarter on their very next possession. After forcing another Presidents’ punt, the Bison used to big plays by Acrie to score again. A 23-yard pass completion set up the Bison with first-and-ten on the Bethany 38. After a 25-yard completion from Grimard to Blinn and a five yard run by Acrie put the Bison on the Presidents’ 34, Acrie broke his second-longest run of the season, springing free for a 34-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 24-0.The Bison would then take the same advantage into the locker room.
The first half couldn’t have been dominated more by the Bison. Bethany controlled the time of possession, 22:22 to 9:38 and outgained the Presidents by a total of 392-107. Also in the first half, the Bison also dominated the line of scrimmage, outgaining W&J 119 to 24 on the ground.
“The first half couldn’t have gone any better for us,” remarked Garvey. “We had our guys prepared as best we could for this game, and they just came out and executed every single play. We were the more physical team in the first half, and we really took it to them.”
In the second-half, the tables were turned as the Presidents’ scored 19-unanswered points between the third and fourth quarters. For the first touchdown, W&J strung together a 9-play, 93-yard drive that finished with a one-yard touchdown run for Wiegan to make the score 24-7.
After the Bison stalled, W&J wasted little time to notch another score. Going to the no-huddle, the Presidents used just 1:26 of clock time to march 65-yards on seven plays. Once again, a one-yard TD run by Wiegand finished off the drive. However, the extra point was missed and the Bison kept the 11-point lead, 24-13.
At the 9:41 mark of the fourth quarter, W&J was knocking on the door again. A 32-yard run by Wiegand got the Presidents down to the Bethany 41 and, two plays later, were down to the 27 with a first-and-ten.
The Bison defense held for the first time on the drive, as quarterback Matt Bliss was sacked twice in the series. On first-down Bliss lost two yards thanks to the combined efforts of Kpadehyea and Greg Roberson. Then on third down, he was dropped for an eight-yard loss on a solo sack by Khallid Pierce (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline), which set up fourth-and-18. The fourth down play would then fall incomplete and the Bison took over on downs.
After the Bison offense was halted on a three-and-out, the Presidents struck for the third time. Back-to-back 20+-yard plays had W&J down to the Bison four yard line. This time, a pass to Alex Baroffio found the end-zone to cut the lead to 24-19. On the ensuing two-point conversion, the Bison held strong to keep the lead at five points.
With 2:03 remaining in the game, W&J had their first of two attempts to score the winning touchdown. From their own 30, the Presidents could get nothing going thanks to a stout Bison defense. The Green & White forced four-straight incomplete passes, including a fourth down breakup by last week’s hero, Channan Scott (Willow Grove, Pa./Abington), to give the Bison the ball back.
However, Bethany would give the ball back to the Presidents with enough time for one final drive. Already down to the Bethany 43, Bliss connected with Baroffio for a gain of 28 yards down to the Bison 15. After an incomplete pass, Blinn attempted to go to the back corner of the end zone. With Bethany in zone coverage, Frye made a great read on the ball and cut in front of the W&J receiver for his first interception of the season. The pick in the end zone gave the Bison the ball, and the victory, 24-19.
“Our defense has been so mentally tough all season long,” remarked Coach Garvey. “The first few weeks everyone was blaming them for the losses, but huge credit for them for never getting down, and continuously getting out there and putting it all on the line tonight.”
In the win, Bethany used a very balanced attack, throwing for 335 yards while adding 228 on the ground. The team also held a huge advantage in time of possession, having the ball for 41:06, compared to the Presidents’ 18:54.
Individually, the Bison were led by Acrie, who finished the day with exactly 200 total yards, collecting 126 yards and two scores on the ground (his first 100+ yard game of the season) and adding 74 yards receiving on five catches.
“It’s no surprise to us that Phil had this kind of game,” said Garvey of his junior tailback. “He has always been a productive player, but sometimes we don’t get him the ball as often as we should. We believe he is always capable of producing with that efficiency.
Grimard had a dynamite day for the Bison as well, completing 20-of-38 passes for 335 yards and a passing touchdown, which he threw to Chris Collins. With a 14 yard pitch-and-catch to Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver) in the third quarter, Grimard became the first player in Bison history to record 10,000 total career yards.
“Mat has always been a special player,” said Coach Garvey. “This milestone is indicative of the hard work and dedication that he puts in on a daily basis. 10,000 is a huge number and I am very happy for Matt as he as worked so hard for this accomplishment.
Grimard spread the ball around nicely, hitting six different receivers in the game. Blinn finished with five catches for 72 yards while Ambush (80 yards), Brandon Hill (McKeesport, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) (28 yards) and Collins (22 yards) all caught three passes. Collins also had the lone touchdown through the air.
Defensively, the Bison did a great job against the areal attack of the Presidents, deflecting 12 passes. Tre Goode (Joppa, Md./Joppatowne) led the way with three passes defended while Scott finished with two. Linemen Ethan Barnes (Weirton, W. Va./Weir) and Pierce also each knocked down two passes.
Goode also led the team in tackles with eight, while Kpadheyea finished with seven. Chris Burg (Martinsburg, W. Va./Martinsburg) ended the game with five stops while Pierce added 1.5 sacks on the day.
The victory for the Bison marked the first over W&J since Ronald Regan was President. It was also the second consecutive victory over a team that narrowly escaped the Bison last year. Last week Bethany walked away with a 34-31 win over Grove City, who had defeated the Bison on a last-second field goal last season.
“It’s always great to exercise some demons with games like these,” remarked Garvey, “However, the real thing to look at is that this team continues to grow and get better.
“Getting the monkey off our back in this win is something that will help this program to move forward and believe that we can compete with anyone else on our schedule.”
Tonight’s win wasn’t only for us. We have to thank all of the alumni who continuously support our program, and who still see W&J as a big rival. This one was for them as well.”
The Bison will enjoy a bye week next week after winning back-to-back games over Grove City and W&J and will be back in action on October 19 when they travel to Waynesburg University.