September, 7 – Danville, Ky. – It was a tale of two halves for the Bison football program in their first game under first-year head coach Bill Garvey. The Bison trailed 30-9 with 11:30 remaining in the third quarter, before the Green and White stormed back, before falling, 33-28 to Centre College on Saturday afternoon in Danville.
“I thought that our effort wasn’t where we needed it to be throughout the first half,” remarked Garvey. “We really got on the guys in the locker room at halftime and I think that the mental toughness that they showed in half number two, is something that we can really look to build on in the future.”
Bethany got off to a fast start on the opening drive of the game as the Bison went 66 yards on 13 plays to get themselves in scoring range. The big play of the drive was a 27 yard strike from senior quarterback Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) to sophomore wide-out Eric Blinn (Beaver, Pa./Western Beaver), which put Bethany in Centre territory for the first time. Three plays later, Grimard hit Jaylen Jennings(Indian Head, Md./Henry R. Lackey) for a 13-yard gain, down to the Colonels’ 14 yard line. It was there, however, that the drive stalled and Bethany settled for a 26-yard field goal by freshman Dalton Conroy (Bellaire, Ohio/Bellaire), which he made, to put BC up 3-0.
Following the field goal, Centre rattled off the next 23 points which included three touchdown passes from junior QB Heath Haden, two of which were to Austin Jones. Bethany also gave up a safety on a botched snap on a punt, which helped put Center ahead, 23-3, with 6:46 to go in the first half.
On the ensuing drive, the Bison got a little closer with a touchdown of their own. After a run play was stuffed in the backfield, Grimard found Jennings on back-to-back plays for 17 yards and 16 yards, respectively, to get the Bison to mid-field. Another completion to Blinn for 19 yards, and some help on a facemask penalty on the Colonels had the Bison down to the 16-yard line with just over 40 seconds to play. Grimard then capped off the drive with a 16-yard TD run to cut the lead to 23-9. However, the extra point was missed and the Bison went into the half, down by the same score.
“We have a lot of young guys out there,” said Coach Garvey, “and I just don’t think we got out of the gate as fast as we could have. We had some mistakes that needed correcting, and our guys really turned it around in the second half.”
On the ensuing drive of the second half, Centre marched right down the field, going 75 yards on nine plays, to score a touchdown and extend the advantage to 30-9. Hayden connected on his fourth touchdown pass of the contest, finding Harry Meisner for a 49-yard strike.
It took the Bison just three plays to respond to that score. A 29-yard kickoff return by Chris Collins (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) and two completed passes by Grimard (four yards to Collins and eight yards to Jennings) set up the Bison for first-and-10 on the Centre 47. Junior running back Brandon Hill (McKeesport, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) then captured lightning in a bottle, beating the Centre defense on a 47-yard touchdown run. Once again, the Bison failed to convert the extra point and the score became 30-15.
Just two plays into the ensuing Centre drive, sophomore defensive back Dion Williams (Clinton, Md./Frederick Douglass) picked-off a pass from Haden in a diving effort to give the ball back to the Bison. Bethany then wasted little time marching the 26-yards, which were capped by Grimard’s second TD run of the day. For the third time, the extra point attempt was no good, but Bethany now trailed by just 9, 30-21.
The Bison defense then kept Bethany in the ball-game, turning away the Colonels on two-separate occasions by forcing fumbles inside the red-zone. With Centre on the 19-yard line in Bethany territory, Martin McCoy (Capitol Heights, Md./Frederick Douglass)stripped the ball away from Meisner which was recovered by Ben Howcott (Upper Marlboro, Md./Frederick Douglass) to give the possession back to Bethany.
Four plays later, Phil Acrie (Pittsburgh, Pa./Linsley) returned the favor, giving the ball back to center at the Bethany 21 on a fumble of his own. However, the Bison turned Center away again, as another fumble was once again pounced on by Howcott, this time at the Bethany six, to keep the score at 30-21.
With Bethany now on their own six yard line, the Bison would put together a drive that would go 13 plays and culminate in a six yard touchdown run by Acrie. The big play on the drive was a fourth-and-three conversion as Grimard found Blinn for an eight-yard strike down to the Center six yard line. Acrie would punch it in on the next play and the extra point by Pedro Lalor (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) was good, cutting the Colonels’ lead to 30-28.
After Centre was able to tack on a field goal to make the score 33-28 with 2:55 to go, the Bison had time for one final drive.
After a 30-yard kick return by Collins set Bethany up nicely on the 38-yard line, Grimard completed four straight passes to four different receivers. He hit Jennings for an eight-yard strike; Collins for a 29 yarder; Acrie for a 13-yard gain; and freshman Tyler Ambush (Germantown, Md./Northwest) for five yards which put the Bison down to the Centre nine-yard line.
Three plays later, the Bison had a 4th-and-3 on the seven and were looking to score. However, Grimard’s pass was tipped and intercepted in the end-zone by Casey Vatter, and Bethany’s hopes for a comeback were dashed, as they fell 33-28.
Offensively for the Bison, Grimard spread the ball around nicely. He finished the day 27-for-36 for 339 yards and one interception. Needing just 26 pass attempts to become Bethany’s all-time leader in that category, Grimard now stands at the top with 906, 11 more than the previous high of 895 held by Bob Fromm.
“Matt had a good game,” said Coach Garvey. “There are some things that we see that we think we could still improve on in the passing game, but overall we thought it was a solid body of work.”
In the receiving corps, Eric Blinn led all Bison with 11 catches for 130 yards. Jennings caught eight balls for 106 and Collins snagged five passes for 51 yards.
Bethany scored all their touchdowns on the ground, getting four from their rushing attack. Hill and Acrie each found pay-dirt, while Grimard scampered in for two scores.
Defensively, Bethany was led by 8.5 tackles by sophomore Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg). The team also totaled three sacks and seven tackles for loss, 2.5 of which came from freshman Khallid Pierce (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline).
“Our defense started off a little slow in the first half,” remarked Garvey. “But after our visit in the locker room, the guys really came out focused and ready to play.
“I see a lot of mental toughness out there, and that is something that we can really build on in the games to come, especially having a conference opponent next week.”
The Bison will be back in action on September, 14 when they travel to Beaver Falls, Pa. to take on the Golden Tornadoes of Geneva College. Kick-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.