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Strong Defensive Effort Not Enough In Bison Football's 7-6 Loss To Westminster

Oct. 26 – BETHANY, W. Va. – In an unexpected defensive struggle that saw no offensive touchdowns, the Bethany College football program was defeated, 7-6, by Westminster College on Saturday afternoon at Bison Stadium.

The key play of the game came with just 44 seconds remaining in the contest as Westminster’s Dylan Heitmeier blocked a Stephen Amic (McDonald, Pa./West Allegheny) punt and recovered it in the end zone for the go ahead score.

The first half was controlled by the Bethany defense, as the Bison held Westminster to just 84 total yards of offense in the first half.

The first six drives of the contest proved fruitless for both teams as no drive lasted more than five plays for either the Titans or the Bison. With 8:26 left to play in the first quarter, the Bison made their first push. Aided by a Titan personal foul penalty, and completing a pass to five different receivers, including a 35-yard strike to Jaylen Jennings (Indian Head, Md./Henry E. Lackey), senior QB Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) had the bison on a First-and-Goal from the Westminster 10. However, the team could not get into the end zone, and Bethany settled for a 23-yard field goal attempt, which was converted by Pedro Lalor (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips), to give the Bison a 3-0 lead.

After forcing Westminster to go three-and-out in the second quarter, the Bison again went on a long drive, using 14 plays and 7:19 of clock time to go 57 yards. Grimard once again marched the Bison down the field, not gaining more than eight yards on any given play and had Bethany knocking on the door again with a first-and-goal from the Westminster three. The drive would once again stall in the red zone, and Lalor would add his second field goal of the game, this one of the 22-yard variety, and the Bison would go up 6-0. The teams would go into the locker room with Bethany leading by the same score.

The defense held the Titans to just 52 total yards in the first half until the last play of the frame, when, in prevent defense, the Bison gave up a 30-yard gain to Collin Wallace, which would prove to be Westminster’s longest play of the day.

In the third quarter, Westminster controlled the clock, keeping the ball for 11:49 of the frame, but would end up fruitless in both endeavors thanks to big plays by the Bethany defense.

On the first drive, Westminster went 13 plays and had the ball with a first-and-goal from the Bison four. On first down, running back Tyler Banks was stuffed for a loss of two by Khallid Pierce (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) and Josh Moody (McKeesport, Pa./McKeesport). Then, after a false start penalty backed them up to the 11, quarterback Dak Britt fought back to the three-yard line on an eight-yard run. Banks was again stopped short of the end zone on third down thanks to a tackle by Nick Greer (Pittsburgh, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) and Chris Burg (Martinsburg, W. Va./Martinsburg). Then, on fourth down, Burg was in on the tackle again as he and Dion Williams (Clinton, Md./Frederick Douglass) stopped Banks short of the end zone to give Bethany back the ball.

On the second drive of the third quarter, Westminster once again got into the Bethany red zone but saw a fourth-down pass fall incomplete thanks to a great breakup by Wyssmy Despagne (Riverdale, Md./Parkdale) which kept the Bison up, 6-0, heading to the fourth quarter.

On Westminster’s first scoring opportunity of the fourth quarter, it was Despagne once again who broke up a potential touchdown pass from Britt to Taran Sifontes-Lavine on fourth-and-goal from the Bethany 12 to, once again, give the ball back to the Bison.

With Bethany on their own side of the field with 3:24 to play, The Bison began to work the clock, picking up a first down on a third-and-one on a keeper by Grimard. However, later in the drive, two penalties had the Bison looking at a third-and-18 from their own 20 yard line. After an incomplete pass to Jennings, the Bethany special teams took the field to punt the ball away with under a minute to play.

The initial snap was high and the Titans were able to get to the punter, with Heitmeier being able to get his hand on the ball to block the kick. A mad scramble for the ball ensued which pushed the ball into the end zone, where Heitmeier recovered the fumble for the game-tying touchdown. The extra point was good, and Westminster had their first lead, 7-6 with 44 seconds to play.

“We just missed an assignment on the last punt,” said first-year head coach Bill Garvey. “They were able to make the big play when they needed to, and we just weren’t able to today.”

With one final chance for the Bison, Grimard scrambled around on third down and looked down field to Tyler Ambush. The pass fell incomplete and the Bison were handed the 7-6 defeat.

“It’s hard; the things that beat us in the first three weeks of the season, namely costly penalties and bad special teams play, came back to bite us on that final drive, which gave them the chance that they needed.”

Despite the loss, the Bison defense played arguably their best game of the season, holding the Westminster offense to just 232 total yards, including only 82 passing yards.

Led by 3.0 tackles for loss by Jarrett Rahymes (Colquitt, Ga./Miller County) and 2.5 from Larry Kpadehyea (Monrovia, Md./Gaithersburg), the Bison “D” totaled 11.0 tackles for loss in the contest and held an opponent to its’ lowest point total since defeating Thiel, 20-0, in 2011.

“Our defense gave us every opportunity to win this game,” remarked Garvey. “Unfortunately we just weren’t able to do it on the offensive end of the field tonight.”

Bethany returns to action on Saturday, November 2 when it hosts the Tomcats of Thiel College for Bethany’s final home game of the season. The game will also be senior day for the Green & White as Bison senior class members will be recognized before the game.