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Bethany at Saint Vincent Preview

More news about: Bethany

For the second time in three weeks, the Bethany College football team will go out on the road to face one of the top teams in the PAC, as the Bison journey to Latrobe, Pa., Saturday to face Saint Vincent in a 1 p.m. kickoff.

Last Saturday, Bethany improved to 4-4 overall and 3-4 in the PAC with a 33-14 victory over visiting Grove City. The contest was scoreless at halftime before BC erupted for five second-half touchdowns to claim just their second win over the Wolverines in the last 15 meetings. Sophomore quarterback Matt Grimard (Lowell, Mass./Dracut) accounted for 269 total yards, threw two touchdowns and rushed for another.

The win was also highlighted by a defense that limited GCC to 259 total yards and a special teams unit that used two big punt returns and a blocked punt to set up touchdowns drives. The complete win was key, as the Bison strive to have a big finish to the campaign.

"Last week's win was important," said Bethany head coach Tim Weaver. "We talk about finishing the season strong and now we have a chance to go 4-1 in the second half. We also talk about not letting games get away from us against teams we feel we match up with well. There was no panic at halftime, even though we felt we left some plays on the field. The staff put together a good plan and the players executed it very, very well.

"Overall, it was a total team win and everyone contributed," said Weaver. "Defensively, we held a team to under 300 yards and two touchdowns, the offense scored five touchdowns in the second half and the special teams set up short fields with punt returns and blocked punts. And it came against a good team coming in on a two-game winning streak who hadn't been handled that way since early in the year."

The effort put up by the Bison defensively Saturday is becoming a usual occurrence. It was the second time in the last three games BC held its opponent under 260 total yards and for the year, the Green and White ranks fourth in the conference in total yards allowed (314.4), which would be the lowest average given up by a Bethany defense since 2002 (300.1).

One big factor to the Bison's strong play is the linebacking core of juniors Kyle Arrington (Jackson Twp., Ohio/Jackson) and Gage Lotozo (Somerset, Ohio/Sheridan) and sophomore Tyrell Scott (Lanham, Md./Parkdale). Arrington is third in the conference with 73 tackles, while Lotozo, who also has two touchdown receptions as a goal-line back, has been in on 33 hits and Scott has made 36 stops. With this group leading the way and nearly everyone on the entire defense set to return next year, Bethany's best days may still lay ahead.

"Good linebackers make a college defense and our group is very good and steady," said Weaver. "Kyle, Gage and Tyrell all played really well against Grove City. We've also had (sophomore safety) Jamaan (Webb of Jacksonville, Fla) play in a hybrid position for us and he's been productive.

"The improvement in our defense has been great to watch," said Weaver. "We knew we solved the linebacker situation two years ago when we recruited Kyle and Gage, but they were freshmen, so we had growing pains to go through. We've added pieces to the defensive line over the last couple years, starting with (senior) Kasib (Tallib-Din of New York, N.Y.) and (junior) Blake DeBord (Martinsburg, W.Va.). Then we added sophomores in Zach Burton (Hurricane, W.Va.), Prince Aguzie (Randallstown, Md.) and Seth Cawoski (Greensburg, Pa./Greensburg Salem) and have freshmen stepping in this year like Randy Bush (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) and Greg Roberson (Upper Marlboro, Md./Frederick Douglas).

"In the secondary, we hit the jackpot with a lot of the guys we recruited last year and moving Jeff Joyce (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) there and then added another good class this year," said Weaver. "Looking ahead to camp next year, the only key component we lose is Kasib and we have a few guys coming back from injuries. We'll still not where we want to be, but we're getting there."

The continuing maturation under center of Grimard, who is second in the PAC in passing yards (1,857) and third in touchdown passes (15) can be tied to the deep receiving corps the Bison run out every week. Three BC wideouts are ranked in the top 10 in the conference in receptions per game, including senior Alex Evans (Washington, Pa.) at 4.4, junior Ed Holmes (Virginia Beach, Va./Landstown) with 4.2 and sophomore Daryl Powell (West Point, Va./King William) with 4.1. Add in junior Johnathan Foster (Cumberland, Md./Fort Hill), who caught a 26-yard touchdown pass against Grove City, and sophomore RB Nico Irizarry (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline), who has 18 catches out of the backfield, and Bethany has plenty of targets for their second-year signal-caller.

"The key for that group is they've been healthy," said Weaver. "We've been able to run the same four and five guys out there every week and being out there every day in practice has allowed them to get the timing down with Matt. We are constantly challenging them to get better. We still have way too many drops and when someone isn't early in the progressions, they don't always run the routes to the right depth. If we are going to take the next step, we are as talented as anyone we play at that spot, but we need more consistency from them."

This week's Bison opponent has been ever so close to taking the next step of their own. Saint Vincent, who went 4-36 in the previous four years since bringing back varsity football, brings a 5-4 overall record and 4-3 mark in the conference into their regular season finale Saturday. The Bearcats have lost three games by a field goal, including two in overtime, and the fourth loss came by five points to Grove City.

Last week, Saint Vincent scored two first-quarter touchdowns and used a spectacular effort from their defense, which allowed only 153 total yards and forced four turnovers, in a 21-9 victory over Westminster. Quarterback Aaron Smetanka threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns and ran for the other score, as SVC clinched its first .500 season since 1961.

"Give a lot of credit to Coach (Bob) Colbert and his staff for their turnaround," said Weaver. "I think our programs are very similar in terms of having to rebuild and in Division III terms without scholarships, they've done it quickly. They found their quarterback in Smetanka and did a tremendous job of keeping kids in the program. They also stayed with their system, as they are running the same plays they did four years ago, but now they have bigger, stronger, more experienced players running them."

The Bearcats have also had a remarkable turnaround on defense, as they lead the conference in fewest yards allowed (288.2) and are second in points allowed (16.8). The unit is led by a pair of undersized, but dynamic linebackers in 5-9 Anthony Johnson, who leads the league with 87 tackles, and 5-8 Armando Fortunato, who has been in on 60 stops. In addition, Saint Vincent had a conference-best 15 interceptions, including five by strong safety Dan Wirkowski and four from cornerback Darius Brown.

"They play as hard as anyone in the league," said Weaver. "Everyone understands where they need to be and can tackle. It's amazing to watch their linebackers because you think going in you are going to be able to do just about whatever you want. But no one has. They don't get blocked, are really fast and great tacklers, and very instinctive. And their secondary improvement is almost remarkable. They are very good back there."

Many may think the Bearcat offense rests solely on Smetanka, a First Team All-PAC choice last year. And while he has thrown for 1,845 yards and 13 scores, it's the Saint Vincent running attack that has Weaver concerned. The SVC ground game ranks third in the conference with 156.4 yards per game and features a solid one-two punch in Huey Ehredt (692 yards, 4 TDs) and Mike Kale (509 yards, 4 TDs). One area of concern for the Bearcats is the turnover bug, which has bitten them 20 times this season, including four in the Grove City loss.

"They are doing better when they're more balanced," said Weaver. "They run more of a pro style, which almost feels like defending the option now with everyone spreading you out so much. They are really good at executing in their run game. It makes you put more people closer to the line of scrimmage and leaves your secondary more vulnerable. And they are still very successful throwing the ball downfield. We want to try and stop the run with as few as possible, which isn't easy. You need to somehow make them one-dimensional, which is when they've struggled. And when they've lost, they've turned it over, so we need to look to force some miscues."

These two teams have also relied on big special teams plays to carry them through to victories. One needs to look no further than last Saturday the effect long punt returns and a blocked punt had on the Bison victory. For Saint Vincent, in their 17-14 victory over Waynesburg Oct. 29 that knocked the Yellow Jackets out of the race for the PAC championship, the Bearcats blocked two punts, one which was returned for a score and another that set up SVC's other touchdown. So Weaver and his team know that a big play on special teams could turn the tide Saturday.

"Saint Vincent has done everything on special teams from block punts to fake punts," said Weaver. "It's week nine, so all the secrets are out and everything is on film. Both teams have made big special teams plays in every win. The battle will come down to who can execute, making sure you read all your keys and having the guys ready to complete at high level on every kick play. Our guys understand how important this phase is to winning games."
Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 50, Massachusetts Maritime 7
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Muhlenberg 56, at Juniata 40
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at Dean 25, Becker 10
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Salisbury 27, at TCNJ 7
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MIT 38, at Catholic 21
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Merchant Marine 56, at Maine Maritime 31
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at Hobart 34, Endicott 17
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at Morrisville State 44, Nichols 22
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at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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at Albright 9, Widener 7
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Christopher Newport 16, at Montclair State 8
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at Westminster (Pa.) 41, Bethany 14
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Middlebury 41, at Bowdoin 14
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Williams 24, at Colby 7
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Amherst 36, at Hamilton 6
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Ursinus 35, at Moravian 17
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Trinity (Conn.) 51, at Bates 0
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at LaGrange 38, Brevard 28
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Geneva 33, at Thiel 24
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at Plymouth State 37, Mass-Dartmouth 7
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Kean 28, at Southern Virginia 14
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Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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Union 17, at Curry 14
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at Carnegie Mellon 37, Thomas More 17
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Lycoming 44, at King's 41
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at Western New England 21, Husson 14
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Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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at DePauw 51, Wooster 24
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at Ohio Wesleyan 37, Allegheny 21
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at Misericordia 43, Wilkes 14
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at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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at N.C. Wesleyan 35, Maryville (Tenn.) 25
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Huntingdon 31, at Ferrum 28
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at McDaniel 27, Gettysburg 20
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at Buffalo State 33, RPI 21
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Franklin and Marshall 27, at Susquehanna 24
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at Denison 45, Oberlin 17
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 10, Westminster (Mo.) 7
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at Eureka 44, Crown 20
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at Lebanon Valley 24, FDU-Florham 14
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at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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at Ohio Northern 35, Otterbein 7
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at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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at Rose-Hulman 37, Defiance 14
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at Marietta 49, Muskingum 25
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Franklin 59, at Bluffton 30
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at Hanover 64, Anderson 21
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Mount St. Joseph 31, at Manchester 14
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Worcester State 34, at Westfield State 10
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Coast Guard 13, at Norwich 9
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at Fitchburg State 31, Bridgewater State 29
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Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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at Millsaps 17, Sewanee 13
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at Rhodes 35, Birmingham-Southern 9
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at Hendrix 36, Austin 24
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at Martin Luther 34, Greenville 20
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at Trinity (Texas) 41, Chapman 35
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at Loras 73, Buena Vista 34
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at Wartburg 30, Washington U. 20
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at Gustavus Adolphus 51, Hamline 7
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Augsburg 48, at Carleton 28
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at Bethel 64, St. Olaf 7
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at Luther 21, Dubuque 17
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at Central 52, Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Simpson 38, at Coe 33
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Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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St. Norbert 66, at Grinnell 13
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at Knox 13, Ripon 6
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at MacMurray 32, Iowa Wesleyan 14
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Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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Southwestern 37, at Louisiana College 34
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Monmouth 26, at Macalester 0
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at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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at Springfield 42, WPI 10
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at Cornell 55, Beloit 36
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at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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at Hartwick 24, St. John Fisher 21
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at UW-La Crosse 41, Carroll 6
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at St. Scholastica 37, Minnesota-Morris 3
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at George Fox 44, UW-Eau Claire 0
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at Western Connecticut 37, Salve Regina 23
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at UW-Stevens Point 41, Adrian 28
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at Wesleyan 24, Tufts 17
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at Averett 35, Methodist 6
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at Berry 28, Centre 14
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at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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at Grove City 24, St. Vincent 14
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at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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Carthage 55, at Augustana 14
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Chicago 28, at Illinois College 7
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at Sul Ross State 35, McMurry 7
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at Wilmington 37, Capital 30
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Lake Forest 42, at Lawrence 26
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at East Texas Baptist 79, Belhaven 40
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Arizona Christian 56, at Whittier 38
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Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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