November 7, 2012

Bethany-Saint Vincent Preview

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The 2012 season will come to a close Saturday for the Bethany College football team when it hosts Saint Vincent Saturday at 1 p.m.

This will be the sixth time the teams have faced since Saint Vincent brought back varsity football in 2007. The Bison have won four of the previous five meetings but the Bearcats claimed their first win in the series last year with a 20-14 decision in Latrobe.

Another heart-breaking chapter was written to the Bison's season last week when BC suffered a 13-10 overtime loss to visiting Thomas More. After sending the game to overtime with an 18-yard touchdown pass from junior QB Matt Grimard to senior WR Marcus D'Aguiar-Alexander early in the fourth quarter, Bethany went in front 10-7 on a 22-yard field goal by freshman Justin Evans on its first possession of OT.

Needing a stop to take the victory, the Bison saw Thomas More drive to the one-yard line. After stuffing two straight runs, it looked like BC might get the win after the Saints' Luke Magness fumbled as he was going into the end zone on third down. However, the referees said he broke the plane first to score the TD and give the Saints the victory. Grimard completed 27 passes for 161 yards and broke the BC single-season completion record, while the defense was led by junior safety Jordan Joyce with 13 tackles and one interception.

Unfortunately, the game was just a continuation of an agonizing season for Bethany and head coach Tim Weaver, whose team now has four conference losses by 11 points. Missed chances like a 35-yard field goal that sailed wide left, a fumble inside the red zone or failure to get the stop in overtime continue to plague the Bison.

"I'm at a loss for words for how this season has gone," said Weaver. "We played a very good game against a really good team, the best team in the conference right now by a fairly wide margin. And we just came up a play short again. If we make the field goal, if we don't fumble on their 12, if we get the stop in overtime, we win. All five of our conference losses, it's not how can we improve, but how can we make that one play. When players are good enough to win and we come up one play short, it's my fault as the head coach for not having us ready to make that play.

"The players and the coaches deserve credit for preparing and being in position to win every single PAC game, which we've never been able to say," said Weaver. "There are four plays out there that if they'd gone differently, we'd be playing for the championship. We feel we are a far better team than our record shows and we're close to being a championship team, but until I can figure out what's missing from the last play, we won't get there."

Adding to the frustration of the season is the huge senior class that was expecting to go out with more wins under their belt. Eighteen Bison will suit up for the final time Saturday against Saint Vincent, by far the largest class in Weaver's seven-year tenure at Bethany. Weaver says the class has played a massive role in turning the culture of the program around from where it was when they were freshmen and says even though the season hasn't been as successful as they hoped, the group's work ethic has kept the team going forward.

"This has been one of the most important classes ever at Bethany when you look at career lists, where they'll finish, games played," said Weaver. "This is the best Bethany team in a long, long time, we just have not won as games as the last two teams. We've gone from losing to W&J by 49 points when they were freshmen and not competing against the top teams in the league, when these guys played in those games before they were ready, to improving to where we can beat everyone in the league.

"And even this year, to keep everyone practicing, preparing and enjoy being around each other during a season as challenging as this is a huge credit to them," said Weaver.

Many from this year's class will leave with their named etched among the record holders in program history. Senior linebacker Kyle Arrington has battled injuries this year to post 92 stops and he became the program's all-time leader in tackles (348) last week. At wide receiver, Ed Holmes has 144 career receptions and needs two on Saturday to move into third place all-time at the school, while his 1,623 receiving yards puts him sixth all-time. Fellow wideout Johnathan Foster has 64 catches this season, eight away from breaking the BC single-season record, and his 131 catches has him fifth on the all-time receptions rankings at Bethany.

Not all of the Bethany seniors will leave with their name among the record holders, but Weaver says their importance to the program has been just as critical to the Bison's development. Players such as wide receiver/special teams player Zach Gordon and defensive lineman Tyler Babinchok have contributed to the team in their owns ways that will be very difficult to replace.

"All 18 seniors have shown the commitment needed to take a program to the next level," said Weaver. "Someone like Zach Gordon, who played a year on scout team but has never quite been able to crack the receiver rotation. But he's improved as much as and is as dedicated and committed as anyone. He's developed into a good special teams player and mans an unheralded but important position as our holder. He shows up everyday, does his work and is a true team guy.

"And you look at someone like Tyler, who wasn't gifted like a lot of college players," said Weaver. "But he's shown up every day, worked as hard as anyone to improve himself and never gets down about anything. Last year, he lost his dad very suddenly. We say adversity is being down in the fourth quarter but what he went through was real adversity. It was good for him to be a part of the program to help him get through that, but it was good for the team as well. To see how he handled and came through that, continue to work on the football field and in the classroom, that's an inspiration to everybody."

Like Bethany, Saint Vincent will be trying to end a tough season on a high note. The Bearcats dropped to 0-9 overall and 0-7 in the conference with a 27-10 loss to Grove City a week ago. It was a 7-3 Wolverine lead midway through the second quarter, but three consecutive GCC scores put the game away before Saint Vincent scored with two seconds to play. Saint Vincent had four different players take snaps under center and one those in sophomore Andy Borgen finished as the team's leading rusher with 56 yards.

The Bearcats have struggled scoring points all season, as they average a league-low 11.6 points per game. Saint Vincent had a big hole to fill at the start of the year following the graduation of last year's First Team All-PAC quarterback Aaron Smetanka and they were dealt another blow early in the year when sophomore RB Huey Ehredt went down to injury in the second game of the year.

Sophomore Matt Deakins is the team's top throwing quarterback with 814 passing yards and four TDs but Borgen tops the team in rushing with 227 yards. At the wide receiver spot, Matt Duffey has snared 40 aerials for 459 yards and SVC also has Darius Brown, who is second in the PAC in kick return average (26.2) and has a 96-yard runback for a TD to his credit. Weaver says the team has potential play makers that could cause issues for the Bison.

"They are very young and are playing a ton of freshmen and sophomores," said Weaver. "They haven't had a quarterback rise from the ranks to take over after Smetanka and they didn't have the tailback they were planning after (Ehredt) went out.

"But they are still a scary match-up for us because they make a ton of big plays, which we've proven can be a problem for us this year," said Weaver. "If you put the film on, and I think (Saint Vincent Head) Coach (Bob) Colbert would be the first to say this, they've very inconsistent. But you watch them run a couple series and then they hit a 60-yard touchdown pass or 80-yard touchdown run, so we have to be sure not to let them get out.

"They are running two quarterbacks right now with two different styles," said Weaver. "(Deakins) has a really good arm and a good touch on the deep ball. (Borgen) is a really good runner. His role has grown every week and they design more plays for him, including some misdirection and zone reads."

Saint Vincent's defense has been solid for most of the year. They feature two outstanding  linebackers in freshman Renny Larue-Holloman, who is tied for fourth in the PAC with 89 tackles, and senior Jovaughn Johnson, who ranks 11th with 53 stops. The Bearcats could present problems to Bethany's top-ranked passing attack (257.2), as SVC is allowing just 152 yards per game, second lowest in the conference.

"They shifted to three-down this year, a scheme that gives a ton of problems if you don't have a plan," said Weaver. "The freshman linebacker (Larue-Holloman) is a really good play maker and he'll be a good player for the next three years. They have an athletic secondary that competes for the ball. To see them reminds you of us a couple years ago when we were playing a bunch of young guys. You see them make mistakes, but we can't bank on them making three mistakes to give us three touchdowns."

If the Bison want to end the season on a high note and send the senior class out with a victory, Weaver says the team must bottle up the potential big plays and limit the turnovers, as four giveaways last week damaged the Bethany hopes for a win.

"The keys for Saturday include don't give up big plays and win the battle on special teams by controlling their returner and controlling field position," said Weaver. "We also need to find consistency on offense and can't go back to turning the ball over like we did last week. You can't win in college football doing that."
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