No Joshin' around
BETHANY, W.Va. – Thiel freshman running back Josh Wannamaker (Derry, Pa./Derry) waited nine weeks for the opportunity he had Saturday against the Bethany Bison. With starting tailback Josh Potter (Chipley, Fla./Chipley) on the mend, Wannamaker got the bulk of his team's carries, and he did not disappoint.
Wannamaker carried the rock 29 times Saturday against the Bison for 248 yards, the second most rushing yards in a single game in Thiel history. He also scored two touchdowns on the ground and caught three passes to lead the Tomcats to a 30-28 victory over the Bison.
"Josh is a blend of power and speed," said Thiel head coach Kurt Reiser. "He showed today that he can get us the tough yards between the tackles and that he has the speed to break the big run."
Thiel scored its first touchdown on its first possession of the game on a big run by Wannamaker, who ran it in from 33 yards out. Jon Fennick (New Castle, Pa./Neshannock )added the extra point, and the Tomcats held a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the contest. Wannamaker carried four times on the Tomcats' opening drive for 83 yards, highlighted by a 40-yard gash on a second-and-five play at the Thiel 10-yard line.
Bethany got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter when Matt Grimard threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Jennings. However, the extra point failed and the Tomcats maintained a 7-6 lead at the half.
Fennick extended Thiel's lead to 10-6 when he split the uprights on a 28-yard field goal with 2:02 left in the third quarter to cap off a 6-play, 88-yard drive.
Bethany responded two drives later when Grimard plunged into the end zone from one yard out. The extra point was good, and the Bison held a 13-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was nothing short of entertaining with the two Presidents' Athletic Conference teams combining for 35 points over the final five minutes and 14 seconds.
Thiel quarterback Ryan Radke (Lancaster, N.Y./Lancaster Central) opened scoring in the fourth quarter when he ran in from one yard out to complete a 12-play, 80-yard drive that saw the Tomcats reclaim the lead 17-13 after Fennick tacked on the extra point.
The Bison drove the ball all the way down to the Thiel 37-yard line on their next drive, but did not score any points after Grimard was sacked on a fourth-and-long play by senior defensive end RJ Malson (Greenville, Pa./Greenville).
Radke went back to work after the turnover on downs, giving the Tomcats what seemed like a comfortable 24-13 lead when he scored a touchdown on a 17-yard run and Fennick nailed the point after.
Bethany went to the air after Radke's second touchdown run of the contest and sliced the Thiel lead down to five points when Grimard threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Ambush to conclude a 5-play, 55-yard drive that consumed just 46 seconds of the game clock.
With just 63 seconds remaining in the game, the Bison lined up for an onside kick, which was recovered by Thiel senior tight end Berend Grube (Venetia, Pa./Peters Twp.).
Wannamaker then scored on a 45-yard run on the next play to give Thiel a 30-19 lead. However, Fennick's extra point was blocked and Bethany's Wyssmy Despagne returned the ball 98 yards for a two-point conversion on an untimed play.
Bethany marched 66 yards in 29 seconds on the ensuing possession, which ended with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Grimard to Jennings. The extra point was good and the Bison trailed by just two points.
Bethany tried another onside kick with 22 seconds remaining in regulation, but Thiel receiver Tim Walker (Beachwood, Ohio/Warrensville Heights) recovered the ball and the Tomcats held on to win, 30-28.
In all, the Tomcats racked up 312 rushing yards on 47 attempts for an average of 6.6 yards per carry. Bethany ran for just 70 yards.
Grimard completed 28 of 52 passes for 305 yards. He threw three touchdown passes and also ran for 57 yards and one touchdown. The top receiver in the PAC, Bethany's Eric Blinn, caught 12 of Grimard's passes for 140 yards.
Radke completed seven passes for 121 yards. He also ran for 63 yards and scored two TDs on 10 carries. Senior Matt Fedzen (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Catholic) led Thiel with 91 yards receiving on two receptions.
Wannamaker's 248 yards are the second most by a Thiel running back in a single game. He passed up Steve Minton in the category, who ran for 238 yards against Bethany in 2007. Dan Hess is Thiel's all-time single-game rushing leader with 327 yards against Saint Vincent in 2007.
The Tomcats (2-6, 2-4 PAC) will host the Westminster Titans under the lights at Alumni Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 9. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.