Bethany Drops Opener to Allegheny, 28-0

BETHANY – Allegheny quarterback T.J. Salopek, a fifth-year senior, passed for 207 yards and four touchdowns as the Gators spoiled Bethany College’s Weekend of Champions celebration by rolling to a 28-0 victory during Saturday afternoon’s mutual season opener at sunny and windy Bison Field.

Prior to the game, the returning coaches and players from Bethany’s Presidents Athletic Conference championship football teams in 1965, 1966, 1975 and 1980 were introduced to the crowd. Retired Florida State and University of Cincinnati Athletics Director Bob Goin, who guided the Bison to those back-to-back conference crowns, also was honored Friday night when the school named the football locker room in his honor. Also on hand was Coach Don Ault, who was at the helm for the Bison’s last two PAC title-winning teams.

After the pregame cememonies, Salopek took advantage of an inexperienced Bethany secondary to complete eight straight passes at one point in the first half. His four touchdown strikes covered 12 and 2 yards to Terry Hartford, 10 yards to Robert Carlisle and 9 yards to David Strawser.

Bethany’s secondary included four new starters while the offense was placed in the hands of a promising freshman quarterback, Matt Grimard.

Unfortunately, Grimard had problems getting his feet on the ground during his first collegiate start. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder out of Dracut High School in Lowell, Mass., Grimard was intercepted three times, twice in the first half. Overall he completed 13 of 24 attempts for 104 yards.

”We can’t turn the ball over that many times,” a disappointed Tim Weaver said as he begins his fifth year as coach of the Bison. ”We have a very young team but we aren’t that inexperienced other than at quarterback and in the secondary. It showed up (Saturday) against a very good quarterback. We knew that kid was a very good player and he took advantage of every mistake we made.”

”Our quarterback did not have a good day and that made it hard to call plays after the first two balls he throws go to the other team. Matt has all the physical tools to be a good quarterback. We like his arm a lot. He just didn’t play well and did not throw it well. For us to be good, he has to do a better job.”

Despite a yoeman effort by Bethany junior tailback Eric Walker, who ran for 73 yards and had six receptions for 43 yards, the hosts never penetrated the Allegheny red zone. The Bison managed just two drives that ended inside the Gators’ 30, turning the ball over at the 22 on an interception early in the game and at the 28 on downs midway through the fourth quarter.

Allegheny, coming off an 8-2 season in 2009, had a chance to get on the board on its first possession but placekicker Ryan Zipf was wide left with his 32-yard field goal attempt.

Three plays later, Grimard’s third down pass was picked off by Sid Ficaros and returned 8 yards to the Bison 31. It took Salopek just three plays to get his team on the board, connecting on a 9-yard rollout toss to Carlisle, then picking up 10 yards with a bubble screen completion to Sean Griffin and finally a well-thrown fade pass to Hartford in the right corner for the 12-yard touchdown. Zipf’s kick was true for a 7-0 Allegheny lead with 7:48 remaining in the first quarter.

The Bison then put together an impressive drive from the home 35 to the Gators 22, sparked by three Grimard completions. He dumped the ball off twice to Walker on screens covering 17 and 12 yards before showing his coolness under heavy pressure to move the sticks on fourth-and-3 with his 9-yard toss to Alex Evans. One snap later, however, Grimard’s pass over the middle was picked off by Doug Williams.

A personal foul penalty against Bethany after the interception advanced the ball into Bison territory on the 42. Another infraction, this one a questionable pass interference call on third-and-18 gave Allegheny the ball at the Bethany 23. Early in the second quarter, Salopek and Hartford teamed up again for a 2-yard scoring toss, elevating the Gators’ lead to 14-0.

Salopek’s most impressive pass of the entire game came with 28 seconds left in the half. With the ball at the Bethany 10, he took the snap, rolled toward the right sideline before turning and strong-arming a throw across the field where Carlisle had the ball drop cleanly into his arms for the touchdown. Zipf’s kick gave Allegheny a 21-0 advanage at halftime.

Zipf missed a 41-yard field goal in the third quarter but Allegheny hit paydirt again on its next possession, sailing 64 yards on just six plays. The big strike was a 37-yard deep sideline connection to Sean Giffin. Later with the ball at the Bethany 9, Salopek found Strawser on a quick slant for the score.

”The only thing I was disappointed about in my team were all the 1-on-1 situations when we had to make plays but didn’t do it,” Weaver said. ”Allegheny’s guys won every one of them. Their second touchdown pass, we had a guy right on him and their receiver outfought us for the ball. The long post corner route on the last touchdown drive, we again had a guy right on it and they caught the ball.

”You know we’ve got to compete harder and make those plays. Once we start doing that, I think we will be OK.”

The Bison did have a couple of defenders with some good moments on the field. Free safety Jeff Joyce and middle linebacker Kyle Arrington logged 11 tackles each. Defensive end Robert Baker helped choke off one drive by dumping Allegheny backs for losses..

Despite watching Bethany surrender 28 points, Weaver insisted he saw a lot of good things from his defense.

”We got off the field today against a decent football team more than we have done in a long while. That’s encouraging. I think this team can be fine but we have to dig a little deeper and win some of those competitive one-on-one situations,” Weaver said.