Bethany Earns First Victory

BETHANY – Saturday afternoon’s President’s Athletic Conference football game between Bethany and visiting Geneva College had more twists and turns than an Alfred Hitchcock novel.

And even though the Bison will only get credit for one victory – its first of the season – Coach Tim Weaver’s team actually had to win the game twice.

Junior quarterback Matt Grimard capped an outstanding day with a 24-yard touchdown pass to senior Ed Holmes in overtime as Bethany overcame a last-second Hail Mary pass and its own mistakes to captured a 42-36 Homecoming victory against the Golden Tornadoes at Bison Stadium.

The victory moves Bethany to 1-4,1-2 in the PAC, and helps to make up for a pair close conference road losses in its last two outings.

”I think this is how the season is going to go in the conference this year,” Weaver said. ”Each team is just about the same and I think everyone is just going to beat up on each other all season long.

”It all comes down to fighting harder and believing and we did a great job of that (Saturday). We have come up one play short in each of our last two games, but we made that play this time.”

Knotted at 29-29, Bethany got what looked like the biggest break of the game, recovering a Rocco Colavecchia fumble in Geneva territory with just 1:28 to play.

The Bison, which had trouble converting opportunities all game, did not disappoint this time with Linsly graduate Phil Acrie handing most of the chores before Grimard finally finished things off with a five-yard roll into the end zone from the right side for a 36-29 lead with 18 ticks to play.

But just when it looked like it was time for a Bethany celebration, things took a wild turn. A pair of completions from quarterback Zack Hayward put the ball at the Bison 41 with just four seconds to play. Hayward, with very little pass rush, waited and finally launched a pass deep into the end zone that was caught by Colavecchia with all zeros on the clock to force overtime at 36-36.

However, while the Doug Flutie-to-Gerald Phelan-type miracle pass that was very reminiscent of Boston College’s dramatic victory over Miami, forced the Tornadoes’ third consecutive overtime game, the visitor’s luck quickly ran out.

Colavecchia helped move the ball inside the 15 on Geneva’s overtime possession, but he also threw an interception to Wyssmy Depagne in the end zone to end the threat.

It took Bethany just two plays to start the celebration. After Acrie gained a yard on first down, Grimard launched a perfectly executed 24-yard touchdown pass to Holmes in the back of the end zone to end the game.

”We just didn’t quit,” Weaver added. ”It would have been easy to pack it in, but we could have done that at 0-2 and we could have done it at the half and there kids just won’t give up.

”This was a win that we really needed and the turnovers we forced late were really huge for us.”

After not being able to cash in a big gift, sophomore Eddie Chance’s interception of Hayward on the game’s first offensive play, the Bison did mange to dent the scoreboard first a short time later.

After a punt that set the hosts up at their own 43, a 16-yard Acrie run got the offense going before Grimard rolled out on a third-and-seven call and eventually found an open Holmes in the end zone with 9:44 showing for a 7-0 upper hand.

But Bethany missed out on a chance to take a two, or even three-score lead early on beacuse of missed opportunities, including a pair of botched field goal attempts.

That managed to get Geneva going as Hayward and do-it-all Colavecchia led the visitors on an 81-yard scoring march. Hayward kept the drive going with a 19-yard run on third-and-11 before Colavecchia, who had three rushes and two receptions, finished things off with a 3-yard burst that knotted things up at 7-7 at 2:34.

Things didn’t get any better for the Bison after a quick three-and-out as punter Stephen Amic did not handle the snap cleanly and was swarmed under, giving the Tornadoes possession at the Bethany 14.

Just three plays later Geneva had its first lead when Colavecchia, again running at quarterback in the Wildcat, pushed his way in from a yard out with 28 ticks showing for a 14-7 score.

While the offense was still not clicking early in the second, the Bison did get two points back in the punting game when Ed Schuster took a high snap and had to step out of the back of the end zone to make it a 14-9 score with just less than six minutes to go in the half.

Even better for the hosts was a quick drive, covering 65 yards with Grimard finding junior Chris Collins from 29 yards away to reclaim the lead at 16-14 with 4:57 showing.

But the lead ended up being short-lived as Colavecchia did it to the Bison once again, this time faking a handoff up the middle, heading to the outside and running 65 yards down the near sideline for the score just 50 seconds later for a 21-16 reading.

Bethany continued the wild finish to the opening half, beginning at its own 27 and driving straight down the field with Acrie, being stopped just short of the goal line on a 27-yard burst up-the-middle.

After three more Acrie totes left the ball still sitting inside the one with three seconds in the half, Grimard’s pass into the end zone was broken up, leaving the Bison with another missed opportunity and trailing 21-16 at the break.

In a game where the hosts were unable to take care of most of the breaks Geneva awarded them, it happened again midway through the third quarter when a short quick-kick put the Bison in business at the enemy 29.

Bethany again moved inside the 10, down to the seven, however, Evans’ 27-yard field goal attempt was drilled right into the line, never getting any air and the score remained the same.

Even though the kicking game continued to struggle, Grimard helped give the Bison back the lead at 6:11 of the third when he found freshman Eric Blinn racing down the middle of the field from 60 yards out. Blinn bobbled the ball late, but managed to find the end zone. The PAT bounced off the upright, but it was 22-21.

Bethany finally got a little breathing room with 10:03 to play when Acrie, on a first-and-20 following a holding call, sprang through the middle and raced 36 yards untouched for the score. Evans, this time, was true and it was an eight-point margin at 29-21.

And it was a score that was needed as Geneva bounced right back, making its way down the field and putting the ball into the end zone at 7:14 on a 3-yard Lemuel Fuller end-around. Hayward then ran in for the two-point conversion to make it a 29-29 score.

”Matt Grimard had an outstanding game, and it if weren’t for the turnovers earlier in the season he would be an All-American,” Weaver said. ”And there isn’t a doubt in my mind that Phil Acrie is the best running back in the PAC.

“Our defense has played really, really well this season, it is just a matter of fact that we seem to give up one or two big plays every half and that is something that is very frustrating to a football coach. Those are just plays we have to eliminate.”

Grimard finished with 343 passing yards for four touchdowns and also scored on a 5-yard run while Acrie ground out 155 yards and a score. Blinn and Collins each had seven grabs, Blinn for 121 yards and Collins for 81.