Bethany Seeks Rebound
BETHANY — For the third straight season, the Bethany College football team entered the offseason with victories in its final two contests.
Unfortunately, though, the Bison dropped their first eight games before wins over Grove City and Saint Vincent in the final two weeks.
The Bison are under the direction of sixth-year head coach Bill Garvey and are looking to trend back toward 2014 season when they earned an Eastern College Athletic Conference postseason bowl berth. They open Sept. 1 against Ursinus.
It would appear on paper that junior Carlin Bason is the favorite to take over the reins of the offense, but a large incoming class will push him for the job when camp opens in August. He will replace Shadyside graduate Chase Kinemond, who exhausted his eligibility last season.
Bason has been the primary backup in each of his first two seasons and is the only quarterback on the roster with in-game experience. The Maryland native started games against co-PAC Champions Case Western Reserve and Washington & Jefferson after an injury sidelined then-starting quarterback Chase Kinemond.
Bason’s passing numbers did not jump off the stat sheet in those starts (18 of 40 for 181 yards), but his athleticism and ability to break off big plays — like his 60-yard touchdown run versus Grove City — will make it hard for Garvey to keep the junior off of the field.
Junior Raekwon Wright is the “X-factor” on offense. He was the team’s most explosive player last season and earned Second Team All-PAC honors as an all-purpose back. He accounted for six of Bethany’s 15 plays of 30 yards or more and is also the team’s leading returner in receptions.
Garvey believes that all four running backs behind Wright, including senior Byron Mayers, juniors James Thomas and Gregory Avent , and sophomore Remynte Turner have the ability to contribute. But he also cautions that all of them need to build off of their work in the spring and be ready to go in the fall when a group of freshmen tailbacks add to the running back competition.
WIDE RECEIVER / TIGHT END
For the first-time since 2011, a Bethany receiver did not haul in 70 receptions or more last season. The Bison were young at wide receiver and Garvey hopes that one of those underclassmen will emerge from the group. Juniors Darius Taylor, Abe Lyles and Hunter Kleinall caught more than 10 passes last year and will be looked upon to take the next step in their development. Taylor is the team’s top-returning receiver (20 receptions for 243 yards) from a year ago.
Senior Johnathan Woodbury — an Indian Creek graduate — is the team’s lone returner at tight end and should get the first opportunity at the position.
The offensive line is Garvey’s most experienced unit on offense. The Bison return six offensive linemen with substantial playing experience, including senior guard Jaymier Scarbrough . Scarbrough is a two-time All-PAC Honorable Mention and three-year starter up-front. Garvey hopes senior Anthony Martin, who suffered a season-ending injury in the team’s sixth game, can return to form and anchor the left tackle position. Junior center Charles Meriweather and sophomore guard Braylon Sibley started all 10 games last season, while junior tackle Nathan Carter started nine.
All-PAC first-team selection Khallid Pierce’s graduation leaves a hole at rush end, but Garvey believes that this is as good of a group as he’s ever had at Bethany. Junior Chas Blango ranked ninth in the PAC with 4.5 sacks on his way to a PAC honorable mention nod last season and will look to fill Pierce’s void. Senior Daniel Gibson missed the final seven games due to injury, but is a two-time All-PAC Honorable Mention selection and will be healthy heading into camp. Seniors Nate Daniels and Will Kanters have been two of the most consistent players on the team and are both returning starters.
Linebacker isn’t the deepest group, but it is arguably the strongest unit on the team. All three starters return, including second team All-PAC senior Joseph Fiasco. Fiasco tied for the league-lead with 9.6 tackles per game and ranked seventh in the PAC with 11.0 tackles for loss. He will be joined by senior Will Gatling and junior Collin “Moose” Johnston. Gatling finished third in the PAC with 9.0 tackles per game, while Johnston is a two-year starter and slotted third on the team with 5.4 tackles per game a season ago.
Injuries plagued the defensive backs last season, but as a result, built up a decent amount of depth at the position. Senior safety John Lee and senior cornerback George Reid are the leaders of the unit. Garvey believes that Lee, who is also the center fielder on the baseball team, is versatile enough to play both close to the line of scrimmage and deep on the back end effectively. In addition to Lee and Reid, the Bison have at least five other returners who have seen time in the secondary and played a lot of football.
The Bison will need to replace both their kicker and punter this season. Garvey said he has his “biggest class” of incoming kickers which should create competition. Sophomore Sean Cole was a two-time all-conference kicker in high school and handled kickoff duties towards the end of the season, while junior Anthony Fiasco is the only returner with any punting experience.
Wright handled both kickoff and punt return duties last season, but Garvey would like to get a young guy into the mix to help offset the load on his primary tailback.
Sept. 1: Ursinus noon
Sept. 8: Grove City 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 15: Waynesburg 7 p.m.
Sept. 22: at Westminster 1 p.m.
Sept. 29: Washington and Jefferson 2 p.m.
Oct. 6: at Geneva 3 p.m.
Oct. 13: at Carnegie Mellon 1 p.m.
Oct. 27: Case Western Reserve 2 p.m.
Nov. 3: at Thiel 1 p.m.
Nov. 10: St. Vincent 1 p.m.
Win 3, LOSE 7