Huge Second Half Lifts Presidents To 28-26 PAC Win Over Bethany
WASHINGTON, Pa. -- Behind four sacks from sophomore defensive end Jon Lowery (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny) and an interception return for a touchdown by senior linebacker Ian Hennessy (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine-Richland), Washington & Jefferson erased a 20-7 halftime deficit and posted a 28-26 PAC football victory over Bethany (W.Va.) Saturday night at Cameron Stadium.
The Presidents (4-1, 3-0 PAC) have now defeated the Bison (0-4, 0-2 PAC) 30 consecutive times. W&J outscored the Bison 14-0 in the third quarter and Hennessy’s 24-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter gave the Presidents some breathing room. Bethany nearly tied the game after a touchdown pass with 53.9 seconds left, but the ensuing two-point conversion pass fell incomplete.
Bethany dominated the first half with 237 total yards and became the first team to score a point on W&J in the first quarter since Sept. 24, 2011. BC scored on four of its five first-half possessions, including a 29-yard field goal from Justin Evans on the opening drive.
W&J answered to take a 7-3 lead on its first drive as junior quarterback Matt Bliss (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) capped an eight-play, 72-yard drive by scrambling for a three-yard score.
Bethany went ahead 10-7 on Matt Grimard’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Johnathan Foster late in the first quarter. BC stopped the Presidents on downs twice during the second quarter and took advantage of both changes of possession as Phil Acrie bolted up the middle for a 19-yard touchdown and Evans’ 39-yard field goal with 32 seconds left gave the Bison a 20-7 halftime lead.
W&J appeared to be a different team in the second half, firing out of the locker room with two quick touchdowns. Bliss’ 19-yard run started the opening drive of the third quarter and senior running back Tim McNerney (Butler, Pa./Knoch) capped it with a four-yard touchdown rush.
One of Lowery’s four sacks forced a BC punt and junior Alex Baroffio (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) returned it 16 yards. Six plays later, Baroffio put W&J back in front (21-20) after catching a 10-yard scoring pass from Bliss.
Lowery sacked Grimard on another third down play which forced a punt and Baroffio returned that one 21 yards to set W&J up in BC territory. An 11-play drive ended with a missed field goal, keeping the score at 21-20 heading to the fourth quarter.
Hennessy provided the 28-20 lead at the 11:45 mark of the fourth quarter when stepping in front of a Grimard pass and racing 24 yards for the Presidents’ first defensive touchdown since 2009.
Bethany refused to quit and got the ball back with 3:02 left on the clock. The Bison drove 83 yards in just over two minutes and narrowed their deficit to 28-26 on Grimard’s 21-yard toss to Eric Blinn. The two-point conversion pass was incomplete and W&J escaped with the win after senior Zach DeCicco (Jefferson Hills, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) recovered the onside kick.
W&J outgained 384-369 and held a slim 22-21 edge in first downs. Hennessy and senior linebacker Nathan Melhorn (Salineville, Ohio/Southern Local) led the way with 10 tackles, while Lowery added eight solo stops.
Baroffio had 136 all-purpose yards (61 receiving, 68 punt return, 7 rushing) to lead the W&J offense. McNerney gained 88 yards on 20 rushing attempts, while Bliss completed 22-of-35 passes for 213 yards. Junior wideout Brandon Trefelner (Greencastle, Pa./Greencastle-Antrim) had three key catches for the Presidents during the second half for 38 yards.
Acrie had 93 yards on the ground for Bethany, while Grimard passed for 234 yards and rushed for 33. Kyle Arrington led all defenders with 12 stops.
W&J travels to Thomas More next Saturday for a 1:30 pm kickoff in Kentucky.