Bethany vs. King's Preview

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The Bethany College football team (4-5) will complete its 2011 schedule Saturday when it hosts King's (Pa.) College (1-8) in a 1 p.m. kickoff at Bison Stadium in a make-up of a game postponed in September.

The teams were originally scheduled to play Sept. 10 in Bethany, but due to heavy flooding in the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., area on the King's campus, the game was postponed. This is the second time in the last eight years the Bison's season has been extended due to a postponed game. In 2004, rains from Hurricane Ivan flooded Bethany and forced the rescheduling of BC's home game with Defiance. The teams met in mid-November that year and the Bison came away with a 35-28 victory for their only win that year.

This year, Bethany will not be going for their first win, but for a fifth victory and a .500 record for the second consecutive season. The Bison were denied their fifth win and a potential ECAC Bowl bid with a 20-14 loss at Saint Vincent last week. Saint Vincent touchdowns were answered by BC scores in the form of an 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by junior WR Ed Holmes and a 51-yard scoring pass from sophomore QB Matt Grimard to sophomore WR Daryl Powell.

The Bearcats came right back after Bethany's second TD to take the lead with a touchdown. The Bison's final drive reached the SVC 15-yard line but a fourth down pass into the end zone was picked off and Saint Vincent held on for the victory. With the win, the Bearcats finished the season 6-4 and received a bid to the ECAC Southwest Bowl this Saturday, while BC dropped to 4-5 and will play out the season the same day against King's. Being so close to reaching a postseason appearance and falling short is very disappointing to the Bison program.

"Last week will stay with me for awhile," said Bethany head coach Tim Weaver. "The team set out in the preseason with stated goals to play in the postseason and we came one play away from achieving that goal. To get that close and come up short will have you stay up a lot at nights, which I have. It's the first time since we've been here that we should have been playing for our seventh win. The players are playing well and hard enough, but just something is keeping us from getting over the hump and it's my job to figure what that is.

"But as disappointing as it is, we don't want to lose sight of what we've accomplished the last couple years," said Weaver. "We are going for consecutive .500 seasons, which has only happened here once in the last 30 years (2000 & 2001). We no longer feel we're rebuilding. We're rebuilt. Now it's time to get ourselves to playing at a championship-caliber level all the time."

In addition to reaching the .500 mark, one more significant record could fall this week. Senior running back Eric Walker, who already owns five school records, including career rushing (39) and total (45) touchdowns, can add another Saturday. He has gained 2,916 rushing yards and needs just 31 more to surpass Will Anderson's (1999-02) total of 2,946 to become the all-time leading rusher at the school.

"If there's anybody that's deserved to get a record like that, it's Eric," said Weaver. "He's worked hard every day he's been here on the field, in the classroom and at home and has done a good job holding the team together. Early on in his career when we weren't that good, he came in every day and worked to get better and make us better. He's played through a serious knee injury the last couple weeks and it's typical of him. A couple years ago, he came off with an obviously broken nose against Otterbein and didn't miss a snap. Then the second half of last year, he kept telling us his thumb was sore and it needed to be surgically repaired after the season.

"On top of being very good, Eric is also extremely tough physically and mentally and is very committed to this program and his teammates," said Weaver.

Walker is just part of a senior class that has continued the rebuilding process and has the Bison on the cusp of championship contention. This year's class contains a mix of all-conference players like Walker, center Cory Potter and defensive end Kasib Taalib-Din, who all earned All-PAC honors when the teams were announced Monday, as well as four-year members of the program who have contributed the same work ethic and sweat every day for the last four years.

Also playing in their final game Saturday is defensive lineman Ryan Busch, WR Alex Evans, offensive lineman John Haag, fullback-long snapper Matt Landowski, fullback Justin Lipps and defensive back Kyle Nannah.

"This class, as well as last year's, embodies what you want in a college football program," said Weaver. "They were recruited before the renovated facility was finished and struck it out when we recruited bigger and talented classes. We have guys like Eric, Cory and Kasib, who were all-conference players on the field. But guys like Kyle, Ryan and Justin you remember forever because they show up every day and work hard and set a good example for the younger players. They can lay claim to being the class that really got it going."

King's finds itself in the position the Bison were in not long ago, relying on young, inexperienced players to try to rebuild the program. The youthful Monarchs team stood at 1-1 following a 51-26 triumph over Stevenson Sept. 17. Since then, King's has dropped seven straight by an average of 35.6 points per game. Last week, the Monarchs suffered a 54-7 loss at Lebanon Valley, who will play Saint Vincent in the ECAC Southwest Bowl this week. Nine QB sacks and two turnovers hampered the King's offense, which gained just 169 total yards, while the Dutchmen rolled up 542 yards.

The offense is led by freshman QB Bryant Klein, who threw for the team's only score last week and has started three straight games. Senior Jay Torres provides a veteran target, as he has 36 catches for 538 yards and five TDs, including a six-yard scoring reception last week. Two junior linebackers spark the Monarchs, as Ryan Cordingly has 66 tackles and Ryan Kelly is second with 60 stops. Weaver sees a young, hungry football team coming to Bethany this week and expects the Bison to step up with good performance because of what's at stake.

"King's is a lot better than they were in week two and are making plays they weren't making early in the season," said Weaver. "They made a good decision playing the young quarterback and are getting younger guys on the field defensively, trying to make personnel decisions and see what they have. But if look at what they did early against Leb Valley last week, they had a great opening drive, only to fumble in the end zone. Then they opened the second half with a big kickoff return, which set up their touchdown.

"They are a young team coming here with nothing to lose," said Weaver. "We know we have to be ready to play our best game because we have a lot on the line."