Colonels hang on for 33-28 season-opening win over Bethany
Senior cornerback Casey Vatter (Okeana, Ohio) intercepted a tipped pass in the end-zone with 59 seconds to play, and the Centre College football team hung on for a 33-28 win over Bethany College in the season-opening game for both teams Saturday, Sept. 7 in Danville, Ky.
The win marks the second consecutive season the Colonels have opened the year with a win over the Bison. It's also the 11th win in the last 13 season-openers for Centre.
Bethany struck first with a 26-yard field goal to take an early 3-0 lead, but eight plays, 71 yards later, junior quarterback Heath Haden (Kingsport, Tenn.) found sophomore tight endKurt Wilhelmus (Nicholasville, Ky.) for a 12-yard scoring strike to take a 7-3 lead.
The Colonels extended the lead to 14-3 near the end of the opening quarter when Haden hit senior reciever Austin Jones (Louisville, Ky.) for 40 yards and another touchdown.
The Centre special teams' unit collected its first safety of the season when the snap on a Bethany punt attempt went over the punter's head. To prevent the Colonels from recovering for a touchdown, the punter kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone and Centre led 16-3.
Centre then took the ensuing kick-off and drove 54 yards on six plays, capped off by another Haden to Jones connection and a 23-3 lead.
The Bison (0-1) scored its first touchdown of the season on their next drive as quarterback Matt Grimard scored on a 16-yard run. The extra point attempt failed and the half would end with the Colonels ahead 23-9.
Centre opened the second half with a nine-play, 75 yard drive yard drive in only 3:30. Haden hit senior running back Harry Meisner (Wyoming, Ohio) for a 32-yard touchdown pass and the Colonels appeared to be pulling away for an easy win.
Bethany went on to score three unanswered touchdowns, but missed the extra point on the first score and then had the second blocked before making the third attempt to cut the lead to 30-28 with 10:16 left in the game.
The two teams traded punts on the next two possessions with sophomore Jake Johnson(Louisville, Ky.) returning the Bison punt 29 yards to the Bethany 29-yard line.
The Colonels drove to the Bison six-yard line, but had to settle for a 19-yard field goal by junior kicker Preston Cahill (Dry Ridge, Ky.) to push the lead to 33-28.
Bethany then took the kick-off and drove to the Centre seven-yard line. On fourth and three, Grimard's pass over the middle was tipped and landed in the arms of Vatter to seal the five-point win.
Haden posted career highs in passing yards (312) and touchdown passes (4) on 19 of 27 passing. Ten of those completions were to Jones, who set career highs in receptions, receiving yards (173) and touchdown catches (2).
Meisner led the way on the ground with 92 yards on 16 carries. He also caught three passes for 61 yards and the 32-yard touchdown reception as the Colonels out-gained Bethany 446-422 in total offensive yards.
Junior Tami Aderoba (Columbia, Tenn.) had a huge day on defense. Aderoba tallied 11 tackles, including 4.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Sophomore Nick Dietz(Cincinnati, Ohio) also had 11 tackles in the win.
Centre will travel to Terre Haute, Ind. Saturday, Sept. 14 to play Rose-Hulman. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.