BETHANY - Even though his team came up short, Bethany football coach Tim Weaver insisted he had no regrets over rolling the dice in the final minute during Saturday afternoon's gut-wrenching 30-27 loss to Presidents' Athletic Conference rival Westminster.
On fourth down at the Titans 6 and needing just a field goal to likely force this thrill-a-minute contest into overtime, Weaver claimed he never considered playing for the tie.
''We weren't going to kick a field goal down there," Weaver said bluntly. ''We haven't made one all year and that was not the time to do it. It was a gamble I would take again."
Sophomore quarterback Matt Grimard, lined up in the shotgun took the snap and started to left. Just he was ready attempt a pass into the end zone, Grimard's arm was hit and the ball popped into the air. Closing quickly to make a diving interception at the 8 was Westminster inside linebacker Nate Moot.
With just 35 seconds remaining, one kneel down by Titans quarterback Shawn LeHocky closed the door on the Bison.
The end result was another hard-to-swallow loss for Bethany (2-3 overall, 1-3 PAC).
''I could not possibly feel more frustrated," Weaver said while explaining the Bison entered the weekend with visions of making a late-season run for PAC championship.
''With three conference losses, a championship is kind of unrealistic," Weaver said. "But if we can win seven games, it would be the best season around here in a long, long time. Although we still have some very difficult games ahead, these players are good enough to do it. We've played well enough at times to beat everybody we have played so far."
Effort on the part of both teams certainly wasn't the problem as they combined for 721 yards of total offense - 371 by Bethany and 350 for Westminster. Falling behind also wasn't a dilemma that couldn't be overcome as the lead changed hands on six different occasions.
The Titans were especially effective running the football out of their option attack. Junior running back John Proano, who lined up next to Lehocky, was especially effective circling the edges of the Bethany defense. Proano dashed for 144 yards on 24 attempts, including a touchdown carry from 10 yards out. Tyler Banks contributed 80 yards rushing for his 13 carries while Lehocky ran for 70 yards and completed five of just eight pass attempts for 54 yards. Two of his completions went for touchdowns of 5 and 20 yards, both hauled in by junior wide-receiver Geno Pasquinelli.
Part of Weaver's frustration came from Bethany's inability to slow down the Westminster running game, which accounted for 296 yards.
''I did not believe they would be able to run the ball like that against us," Weaver said. ''They weren't running the Georgia Tech option. It was a simple zone option but they blocked it very well. There are no good answers to what happened.''
Bethany also kept the Westminster defense back on its heels most of the time with speedy sophomore Nico Izarry collecting 70 yards on 11 attempts, including a 41-yard beauty down the left sideline for a touchdown.
Grimard at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds presents an imposing figure running straight at the opposition out of the shotgun offense, collected 49 yards on 14 carries but also was 19 of 28 throwing the football for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
Grimard's TD tosses covered 43 yards to Ed Holmes and 10 yards to Alex Evans. Bethany's other touchdown came from senior running back Eric Walker.
The Bison did attempt a 34-yard field goal by Stephen Amic early in the game but the low kick was tipped and sailed wide to the left.
Taking over at the 20, Westminster embarked on 12-play, 80 drive that carried over into the second quarter with Banks going around end for the final 3 yards.
Bethany bounced right back following Evans' 24-yard kickoff return to the 40. The 60-yard foray needed just five plays one of which was a fourth and inches carry of 2 yards by Izarri at midfield. With the ball at the Titans 43, Grimard dropped back and found Holmes running free on a post move at the 5. Holmes made the catch and never broke stride as he stepped into the end zone. Amic's PAT kick tied the score at 7-7 with 6:41 left in the half.
Zac Henry's successful 38-yard field goal attempt put the Titans back in front 10-7 at the 2:44 mark only to see Bethany storm back to go 61 yards in eight plays to take a 14-10 lead just 26 seconds before halftime. The Bison converted three times on third down, the score coming from the 10 when Grimard hit Holmes on a crossing pattern.
The back-and-forth touchdown parade resumed in the third quarter. Westminster pulled ahead 17-14 as Proan ran a jet sweep for the final 10 yards.
With Grimard lowering his shoulder to pick up eight yards on third and seven from the Titans' 42, Bethany regained the lead two plays later. After a pump fake, Grimard's toss the middle was gathered in on a leaping catch by Evans at the Titans' 1. Walker went off right tackle for the touchdown, putting the Bison ahead 21-17.
Bethany had a chance to widen the lead only to have Kyle Allen pick off a Grimard pass at the Westminster 8. Taking over after the 9-yard return to the 17, the Titans rolled 83 yards mainly on the ground with the score coming on Lehocky's fade pass from the 5 that Pasquinelli caught in the right corner of the end zone.
Evans' 42-yard kickoff return gave Bethany the ball in excellent field position at the home 47 and three plays later, Irizarry headed around left end in front of the Westminster bench and didn't stop until he reached the end zone on a 41-yard run. Amic's conversion attempt hit the left upright and bounced away, leaving the Bison lead a 27-24 with 8:33 to play.
Lehocky carried twice for 32 yards before giving the Titans the lead again at 30-27 with a 20-yard TD strike to Pasquinelli. Westminster had a chance to increase the lead to four points with just 3:09 left but Henry's conversion kick sailed wide to the right.
After being forced to punt once, Bethany's defense held and the hosts' got the ball back at their own 37 with 1:53 remaining. From there, Grimard put together a beautifully executed drive, working the sidelines when necessary to kill the clock.
He had five completions and picked up a valuable 15 yards on a late hit when an overanxious Titan defender tackled Grimard well out of bounds. This put the ball at the 8. After one incompletion, the ball was handed off to Walker, who ran to the middle of the field on a two-yard gain to the 6, leading many to believe that a field goal attempt would be upcoming if Bethany was uanble to get the ball into the end zone.
Weaver later commented that wasn't his intention at all. ''We gave the ball to our best athlete hoping we could catch their defense off guard,"
After a third down pass fell incomplete, Grimard tried for the end zone but had the ball picked off by the jubilant Titans, putting an end to the hard-fought contest.