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September 20, 2008

Wolverines rally past Bethany, 41-35

GROVE CITY, Pa. -- The Grove City College football team grabbed a share of first place in the Presidents' Athletic Conference Saturday night by pulling out a 41-35 victory over visiting Bethany in the second-ever night college football game at Robert E. Thorn Field.

Grove City (2-1, 1-0) surged ahead with 1:59 to go on a two-yard touchdown run from senior tailback Brian Mercer (Ridgewood, N.J./Ridgewood). Mercer finished the night with four touchdowns and 126 yards on 29 carries.

His touchdown capped a wild night at Thorn Field in which the teams combined for 70 first-half points and just eight in the second half.

Bethany led 35-33 at halftime as Marcus Santini caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Smith with three seconds left in the second quarter. Bethany (1-2, 0-1) amassed 329 yards of offense in the first half. However, Grove City limited the Bison to just 61 yards and three first downs in the second half.

Mercer scored on a 14-yard run with 11:40 to go in the first quarter, putting Grove City ahead 7-0. Senior linebacker Ian Minster (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mount Lebanon) recovered a fumble at the Bethany 44 to set up the seven-play scoring drive.

Bethany's Eric Walker tied the game at 7-7 with 7:55 left in the quarter with a 14-yard touchdown run. On Grove City's next possession, Mercer capped a 10-play, 68-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run.

Santini scored on a 30-yard touchdown run with 2:00 left in the quarter to tie the game. Again, Grove City countered quickly by moving 60 yards to the end zone in just six plays. Quarterback Andrew DiDonato (Bridgeville, Pa./South Fayette) scored on a one-yard sneak to put Grove City up 21-14 with one second left in the first quarter. Mercer's 35-yard run highlighted the drive.

Bethany quickly tied the game early in the second quarter as backup quarterback Jeff Joyce scrambled three yards to the end zone. Earlier in the possession, Joyce caught a 35-yard pass from wide receiver Taylor McNeil.

Again, Grove City reclaimed the lead on the ensuing possession by marching 55 yards to the end zone. DiDonato raced six yards for a touchdown. However, the conversion failed and Grove City led 27-21. Two plays later, Bethany took its first lead of the night as Smith launched a 78-yard touchdown pass to Matt Cruse. Evan Plescia's PAT put Bethany ahead 28-27.

Minster intercepted a Smith pass at the Bethany 9 with 5:46 left in the half and two plays later, Mercer scored on a five-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion failed and Grove City owned a 33-28 lead.

Grove City trailed 35-33 with five minutes left before embarking on its game-winning drive. DiDonato opened the drive with a 23-yard completion to sophomore wingback A.J. Tapper (Cambridge Springs, Pa./Cambridge Springs). Later in the drive, DiDonato fired a 33-yard pass to senior wide receiver Stephen Mercer (East Liverpool, Ohio/Beaver Local).

Four plays later, Brian Mercer's two-yard touchdown put Grove City up four. On the two-point conversion, Stephen Mercer scrambled around before firing the ball into the end zone. Tapper caught the ball on the deflection, giving Grove City a 41-35 lead.

DiDonato finished the night 14 of 24 passing for 186 yards. He also ran for 57 yards. Stephen Mercer hauled in five passes for 70 yards while Tapper had three catches.

Santini ran for 87 yards on 17 carries for Bethany while Eric Walker added 65 rushing yards. Smith completed 15 of 22 passes for 193 yards.

Defensively, senior middle linebacker Adam Eichler (North Versailles, Pa./East Allegheny) racked up 14 tackles and a sack for Grove City. Freshman linebacker Jason Ferguson (Mineral Ridge, Ohio/Mineral Ridge) recorded a career-high nine tackles while junior cornerback Randy Santina (Elizabeth, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) had seven tackles and an interception.

Sophomore end Kevin Twarek (Aurora, Ohio/Aurora) recorded 1.5 sacks while senior end Ryan Rylands (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny) had a sack. Freshman nose tackle Jarred Frawley (Franklin, Pa./Franklin) forced a fumble and also had a half sack.

Bethany out-gained Grove City, 390-372. Grove City owned a 34:48-25:12 edge in time of possession, including an 18:52-11:08 advantage over the final two quarters. The Wolverines also converted nine of 15 third-down situations and finished with 23 first downs.

Grove City will face PAC co-leader Washington & Jefferson next Saturday at 7 p.m. in Washington, Pa. 

Box Score

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