Andrew Woodley, Sports Information Director
LATROBE, Pa. (Aug. 2) – The Bethany College football team was picked to finish seventh at the Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) annual Football Media Day held at the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion on the campus of Saint Vincent College Wednesday afternoon.
Defending league-champion Thomas More, playing in its final season as member of the PAC, was picked to win the conference. W&J, Case Western Reserve, Westminster, Carnegie Mellon and Saint Vincent rounded out the top six. The poll was conducted by the league's coaches, sports information directors and the attending media.
The Bison will enter the season with over 15 starters returning to campus, including rising senior quarterback Chase Kinemond (Shadyside, Ohio/Shadyside). Kinemond started all 10 games last season and threw for nearly 2,000 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
"(Chase) had a great offseason," said Head Coach Bill Garvey who is entering his fifth season. "We've talked a decent bit over the summer here, and he is ready to go. We are very happy to have him back, because you can't teach experience. It's one thing we've been lacking a little bit. From a team standpoint, we are going to be a little more comfortable this season."
Kinemond will be joined in the offensive huddle by five other returning starters, including rising senior tight end Dustin Hess (Upper St. Clair, Pa./Upper St. Clair). Hess enjoyed a breakout season in 2016, going from two catches as a sophomore to 24 as a junior, and will be looked to as one of the senior leaders this season.
"I have to step up and be a bigger part of the game this year," said Hess. "I want to bring a mindset of a strong work ethic and help the team get past these last few years where we may have let some games slip away."
The Bison will have a new feel on the defensive side of the ball. Former NFL player David Arnold takes over as the defensive coordinator and replaces Joe Battaglia, who accepted a position on the coaching staff at the United States Naval Academy. Bethany will also need to replace Donavan Hayden, the reigning PAC Defensive Player of the Year, who graduated this past spring.
"Each year we are going to change a little bit based on our strengths," added Garvey. "You can't replace Donavan, but have to find that guy or a group of guys to match that production."
Arnold will inherit a strong front-seven that returns a trio of all-conference performers, including rising senior defensive end Khallid Pierce (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline). Pierce is a two-time All-PAC Second Team selection and enters the year with 19.5 career sacks, the fifth-highest total in school history.
"We think we have as deep a group on the defensive line as there is in Division III, "said Garvey. "We have a bunch of guys that we can rotate in and who can get after the passer. We hope their experience moves us forward this fall."
The Bison return a pair of special teamers in rising senior kicker Chris Ray (Henrico, Va./Mills E. Godwin) and rising senior long snapper Zach Lowe (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenney), but will need to find a replacement for all-conference punter Aaron Frye, who graduated with a school-record 42.0 yards per punt over his career.
Bethany will welcome back over 15 starters from a year ago and are looking to build off of its late season success last season. The Bison closed 2016 with victories over Grove City and Saint Vincent, including a win over the Bearcats where they erased an 18-point fourth quarter deficit.
"It was great to end on two wins," added Hess. "We worked a lot harder this offseason than we have the last few years. The class that came in last season really took to the mentality of getting into the weight room and working hard and putting in the time during spring ball, so that when this season starts they are ready to go."
The Bison open the regular-season on Saturday, September 2 when they head to Collegeville, Pennsylvania to take on Ursinus College at 12 p.m. in a non-conference matchup. Bethany forced five turnovers in a 23-13 season-opening win over Ursinus at Bison Stadium last year.
2017 PAC PRESEASON MEDIA/COACHES/SID POLL (First place votes)