McKenzie, TN – The Bethel Wildcats dropped a heartbreaker at home Saturday afternoon losing 20-19 to the visiting Patriots of the University of the Cumberlands. The Wildcats dropped to 1-2 on the season while UC improved to 2-1 on the year. The one point loss marks the fourth game in the last five meetings that the match-up was decided by seven points or less.
Cumberlands scored on their opening possession with an 11 play drive capped off by a one yard score from running back Austin Hatfield. The point after by Joe Rose was good, giving UC an early 7-0 lead. UC and Bethel would then trade possessions throughout the first quarter.
Mid -way through the second quarter Bethel would get on the board. The Wildcats used a 13 play drive capped off with a Dalton McCann 30 yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 7-3. That would be the only scores of the half with UC leading 7-3 at the break.
UC's Cole Genders intercepted a Sam Castronova pass giving the Patriots good field position near midfield. The Patriots would put together a good drive, gaining three first downs, but the Wildcat defense toughened forcing the Patriots to settle for a Rose 27 yard field goal. The Pats took a 10-3 lead.
The Patriots picked off another pass as UC's Jeremiah Baker intercepted Castronova and returned it to inside the Bethel five yard line. Seph Burke ran in for a UC touchdown and the Pats led 17-3 after the Rose PAT.
The Wildcats fought back as Castronova hit freshman Vonte Bates on a 29 yard scoring pass. The point after by McCann was good, making it 17-10 UC with just over five minute to play in the third.
UC would go three-and-out before punting it away, but a 65 yard punt by McMillan was negated by a 33 yard return by J'Kobi Reddick, giving BU the ball on their 38 yard line. On the ensuing drive, Bethel would convert a third down conversion along with two fourth down conversions, including a 4th and 15 as Castronova would find Bates again from 30 yards out for another TD. The extra point was blocked by the Patriots, keeping UC out front 17-16 entering the fourth quarter.
Karrheem Darrington intercepted a Coby Jones pass giving the Wildcats possession at the UC 36 yard line. The Patriot defense stepped up and Bethel was forced to settle for a McCann 24 yard field goal attempt. The kick was good and Bethel took a 19-17 lead.
After UC failed to move the ball Bethel would take over on their own 11 yard line with just over four minutes left in the game. UC's defense would hold though as Bethel would have to punt it away. It appeared Bethel had UC on the ropes as the Patriots faced a third and 33 but Jones hit Jalen Smith for a 42 yard gain. It was an over the head incredible catch by Smith with two Bethel defenders draped around him. UC had a first down at Bethel's 31 yard line. Several plays later UC was able to move the ball inside the Bethel ten yard line. With 2.7 seconds left Rose hit the game winning field goal from 26-yards out.
Bates led Bethel with four catches and the two touchdowns. Devante Jimenez, Luke Mitchum and Christian Burney had three receptions each. Taye Davis led Bethel in rushing with 36 yards. Castronova was 16-of-34 for 230 yards and the two touchdowns.
Seph Burke led UC with 110 yards rushing on 23 carries and a TD.
Bethel was held to just 78 yards rushing.
The Wildcats will have an open date next week and then travel to No. 3 Reinhardt on September 23. Kick-off is slated for 12:30 p.m. CST. Fans can hear the game on WEIO, 100.0 and at www.thefarmradio.com.