FAIRFIELD — It might have taken a while for Bethel coach Jason Gill to get things clicking with his option offense but after a second straight win and three victories in the last four starts, it’s safe to say that the Wildcats are now firing on all cylinders.
Playing ball control football, Bethel ran 53 times for 182 yards, opened a three touchdown lead and forced six Notre Dame-Fairfield turnovers in a 21-14 victory Saturday afternoon at the Lancers field.
“It’s a credit to the kids and the coaches. Even when we were 0-4, everyone came out to practice every day and worked their tails off to keep getting better,” Gill said as Bethel improved to 3-5 on the season. “Hats off to my team and my coaching staff, I love them. No one quit, they kept working and I’m proud of them.”
Notre Dame-Fairfield, meanwhile is looking for answers after jumping out of the gates with a 3-1 start. The loss was ND’s fourth in a row and over the last two games, the Lancers have made 11 turnovers.
“That’s been the story of the last two weeks,” ND coach Chris Sadler said. “Last week it was a lot of interceptions and this week, we couldn’t hold onto the ball, whether it was fumbles, muffing punts, whatever and we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Bethel used a fake punt to set up its first touchdown, gaining nine yards on a fourth-and-eight play from the Notre Dame 44. Five plays later, Wildcats quarterback Derek Lewis went 19 yards for the score with Zach Perry kicking the first of his three extra points.
The Wildcats made it 14-0 thanks to a 44-yard touchdown run from Morgan Haskett with 8:50 left in the second quarter. Haskett finished with 83 yards on 17 carries and he also shined on defense, recovering four Notre Dame fumbles.
“It’s funny, with Morgan, we joked in the summer about how hard we worked in the off-season,” Gill said. “He’s only a sophomore and I think he’s one of the hardest working kids I’ve come across in a long time. He just wants to get better and better. Great kid.”
A second touchdown run from Lewis with 9:31 left in the third quarter, made it 21-0 Bethel before Notre Dame finally got some things clicking on offense. A 64-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Pavone to Tavon Simpson – Pavone was 22 of 44 on the day for 276 yards – made it 21-6 on the final play of the third quarter and Micah Brantley’s six-yard TD catch with 5:22 left, and the conversion pass from Pavone to Josh Tracey made it 21-14.
But that was as close as the Lancers would get.
“The effort’s there but sometimes, when you’re playing a lot of young kids, the inexperience takes over at times,” Sadler said. “It’s tough having four straight losses, especially in the last two weeks when we turned the ball over so much, but hopefully we can learn something from what happened today when it came to sticking together and fighting back in the last third and fourth quarter and making this into a football game.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Bethel’s Morgan Haskett. On offense, he rushed 17 times for 83 yards and a touchdown and on defense, he recovered four fumbles.
Bethel QB Derek Lewis. Lewis ran the option offense to perfection, gaining 59 yards and scoring touchdowns on runs of 19 and 12 yards.
“They can see the difference when they play as a team and have each other’s backs, we can do a lot of good things, so if we can put it together for four quarters, hopefully we can get some more W’s.” – ND’s Chris Sadler.
Bethel 21, Notre Dame-Fairfield 14
BETHEL 7 7 7 0—21
ND-FAIRFIELD 0 0 6 8—14
B – Derek Lewis 19 run (Zach Perry kick)
B – Morgan Haskett 44 run (Perry kick)
B – Lewis 12 run (Perry kick)
ND – Tavon Simpson 64 pass from Kyle Pavone (kick failed)
ND – Micah Brantley 6 pass Pavone (Josh Tracey pass Pavone)
Records: Bethel (3-5), ND-Fairfield (3-5)