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PIKEVILLE, Ky. — The Bethel Wildcats traveled to the Eastern Mountains of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Thursday night to face the University of Pikeville Bears. The Cats won 62-31 to move to 2-0 on the season while UPIKE fell to 1-2. The win evened the overall series between the two at 6-6. It marked the second straight victory for the Wildcats in Pikeville and evened the series there at 3-3.
For much of the first half both squads scored matching point for point as both defensive units struggled.
Bethel trailed early 3-0 but struck on a Sam Castronova touchdown pass to Breon Melvin from nine yards out to grab a 6-0 lead. Dalton McCann’s point after made it 7-3 Bethel with 10:40 left in the quarter.
After UPIKE took a 10-7 lead the Wildcats came right back on a De’Ontay Tate eight-yard scamper to regain the lead. McCann’s point after hit the right upright and Bethel led 13-10 with 1:46 left in the first stanza.
The Bears scored at the 13:28 mark of the second quarter to regain the advantage at 17-13. Castronova and Melvin however teamed up again for a Bethel lead. McCann’s point after a 21-yard touchdown between the two made it 20-17 with 10:50 left in the half.
Pikeville struck right back with a score to lead 24-20 but it would be the last lead they would enjoy on the night.
Bethel’s Antonio Wright sped his way downfield scoring on a 48-yard run to give Bethel a 27-24 margin.
In one of the big plays of the night Bethel’s Michael Adams forced a fumble which was recovered by teammate Delvin Spruills. A few plays later Wildcat J’Kobi Reddick scored on a six-yard run and the Wildcats took a 34-24 lead at the half.
Three straight scores in the third quarter propelled the Wildcats to a huge margin. Castronova hit Davius Prather from 50 yards out for a score. Anthony Hughes scored on a one-yard run. Taye Davis exploded for a 76-yard run and Bethel led 55-24.
UPIKE added a touchdown to make it 55-31.
Castronova would add an early fourth quarter touchdown on a short run and the Cats led 62-31. With 9:51 left the game was called because of lightning in the area.
Overall, there was nearly 1,000 yards of total offense in the game, 515 from Bethel and 481 from Pikeville.
The key difference in those two attacks was the amount of time it took to accumulate those yards. Bethel struck often with big plays, only needing 45 plays to amass its 515 yards compared to UPIKE’s 72 plays.
Quarterback Sam Castronova went 12-18 for 181 yards and three touchdowns, while nine different players carried the ball for 351 yards on just 27 attempts with six touchdowns.
Bethel’s top two leading rushers — Ayaunta Davis with 79 yards and Antonio Wright with 69 yards — each only had two carries on the night. The majority of the touches went to De’Ontay Tate with 13 carries for 64 yards.
Jeremy Beaulieu and Anthony Patrick each led Bethel with seven total tackles.
Coach Brent Dearmon said, “We struggled early on the defensive side of the ball but finally settled in and made some big plays which helped us turn the game in our favor. I though both our QB’s, Castronova and Chowbay played well and our running backs were outstanding. The offensive line played an excellent game and I thought that was really important and allowed us to control that side of the ball. Our receivers and special teams were keys as well.”
The Cats return home to Wildcat Stadium Saturday to face Keiser University at 1:30 p.m.