In most football conferences, teams are used to seeing opponents annually on their schedule. In the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, however, the schedule was played on a rotation basis for the better part of the last 10 seasons. Therefore, the Yellow Jacket football team has only met the Bethany Bison twice since 2015.
That’ll change Saturday afternoon, when the Jackets [0-2, 0-1] welcome the Bison [0-1, 0-0] to John F. Wiley Stadium for Waynesburg’s 2019 home opener and the first game Bethany has played in Greene County since 2015.
“It’s nice to play at home, we like playing at home,” Smithley said. “We like to defend our home field, I think that guys are excited to play at home, but at the end of the day the field is the same, we’ve got to play football.”
Over the last five seasons, the Jackets have only played the Bison twice, losing in both 2015 and 2018. Waynesburg is looking for its first win over the Bison since 2012, which was a 23-21 win in West Virginia. Smithley doesn’t think the lack of games against Bethany in recent history should have any impact on this year’s matchup.
“We’ve seen enough of them, we have a bunch of tape on them,” Smithley said. “We haven’t played them every year, but we’ve watched them every year.”
Smithley has been a part of PAC football for more than a decade, first as a player with Waynesburg, then an assistant with Washington & Jefferson and now as the head coach of his alma mater.
“In 11 years, I think I’ve played them nine of those years, so for me personally, so it’s not unfamiliar territory,” he said.
Despite the season now almost ⅓ of the way done, Smithley and the Jackets still believe they need to work to hone their craft on the basic skills of the game. Through the first two weeks, Waynesburg has struggled to wrap up ball carries on first contact, and they’ve allowed other teams to bounce off of those tackles and pick up extra yardage.
“We need to continue to improve in blocking, tackling [and] fundamental football,” Smithley said.
Owning the Line
Bethany will bring a strong core of lineman on both sides of the ball, but according to Smithley, his team is capable of ‘moving’ them with focus and discipline. The Bison have two seniors and one junior set to take the field as part of the defensive line Saturday.
“Their defensive line is really good, maybe one of the best that we’re going to see,” Smithley said. “We’re capable of pushing them off the ball and beating them off it, but we’ve got to have that fire and come out with that mindset that we’re going to move them for four quarters and if we do that, I think you’ll see some fruition to it.”
Controlling Bethany’s athleticism
The Bison will rely on the air attack with a potential rotation of quarterbacks Carlin Bason and Dom Salinetro. So far this year, the two have combined for 384 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Their key target will Hunter Klein who has caught 14 passes for 201 yards and a score this season.
“They’re going to try and bring the game to us, they’re going to try to bully our guys,” Smithley said. They’re going to play physical, fast and we’ve got to be ready and have that focus and mentality it takes to answer the bell when someone comes into your territory and handles their business that way.”
On the ground game, Bason has the ability to run from the pocket, but the Bison can also look to senior running backs Greg Avent and Raekwon Wright to move the ball on the ground.
“They’ve got some guys that are fast and can run on offense,” Smithley said. “Win the offensive side of the ball, offensive line wise and stop the run on defense and force them to be one dimensional.”
Both the Jackets and Bison will look to emerge from Saturday with their first conference win of the season, but Smithley said it’s quite simple when you look at the main objective for a Jackets victory.
“Win the line of scrimmage on both sides,” Smithley said.
Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m Saturday at John F. Wiley Stadium in Waynesburg.