GROVE CITY - Running the football and stopping the run have been hallmarks of successful college football teams since the sport's origins over 150 years ago. Saturday night, the Grove City College football team excelled in both areas.
The Grove City defense held Bethany to minus-1 yards rushing while the Wolverines' ground attack chewed up 296 yards on 49 carries as Grove City opened Presidents' Athletic Conference play with a 48-15 win at Robert E. Thorn Field.
Junior running back Clayton Parrish (West Middlesex High) ran for a career-high 134 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. Freshman Nico Flati picked up 98 yards on 19 attempts and senior Zach Trusky added 41 yards on six attempts.
Grove City finished the game with 534 total offensive yards and 28 first downs. Senior quarterback Josh Ehst completed 13 of 24 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Cody Gustafson pulled in 10 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Heckathorn added a 56-yard touchdown catch, the first of his career.
The Grove City defense recorded six sacks and forced two turnovers. Senior linebacker Parker Kilgore intercepted a pass and senior linebacker Nik Grabiec recovered a fumble that junior linebacker Ryan Fleming forced on a sack.
Senior defensive end R.J. Debo recorded two sacks. Senior defensive end Ethan Ward, senior safety Patrick Mark and freshman defensive end Bryce Spolnik all added quarterback sacks.
Bethany (0-2, 0-1) grabbed an early 7-0 when Isaiah Thomas returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown with 12:22 remaining in the first quarter. Grove City countered by scoring the final 20 points of the half, however.
Ehst scored on a one-yard sneak with 4:56 left, capping a 13-play, 73-yard drive that used over seven minutes. In the second quarter, Gustafson caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ehst with 11:27 left in the half.
The lead swelled to 20-7 with 1:17 left in the half as Parrish bulled in from the 1. Parrish then opened the second half with an 11-yard touchdown run at the 12:07 mark.
A safety trimmed Grove City's lead to 27-9 with 8:47 left in the third quarter. Bethany then cut into the lead further as Brennan Secrist caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Dom Salinetro with 6:35 left in the third quarter. Bethany missed the extra points.
Grove City put away the game by scoring twice in the final five minutes. A 57-yard kickoff return by sophomore Gabe Dunlap gave Grove City possession at the Bethany 35. Three plays later, Gustafson caught a 22-yard pass with 4:58 remaining in the third quarter. Senior kicker Nick Morrow added the extra point, giving the Wolverines a 34-15 lead.
Heckathorn's 56-yard catch and subsequent sprint to the end zone with 30 seconds left in the quarter pushed the lead to 41-15. Parrish scored on a three-yard run with 4:57 left to close the scoring.
Grove City went 7 for 11 on third down and held a 34:25-25:35 edge in time of possession. The Grove City defense held Bethany to a 2-for-11 outing on third down.
Kilgore and senior cornerback Brandon Caffrey each recorded nine stops for Grove City. Mark had eight tackles.
Salinetro completed 21 of 36 passes for 213 yards. Bethany finished with 229 offensive yards and a dozen first downs.
The game featured only seven total penalties. Grove City had four penalties for 23 yards while Bethany's three penalties cost the Bison 30 yards.
Grove City will host Carnegie Mellon at 1 p.m. next Saturday in conference play at Thorn Field.