For the last four years, Jared Bernhardt played lacrosse for the University of Maryland. On Sept. 2, 2021, he scored seven touchdowns for Ferris.
The Bulldogs took to Top Taggart Field for the first time in nearly two years and beat the University of Findlay Oilers 54-14. The senior quarterback Bernhardt dominated from the moment he stepped on the field.
Ferris scored seven touchdowns in seven drives to start the game, all courtesy of Bernhardt. He started the day by scoring three rushing touchdowns on three consecutive drives. For the game, Bernhardt was 12-14 passing for 218 yards and three touchdowns with one interception while adding 120 yards on the ground for four more scores.
Head coach Tony Annese talked about the former lacrosse player scoring seven touchdowns in his first football action in years.
“I didn’t know exactly how it was going to work out,” Annese said. “My wife thought for sure he was going to be very, very good in her analysis of watching him play lacrosse. He was the national player of the year in lacrosse. Right now, all he can talk about is the interception he threw. That’s how humble he is. He’s a perfectionist.”
As for Bernhardt, he credited his teammates for his success and talked about returning to football.
“It’s a new environment,” Bernhardt said. “I’m trying to get a feel for Big Rapids and this new team that I’m a part of. It was great to get back out there and play.”
Annese also spoke on having the opportunity to be back on the field for the first time in almost two years.
“I’m thrilled that we have the opportunity to play the great game of football again,” Annese said. “It was a lot of fun.”
“I’m really proud of the guys,” Annese continued. “It’s been incredible through the whole process. We’ve really grown a lot and they grinded it out.”
To start the game, Findlay received the opening first-half kick. The Oilers wasted little time putting points on the board, as they scored a 47-yard passing touchdown just under three minutes into the game. The Bulldogs also scored on their first offensive drive of the season. Bernhardt took a designed run up the middle to score from five yards out, putting the Bulldogs on the scoreboard for the first time in 2021. Following a missed extra point, Findlay led 7-6.
The Oilers did not hold their lead for long. Bernhardt scored rushing touchdowns on each of Ferris’ next two drives. On the second drive, he scored a rushing touchdown from 35-yards out. After that, he took a 10-yard draw play up the middle to score his third touchdown of the first quarter and gave the Bulldogs a 20-7 lead.
Early in the second quarter, Ferris tacked on another touchdown; this time a 30-yard passing score from Bernhardt to junior receiver Marcus Taylor. The score gave the Bulldogs a 27-7 lead. Findlay answered Ferris’ 27-point run by scoring their second touchdown halfway through the second quarter, making the score 27-14 in favor of Ferris.
Bernhardt scored his fifth touchdown of the first half on Ferris’ ensuing drive on a 28-yard run up the middle. That gave him four rushing touchdowns in the first half, tying him for second-most rushing touchdowns in a game in Bulldog history.
Sophomore tight end Mason Pline caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Bernhardt in the closing seconds of the first half, giving Ferris a 40-14 lead. Pline, a former basketball player for Ferris, was playing his first collegiate football game.
On the first play of the second half, junior receiver Sy Barnett caught a 65-yard touchdown pass from Bernhardt, giving Ferris a 47-14 lead and giving Bernhardt his seventh touchdown of the day.
Junior quarterback Evan Cummins rounded out the Bulldog scoring of the night by connecting with junior receiver Xavier Wade for a two-yard score near the end of the third quarter to give Ferris a 54-14 lead.
Defensively, junior defensive back Sidney McCloud recorded two interceptions for the Bulldogs. He said his ability to make the interceptions came down to the coaching staff preparing and game planning well and personal effort.
The Bulldogs will travel to play Ashland University Saturday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m